Littleborough’s History

Rochdale Canal through Littleborough


The Rochdale Canal is a broad canal, 14 feet in width running for some 32 miles (51 km) between Castlefield basin in Manchester (where it connects with the Duke of Bridgewater’s Canal) and Sowerby Bridge (where it connects with the Calder Navigation). The canal reaches a height of 600 feet at its Summit and heavily locked originally with 92 locks. The busiest section of the canal was in Manchester between the Castlefield Basin and Dale Street, junction with the Ashton Canal.


On this page

Early History

Moves to building the Canal

Links to other pages


Early History

In 1766 a proposal for a Rochdale Canal was promoted by Colonel Beswicke-Royd of Pike House, Richard Townley JP of Belfield Hall and Lord Byron and with others. They later met to consider obtaining surveys, plans and estimates for a canal from Sowerby Bridge to Bridgewater Canal, Manchester. The tentative Rochdale Canal commissioned a survey by John Brindley's which developed a narrow canal including a Tunnel at Summit. In October 1766 James Brindley was ordered to carry out a survey on two routes (see plan opposite)

  1.  Sowerby Bridge to Summit, Littleborough, Rochdale & Middleton to Manchester - £79,180.
  2. Longer route  via Bury - £106,625.

Due to opposition, this early proposal was abandoned.


Moves to Building the Canal

25 years later, on 17th February 1791, a meeting was held to evaluate the building of the Rochdale Canal with a Committee formed under the Chairmanship of George Travis, the Archdeacon of Chester, to manage the proposed Canal if permission was obtained to construct the it. John Rennie FRSE, was appointed Engineer with William Crossley, (a local surveyor from Brighouse) to assist him. Crossley  drew up the early plans for the Rochdale Canal from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. There were proposal for branch canals to Burnley and Oldham but these were later abandoned. On 23rd September the 13 man Committee (which incl John Entwistle of Clegg Hall or Foxholes) met to discuss Land purchases. A Map of land ownership in 1793 included two proposed reservoirs at Hollingworth.


The committee approached William Jessop who at a meeting on 10th February 1794 produced his assessment of the Rochdale Canal and advised that it should build as many reservoirs on the moors at Blackstone Edge as the “company of Proprietors shall think proper” which would lead to the Rochdale Canal Company “having vast rights over a huge area of moorland” but in return the company would “discharge from the said canal and reservoirs for and towards the supply the said mills a quantity of water equal to double the quantity of water which shall be intercepted and diverted”. Jessop's advice, negotiating skills and familiarity of Parliamentary procedures led to the 3rd Bill becoming the Rochdale Canal Act on 4th April 1794.


Summit Pound looking East

Links to other pages:

Building the Rochdale Canal

Canal in Littleborough

Operation and Decline

Job Cogswell - Boatmaster

Restoration and Opening

History Trail No 13 - Canal Walk

Boat Trips using Canal Barges