Kerridge canal breach
No finger in the dyke
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Year's day, Thursday 29th February 1912, saw a collapse of
the towpath bank almost opposite the dock and wharf at Kerridge.
The failure, know locally as the 'Bollington Burst', is believed
to have happened at 1 o'clock in the night and the whole
length from Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth all the way to Bosley
top lock is reported to have drained away, the bridges not
being stopped until 8 o'clock in the morning.
good fortune an early photographer took a series of very
good pictures enabling us to take a close look at the canal
and the breach, and also some of the steps taken to repair
The picture (10-24, right) shows the breach from the south.
In the background from left to right are Adelphi mill,
Beehive mill and the Bobbin mill (low building between
three poles). Neither of the latter two still exist having
been demolished many decades ago.
It seems probable that a culvert beneath the canal at
this point was responsible by virtue of its collapse. Malcolm
Bower, Secretary of Macclesfield
Canal Society, notes that "When
the culvert was examined a few years ago, the contractors
told me there were signs in the culvert bricks or stones
of where it had been rebuilt." It is interesting
to note that the towpath edge was not walled at this point
even though much of the bank from bridge 28 was so protected.
However, it is unlikely that this lack of protection had
any material affect on the incident.
The culvert carries the Tinkers brook under the canal
and all the water went with it into Tinkers
Clough. Today the clough is a haven of peace and quiet,
a damp wooded area in a deep valley providing a home for
a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is publicly accessible
from the towpath end of bridge 28 and from Clough
which is off Grimshaw
Lane, Bollington. It has been the
subject of an environment project in recent years and provides
a very pleasant walk through the wood and valley.
It is clear from one of our pictures that the clough
was heavily wooded in 1912, so there can be little doubt
that the rapid inflow of water and its depth would have
caused considerable damage.
huge flow might well have gone through West Bollington, the
area at the bottom of Grimshaw Lane, Henshall Road and Wellington
Road, causing enormous damage and with risk to life and limb.
However, one piece of good fortune meant that the inhabitants
suffered little more than wet feet. This was the fact that
the clough had been filled in at its lower end by the construction
of the railway in 1869. Beneath this infill there was another
culvert leading a good 200m to a point behind the properties
on the west side of Henshall Road. This small culvert would
certainly have slowed down the escape of water from the clough.
Though the railway at this point was at a lower level than
the water in the full canal, it is not known whether
it overtopped the infill and crossed the railway yard, or
ran down the railway to the low point on a bridge over Grimshaw
Lane. There are no pictures or press reports showing any
evidence of this. It seems probable that the initial surge
was contained by Tinkers Clough and that the culvert was
capable of discharging the slower flow that would occur after
a few minutes.
are pictures showing flooding in the streets at West Bollington
(92-19, above) and at the Bollington Urban District Council
Gas Works (10-28, right) which was beside and below the railway
Way is today). We think this was flooded because the
culvert under the railway originally resurfaced somewhere
on this site. When the gas works was built the stream would
have been in the way of the excavation and an extension to
the culvert was constructed but at a lower level. There is
a manhole where this drop occurs. There is every probability
that the top blew off and water surged out to flood the gas
works. It is said that the furnaces were extinguished by
The Manchester Guardian reported on 1st March that the flood
had put out the fires at the gas works and flooded the pipes
directing the gas from the holder, thus cutting off the supply
to the town. This resulted in interruptions to production
at Adelphi and other mills where gas burners were used to
burn off the whiskers from the cotton thread.
water finally escaped down Albert Road (113-25,
left), and in such volumes that the pavement was
torn up and wrecked in parts. Serious damage
was reported at Lowerhouse mill and at Waterhouse mill along
(45-17, right) shows how the repair might have been carried
out. This is taken from the top of bridge 28 looking down
on the north side of the bridge. It shows a group of boats,
presumably held up by the stoppage.
It also shows that a boat is under the bridge. This means
that the water is being held up by something other than
the bridge stop planks, which cannot be used if a boat
is standing in that position. Why would they want a boat
there? The reason is visible beside the boat - tracks laid
for a tramway come through the bridge and extend a few
yards on a frame which would have been in the water (no
doubt similar on the south side until the tramway could
regain the towpath), all this to provide a quay side through
the bridge hole for the purpose of unloading fill into
tramway trucks which would then have been pushed along
the towpath and emptied into the breach. What a pity that
the picture looking south (bottom) from the bridge does
not show the tramway. In fact another picture shows tramway
tracks in the field below the canal bank so it is possible
they weren't, at first anyway, laid along the towpath.
picture shows an upturned tramway hopper
(45-15, right) in the field below the canal and another
(22-29, below) shows tramway rails, including
points, nearby with a horse harnessed up for pulling
It looks as though the pictures were mostly taken on Sunday
(3rd March 1912). This is because large numbers
of people have turned out to look at the incident
and most are in their best clothes! Only on a Sunday
would they be dressed like that, and have had the
time to visit.
This picture (10-29, left) taken from the top of bridge
28 looking south shows the buildings surrounding the dock
at Kerridge (Pass your mouse over it for magnification).
It also shows that the towpath bank had no wash wall at
The canal was planned to be closed for just 10
but in the event it took about 3 weeks to
repair the damage; 100 men were employed to shift the
fill into the hole. About 160 boat loads of clay puddle
and other fill were brought from New Mills.
The full collection of pictures relating to this event
can be seen at Bollington
Photo Archive. Hover over Subjects, click on Landscape,
then Canal burst.
This was not the first time Bollington got wet feet! In
about 1872 (date presently uncertain) there seems to have
been a breach near the aqueduct in Palmerston Street. This
is referred to in an article in the Manchester Guardian of
1st March 1912 reporting the above breach. It is also mentioned
in a text written by local resident Mr W H Bennett (who
in 1940-70+ was Clerk to Pott Shrigley Parish Council) who
lived until the 1970s. He talks
about his/her grandfather born in 1820 and about his
shop in High Street and adds ...
the canal burst at the aqueduct, the recreation ground
was only a field in those days, all the properties
in Water Street and High Street were flooded up to the
key hole in the doors."
He also mentioned a relative having a picture of this event;
however, there is none in the Discovery
Courier, 9th March 1912
Courier, 23rd March 1912
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.
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