When the Rochdale Canal was built it terminated at a basin at Dale Street, Piccadilly, bacause the Duke of Bridgewater would not agree to the Rochdale linking into the Bridgewater Canal. However when proposals were made to extend the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal past Rochdale to Sladen and on to Sowerby Bridge, he realised that trans-Pennine traffic would by-pass his canal with a great loss of potential revenue.
He changed his mind and allowed the Rochdale Canal Company to construct the link, which consisted of nine locks over a mile and a half. He did, however, insist that his own workers constructed the final lock linking into his canal at Castlefield, and that he maintained control of this lock, which is still known as the Duke's Lock.
When it was first constructed, the section of the Rochdale Canal between Locks 91 and 92 ran in a shallow tunnel beneath the Duke of Bridgewater's field at Castlefield. Most of this was later opened out except for a short section below Deansgate.
A more recent tunnel has been created at Piccadilly where an office building was constructed over the canal, which squeezes between the concrete foundation pillars.
When most of the country's canals were nationalised, the Rochdale Canal remained privately owned by the Rochdale Canal Company. The company charged a toll of thirty pounds for boats using the one and a half mile stretch of canal, an amount that many boaters resented because the locks had not been well maintained and had the reputation of being some of the most difficult locks to use.
In recent years the ownership of the canal has passed to the Rochdale Canal Trust and the operation of it has been taken over by British Waterways, who have abolished the toll and carried out significant improvements to the Manchester section in preparation for the opening of the restored canal through to Yorkshire in 2002.
When the rest of the Rochdale Canal fell into disuse and was closed, the nine locks through central Manchester remained open, linking the Bridgewater and Ashton Canals and forming part of the "Cheshire Ring".Click here to take a virtual cruise in photographs along the "Rochdale Nine" from Piccadilly to Castlefield