Sheffield & Manchester Junction Canal

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2016

Richard Dean

Richard Dean looks at an 1824 proposal for a 39 mile trans-Pennine waterway connecting Manchester and Sheffield.

The growing interest in canal schemes across the Peak District in the early 1820s (Winter 2008 and Spring 2009 NB) prompted Sheffield interests to consider the shortest possible route to connect with Manchester by following the Don Valley through Penistone and Woodhead. The Sheffield firm of surveyors W. & J. Fairbank was employed to investigate and measure the route, with Thomas Telford engaged as consultant engineer. Telford’s report of January 1825 acknowledged that “the summit is unavoidably much elevated” and detailed a line just over 39 miles long with 80 locks rising 800ft to a summit tunnel at Woodhead, then falling 652ft by another 66 locks to join the Peak Forest Canal at Hyde, including a 7-mile intermediate level through Tintwhistle and Broadbottom. There was no provision for a junction with the Sheffield Canal. Telford estimated the cost for a narrow canal at £414,278, rising to £499,231 for a barge route – but he did not mention th…

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