Today Kerridge wharf looks like a modern industrial shed surrounded
by a piece of unused land. 150 years ago it was a hive of activity
receiving newly quarried stone from Kerridge quarries, brought
down along the Rally Road (tramway),
sawing this stone into useable pieces, and dispatching them by
canal boat to all corners of the kingdom.
Such activity required facilities and these amounted to a main
shed within which the sawing took place, and a range of smaller
buildings housing, we know, a smithy and carpenter's workshop (top
right of the 1912 picture, right). What is today a dry dock was
then used as a loading dock which could hold two narrow boats side
by side. Also on the site in later years was a trio of kilns
- shown on the 1909 OS map as an old limekiln - and
another building positioned away from the others and the tramway.
The purpose of this is not known.
This interesting site has now been brought to life by retired
craft skills teacher, Keith Scammell. Keith has built a scale model
(several pictures below) of the whole site as it seems to have
been in the 1870s, providing a fascinating insight into this little
hive of industry on the canalside. The rest of this page is taken
from Keith's description of his project reproduced with his very
The idea of making a model of Kerridge Saw mill started a number
of years ago when John Jackson, owner of the dry dock, showed me
photographs of the 1912 breach of the Macclesfield Canal which
occurred almost opposite the dock. These show in the distance the
mill with its chimney, the row of cottages and a crane. Malcolm
Bower, secretary of the Macclesfield
Canal Society, found large
scale Ordnance Survey maps of the area dating back to the 1870s
and these have provided most of the information for the model.
John's recollections from when he was reclaiming the wharf to convert
it into the dry dock have been invaluable.
Sadly in 1942 the US air force bulldozed what remained of the
buildings and took the stone away to build runways at Burtonwood
and IKEA are today at Warrington). There is today nothing left
of the mill or cottages but luckily the wharf was not destroyed.
This has taken on a new life as the dry dock.
line of the old tramway [Rally
Road] from the wharf up to
the the steep incline under Windmill
Lane can still be seen today.
The track (rails) has long since gone but we unearthed two six
foot lengths of wrought iron double fish belly track still wedged
to their chairs and pinned to stone slabs. These showed it to have
been forty two inches gauge, 3ft 6in. We don't know how junctions
were made between the main tramway and radiating lines. Were there
small turntables or just a hard flat area that enabled individual
wagons to be shoved round onto the desired track?
None of the maps show any track on the north side of the dock.
However, when John Jackson was clearing the dock area around the
narrow entrance he removed a number of very large stones from each
side. One on the north side had holes that could have pinned rail
chairs while on the south side he unearthed a thirty inch diameter
cast iron base ring for a turntable. This is now held in stone
setts a few feet from where it was found. We have found no evidence
of track going anywhere north of the dock though Dennis Suleman
in his book On the Level had a line going up to the Beehive
mill, just a few hundred metres along the canal at bridge 28.
this view the saw mill is in the foreground with the tramway
coming in from Kerridge Hill quarries at the bottom.
Stone Saw Mill and Chimney
From the 1874 OS map the outline of the building and feint lines
suggest a T shape plan with an extension on the south side. I
have interpreted this as a lean-to. The 1891 map implies an addition
on the north side. Ground space between building and dock edge
has been halved. I have drawn the conclusion that some time after
1874 improvements were made to the mill including installation
of steam power and extension of the western travelling crane. Unfortunately
the 1909 map seems to go back almost to the 1874 plan but adds
a small rectangular structure on the north western corner. If this
is the chimney its position does not seem to match the photographs.
In 1909 the mill is described as disused. I have therefore placed
more credence on the photograph and put the chimney on the north
east side of the gable end.
The photographs were taken from a considerable distance and although
of high quality I am unable for certain to see the entrances. I
have therefore assumed where they might have been. Likewise I have
no evidence of the track going in the mill.
The 1912 photographs give a clear view of the north elevation
of the cottages. They are clearly unoccupied; a factor born out
by the lack of any entry in the 1911 National Census. There had
been families living at the Wharf Cottages in all previous National
Census including 1901. John's information was that the two wagon
doors housed the blacksmith's and carpenter's workshops. The single
story building east of these might have been stables. A trough
is marked on the 1891 map. Is this a horse trough or the main drinking
Two types of crane can be seen on both maps and photographs.
