In 1936 a major and dramatic breach of the canal occurred. It was so serious that it was never repaired and spelt the beginning of the end for the canal.
The breach happened a short way east of the Nob End locks, on the arm towards Bury. At this point, a bend of the River Irwell has eroded the valley side into a steep slope. The canal contours round the hillside, over 100 feet above the valley floor, supported by a masonry embankment, with a sheer drop from the towpath.
There had been previous problems at this spot and the embankment had been re-built with railway lines used as re-inforcements. The area may have suffered from subsidence caused by the nearby Ladyshore Colliery. When the breach happened, it was so sudden that it swept two boats down into the river below and quickly drained the summit level.
Photo: John and Margaret Fletcher Collection
An archive photograph showing The 1936 Breach. This occurred a short distance east of Nob End Locks at a point where the canal wound round a steep hillside on a high embankment over 100 feet above the banks of the River Irwell.
The same location in 2002. The whole area has become overgrown with trees.
The site of the breach, looking east. The canal bed was in the upper left part of the picture. The towpath was in the upper centre.
The site of the breach, looking west. The old railway lines that had been used to reinforce the steep embankment can still be seen sticking out from the remains.