The History of the Ashton Canal.
The Ashton Canal, (its full title is'The Manchester & Ashton-under-Lynne canal'), ran from Ashton-under-Lyne near Oldham into Manchester. Although this route would provide competition for the Rochdale Company, it also would provide income as the Ashton Canal terminated to the east of central Manchester where it met the Rochdale Canal. A junction was made between the two canals so that boats travelling from the Ashton Canal into the heart of Manchester would use the final section of the Rochdale Canal. This, of course, was no act of charity by the Rochdale Company as lucrative tolls were to be charged for use of this short section
It was authorised in 1792 and opened by 1794.
The Huddersfield Canal opened its first section from an end on connection in Ashton in 1797, which brought in some trade, but it the Huddersfield Canal was not fully opened until 1811 right across the Pennies.
The Peak Forest canal then joined to the Ashton Canal at Dunkinfield Junction and brought some traffic in from 1800 though it was not fully open till 1804. Then in 1831 the completion of the Macclesfield canal from the Peak Forest over to the Trent & Mersey made the Ashton part of a through route from Stoke into Manchester.
The 1830's saw the peak of the canals prosperity.
In 1846 the canal company sold out to the forerunner of the Great Central Railway who continued to maintain and operate the canal.
The Peak Forest Canal had seen virtually no traffic since WW2 and most of the Huddersfield Canal had been closed since 1944. So by 1962 traffic on the Ashton had gone and it was officially abandoned after years of decline.
In Spring 1972 a massive clean up of the derelict Ashton Canal began the movement which eventually saw the Ashton and Lower Peak Forest canals re-opened just two years later in 1974. This brought renewed hope for the survival of the Rochdale Canal.
Nicholson Guides to the Waterways.
Pearson's Canal Companion, Cheshire Ring. Published by J.M. Pearson. 1992 ISBN 0-90784-60-0
Roots & Routes, Peter Hardcastle's Website
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