Construction of the Stockport Branch Canal was authorised by the second Act of the Ashton Canal Company (33 George III Cap. 21, Royal Assent on 28 March 1793). This authorised the construction of a lock-free branch from between locks 10 and 11 of the Ashton Canal at Clayton to the top of Lancashire Hill in Stockport/Heaton Norris via Openshaw, Gorton/Abbey Hey and Reddish. The same Act also authorised the construction of a lock-free branch (Beat Bank Branch Canal) from the Stockport Branch at Taylor's Barn, Reddish, via Beat Bank, Denton, for the purpose of serving coal mines around Burton Nook, Denton. In the event, the Beat Bank Branch was abandoned before work on its construction was completed.
The Stockport Branch opened for trade in January 1797 and in due course it became heavily industrialised over most of its length. It was principally used to supply coal to the many factories and mills along its length, as well as coal for domestic use. Furthermore, it carried raw cotton to the mills, general cargo and finished goods. It was also noted for carrying supplies of grain to Albion Corn Mill (W Nelstrop & Company) at Stockport Basin. In the early years of operation, there was also a passenger-carrying service between Manchester and Stockport.
From the start, the canal was very busy but as the 19th century progressed it became subject to competition from the rapid development of rail and road transport that produced a long period of decline. By the 1920s there was very little trade throughout its length although factories and mills took advantage of it for water supplies. By the 1930s trade had virtually ceased and the canal was becoming overgrown, particularly with reeds. This deterioration continued until the 1950s by which time the canal was, to all intents and purposes, unnavigable although it was still physically intact. During the 1950s it was dredged in an attempt to attract some trade back but this work was of no avail. In 1962 the British Transport Commission (precursor of British Waterways) officially abandoned it. Work on filling in the canal commenced in the same year and there is evidence to show that this was being undertaken to the south of Gorton Aqueduct. Nevertheless, work of filling it in became very protracted and it was not completed until c.1975.
Luckily, much of the route of the canal has remained unharmed and there are now plans to re-open it as an amenity canal. These plans have the support of Manchester and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Councils and British Waterways has reported that re-opening is technically feasible.
Please use the Scrollbar to scroll down the map of the Stockport Branch Canal
|Junction Side Bridge between locks 10 and 11 of the Ashton Canal, Clayton.||0||0|
|Ashton Old Road Bridge (Pack Horse Bridge or Openshaw Bridge), Openshaw||0||45|
|Ogden Lane Bridge (Crab Croft Bridge), Gorton.||0||59|
|Canal arm into Gorton Canal Depot and Boat Dock with Side Bridge (towpath side).||0||65|
|Footbridge at the northern end of Gorton Aqueduct.||0||72|
|Gorton Aqueduct over MS&LR/GCR† main line.||0||72|
|Junction of Rylands' Private Branch, Gorton. For Rylands'/Gorton Mills and Gorton Wadding Works (offside of canal).||1||7|
|Abbey Hey Bridge, Gorton. At junction of High Street (towpath side) and Abbey Hey Lane (offside). Ryands' or Gorton Mills to north of bridge on offside.||1||20|
|Grimshaw's Bridge, Gorton. High Bank Street crosses the bridge.||1||28|
|MS&LR/GCR† Bridge (Manchester Central Station Line), Gorton.||1||37|
|Footbridge adjacent to sluice of Gorton Lower Reservoir.||1||42|
|Thirlmere Aqueduct (conduit) over canal, Gorton. Just before Hyde Road Bridge.||1||59|
|Hyde Road Bridge (Gorton Bridge, occasionally Reddish Bridge), Gorton.||1||60|
|Canal Aqueduct over Sheffield and Midland Joint Railway (Romiley and Ashbury's Branch), North Reddish.||2||17|
|Sandfold Bridge, North Reddish. Sandfold Lane (now Station Road) crosses bridge.||2||27|
|Woolfenden's Bridge, North Reddish. Longford Road West crosses bridge.||2||51|
|Rosthern's Swivel and Foot Bridges, North Reddish. (West of Harrogate Road in vicinity of Wharfedale Road).||2||74|
|Davenport's Swivel Bridge, Reddish. (West of Houldsworth Street opposite Leamington Road).||3||15|
|Broadstone Road Bridge (Grey Horse Bridge), Reddish.||3||31|
|Footbridge on north-west side of LNWR Bridge, Reddish.||3||50|
|LNWR‡ Bridge (Heaton Norris and Guide Bridge Branch), Reddish.||3||50|
|Junction of Beat Bank Private Branch, Taylor's Barn, Reddish (offside).||3||53|
|Bowlas Bridge, Reddish (Bowlas Lane, now Broadstone Hall Road South, crosses bridge).||3||65|
|Whitehills Bridge, South Reddish. (Whitehill Street crosses bridge).||4||16|
|Rivett's Footbridge by Rivett's Mills (Lancashire Hill Mills). Connects Rivett's Mills to Coronation Mills and Coronation Street on north side of canal.||4||35|
|Junction of Bankfield Mill Private Branch (offside).||4||42|
|Lancashire Hill Bridge, Stockport. (Junction of Lancashire Hill and Manchester Road).||4||53|
|Junction of Lancashire Hill Branch, Stockport Canal Basin (towpath side).||4||56|
|Wharf Street Bridge, Stockport Canal Basin.||4||59|
|Footbridge, Stockport Canal Basin.||4||69|
|Terminus of Stockport Branch Canal.||4||71|
†Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway/Great Central Railway.
‡London and North Western Railway.
|Clayton Junction between locks 10 and 11 of the Ashton Canal, 3 March 1983.
The side bridge carries the towpath of the Ashton Canal over the entrance to the Stockport Branch and it is listed Grade II.
The bricked-up entrance on the right accessed a canal basin belonging to the engineering firm of Armstrong Whitworth.
|Ashton Old Road (Pack Horse) Bridge, Openshaw, 2 March 1980.
This view is looking southwards and the towpath was on the right.
|Ogden Lane (Crab Croft) Bridge, 2 March 1980.
This view is looking southwards and the towpath was on the left.
|Side bridge over the canal arm into the Gorton Canal Depot and Boat Dock, 2 March 1980.
This bridge carried the towpath of the Stockport Branch over the arm leading into the canal depot.
|Gorton Aqueduct over the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway/Great Central Railway main line, 1 March 1980.
This iron-trough aqueduct was constructed in 1905/06 to replace the original masonry aqueduct that was demolished when the railway line was widened.
|Gorton Aqueduct, 1 March 1980.
This view is looking northwards towards Clayton Junction.