The 1874 map shows a pair of parallel lines at each end of the
saw mill. The 1894 map labels them 'travelling cranes' and shows
the western one extending across the entrance to the dock, presumably
to allow loading straight into boats. The 1912 photograph confirms
these to be overhead travelling cranes. When enlarged to its maximum
the eastern crane appears to have both north/south travel and some
east/west travel. The blurred structure on top is probably a windlass
operated drum winch. This was common. As many as four men would
climb up to the gantry to operate large windlasses on each side
of the drum winch. Men below would drag the crane along by means
of ropes or chains.
The western crane is largely demolished but at least fourteen
vertical posts can be seen in the picture.
The 1874 map labels three small circles with a C and there are
three more small circles unlabelled which could also be cranes.
The 1912 photograph of the cottages has a back braced crane near
the edge of the wharf in front of the cottages (to the right in
the picture above). There is still today one remaining crane base.
It is a five foot high tapering cast iron pillar embedded in a
solid stone foundation. The pillar is ten feet from the wharf edge
so to load a boat the crane's jib would need to be at least fourteen
feet long, a large crane. I have installed a cantilever crane here
(to the left in the picture above). The other cranes were probably
smaller so I have based these on cranes similar to the one in the
photograph of Styperson Wharf (right).
The 1874 map does not show one; 1891 marks a brick kiln; 1909
says it is an old lime kiln. John Jackson in clearing this area
in the 1970s unearthed the circular bases of three kilns. Interestingly
he also found they had underground flues radiating out from them.
I have interpreted these as lime kilns but I understand that it
was not unusual for lime kilns to be used for firing bricks. A
kiln can be seen on the model, top left in the picture above.
Things we don't know
- How trucks were manoeuvred at tramway junctions;
- Why there was a swing bridge carrying track across the narrows
of the dock when there wasn't any track beyond;
- The purpose of the large building shown on the 1891 map near
the lime kilns;
- Where horses or mules that were on the tow path on the other
side of the canal were stabled (there is no convenient way of
crossing the canal at this point);
- The purpose of the crane at the top end of the dock (couldn't
load anything into a boat from that position).
The scale of my model is 1:150. This was arrived at as a compromise
between showing the maximum detail and not having a too ungainly
board to handle. Where I have had hard evidence I have complied
with it otherwise I have tried to imagine how things would have
worked. For instance, 'raw stone' coming down the tramway would
be in trucks with sides (because of the steep gradient at the top
of the incline, see Rally Road).
It would be lifted off by the first travelling crane, transferred
to a flat bed truck and taken into the mill for sawing and dressing.
It would be lifted off at the west end and either put straight
into a boat or put on the diagonal track and stacked on the outer
wharf for later shipment. Much stone dressing would be done in
the open air because of the dust created and the need for good
light. I have assumed that a lot of the dressing would take place
in the south facing lean to. This I have made with large open
It is interesting to note that the cill (the stone below the foot
of the lock gate) at the entrance to the present day dry dock will
only just allow boats with two foot six inches of draught to cross
it. This was only raised six inches from the original when the
present gate was installed. Boats needing a greater draught than
this would have been loaded on the outer wharfs.
Construction of the model
Two sheets of birch ply form the base (at canal water level)
and wharfs. The buildings are any wood I had available faced
with maple and roofed with one sixteenth model ply. The track
is one millimetre welding wire soldered on to brass pins every
inch or so. The boats are carved out of wood and of various heights
to simulate the depth of loading of each one. The cranes and
small items like trucks and wheel barrows are made of brass and
silver soldered together. The people and animals are N gauge
models which are approximately the right scale.
More on the Macclesfield
Canal Society and
the 'Bollington Burst'.
- Keith Scammell
My thanks go to those who researched and discovered the history
that is presented in these pages. Please
read the full acknowledgement of their remarkable achievement.
Your Historic Documents
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