Hollinwood Branch Canal (1)

The Hollinwood Branch of the Manchester and Ashton Canal, now closed, ran from Droylsden to Hollinwood. These pages show photographs of what can still be seen.

The Hollinwood Branch of the Ashton Canal was opened in 1797 to transport coal to Manchester from the collieries that lie between Ashton under Lyne and Oldham.

It ran for five miles from Fairfield Locks, Droylsden, between Manchester and Ashton, through Daisy Nook to Hollinwood. There were eight locks on the canal, including two which formed a staircase at Daisy Nook. Tramways brought coal from Werneth and Copster Hill to a loading basin at Butterworth Green. A tramway led from the colliery at Bardsley to the canal near Crime Lake. A branch of the canal ran along the Medlock Valley to Fairbottom, where it met a tramway bringing coal from Park Bridge and Rocher Vale to the east. A privately built extension, known as the Werneth Canal, ran a further mile from Butterworth Green to the New Engine Colliery on Old Road, Washbrook, Chadderton.

On the southern side of the A62 Manchester to Oldham road, alongside Chapel Road, was a storage reservoir, feeding into the Butterworth Green basin. This was built to maintain the water levels as the locks were used.

There were proposals originally to construct a short section of canal from Hollinwood to link with the Rochdale Canal near Henshaw Lane, a distance of less than a mile with a difference of only around 20 feet in height. This link was never constructed, possibly because of disagreements with the Rochdale Canal Company, who had wanted to build their own branch to Oldham, or fears that the Ashton Canal Company would lose income if the coal was carried for shorter distances on its own waterways.

The Werneth Canal at Washbrook was closed to make way for the high embankment of the railway between Hollinwood and Werneth, but the Hollinwood Canal remained open and operational as far as the Butterworth Green basin until 1932, when subsidence problems caused the closure of the remaining collieries in the area and the canal was closed north of Crime Lake.

The Fairbottom Branch became un-navigable in 1948 and the section of canal between Lumb Mill, Littlemoss, and Daisy Nook was closed in 1955. The remainder of the canal from Fairfield closed in 1961, with the main line of the Ashton Canal very nearly going the same way.

Click here to see photograph of the canal at Daisy Nook before closure.

Some of the canalside buildings at Hollinwood remain, along with the names of Canal Street and Wharf Street. The canal embankment can still be seen running alongside the footpath between Canal Street and Drury Lane, but for the most part, the line of the canal through Hollinwood and Droylsden has been filled in and in places built over.

The aqueduct across the Manchester to Yorkshire railway at Littlemoss has been removed. The new M60 motorway cuts through the line of the canal in three places. Yet the central part of the canal, in the Daisy Nook area, is still in water and has been made a feature of the Daisy Nook Country Park. This looks like one canal which is never going to be restored, but then, at one time, everyone was saying that about the Huddersfield Narrow Canal!

See feature by Ed Mortimer on a possible future for the Hollinwood Branch Canal.

In 2003 the Hollinwood Canal Society was formed with the ambition of re-opening the Fairbottom Branch and the Hollinwood Branch as far as Hollinwood. The society is also promoting the idea of building the short link proposed in 1792 to connect with the Rochdale Canal, creating a through route.

Lock 18, Fairfield
This is a view of Lock 18, the top lock on the main line of the Ashton Canal, with the former Fairfield Junction beyond. The main line of the Ashton Canal turns right after the lock, while the former Hollinwood Branch went continued ahead, where the green fence is, then curved to the left.
Manchester Road Bridge Droylsden
A couple of hundred yards from the Ashton Canal, Manchester Road Bridge is still intact. From Manchester Road to Greenside Lane, the canal is overgrown and from Greenside Lane to Sunnyside Road gardens and several houses encroach on the line of the canal.
off Sunnyside Road Droylsden
North of Sunnyside Road, Droylsden, the canal in infilled but its corridor is clear and well-defined.
Leaving the built-up area of Droylsden, just north of the Manchester to Yorkshire railway line at Littlemoss, the first wet but overgrown section of the canal appears.
Cinderland Bridge, Littlemoss
A short distance further on is Cinderland Bridge, carrying the path between Littlemoss and Woodhouses. Half a mile further on the canal route is bisected by the M60 motorway.
Approaching Daisy Nook, the canal has been in-filled but the line has been maintained as a footpath and bridle way.
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