Historical Overview

The siting of the Basin complex was entirely incidental to the village settlement of Bugsworth, and originated through a change of plan in the location of the interchange between the Upper Peak Forest Canal and its associated Tramway. The enterprise was proposed c1791 as a linear communication between Manchester and Dove Holes for the transportation of limestone and lime to the industrial north-west of England, and was originally envisaged as a branch of the Ashton Canal. A survey of the proposed route was conducted in 1793 by Thomas Brown, later to become resident engineer.

On 28 March 1794, the Peak Forest Canal Act (34 Geo lll c26) was authorised by Parliament, and the Peak Forest Canal Company was thus incorporated. During September of the same year, work began on the cutting of the 141⁄2 mile (23 km) canal. Benjamin Outram was appointed consultant engineer who, with Thomas Brown, directed operations on both the canal and tramway.

Initially, the canal terminus and tramway interchange was to have been located at Chapel Milton, 3 km east of Bugsworth; the route then being continued by tramway to the limestone quarries at Dove Holes. This would have involved the construction of a reservoir at Hockham Brook, and a flight of locks at Whitehough to raise the level of the canal to the tramway. Due to the difficulties of organising sufficient provision of water to supply a summit pound which could cope adequately with the heavy lock consumption, the reservoir and locks were never built; the canal terminus and tramway interchange being instead constructed at Bugsworth.

The Upper Peak Forest Canal was completed and opened in 1796, and the entire length from Dukinfield Junction to Bugsworth via Marple was opened on 1 May 1800. The flight of locks dividing the Upper and Lower lengths of the canal, begun in 1801, was not completed until 1807 due to financial difficulties; the 210 foot (64 m) vertical rise between the two lengths being connected by a temporary tramway until the sixteen lock-chambers were completed.

In 1846, the canal and tramway were leased to the Sheffield, Ashton-u-Lyne and Manchester Railway, and ownership subsequently passed to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, the Great Central, and finally the London and North Eastern. The Peak Forest Canal Company was dissolved in 1883, and the complex was closed c1927 by the LNER; the site remaining abandoned until 1968 when the IWPS began their ambitious restoration project.

Extensive robbing of stone had destroyed the former buildings and upper wall coursings, but the essential site layout remained intact. Restoration over the past 25 years has included the reconstruction of the upper masonry of the tramway embankment bridge and the almost complete restoration of the original wharfage areas and retaining walls, of which there is a total length of some 2 km. Additionally, the channel beds have been repaired, although some are proving to be more troublesome than others, and over 5000 cubic metres of new clay puddling has been laid.

Opened on 31 August 1796, Bugsworth Basin became one of the largest ports on the English narrow canal network, and remains unique as the only complete example of a canal and tramway terminus in Britain. Granted the status of a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1977, The Basin complex and its associated structures and physical remains are now protected by law under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.

Site Phasing

The primary construction phase, from west to east, includes: the Gauging Stop Place, Entrance Basin, the main canal channel through and including 'The Wide', and the Upper (or Top) Basin and Arm which lie to the east of Chinley Road (Silk Hill) bridge.

The site gradually expanded as trade and traffic increased and a greater wharfage capacity was required. The secondary phase includes the Middle Basin and Arm (c1800-20), and the third phase incorporates the Lower Basin (c1835) and Arm (c1850). The adjacent horse-transfer bridges (reconstructed by IWPS) also date from this period.

Further Reading

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