Restoration of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Canal Society was set up with the long term aim of ensuring the canal's restoration. For many years this took the form of small-scale work parties tackling clearance and minor work and also of opposing planning applications that threatened to affect the line of the canal. This developed into partnership with British Waterways and the three local authorities.

A major step on the path to ensuring that restoration would be possible came when extra funding was provided to enable a tunnel to be incorporated into the construction of the new Manchester and Salford Relief Road. This has made it possible for a navigable channel to be built below this road when restoration got under way. If this had not been done, the canal would have been isolated from the rest of the waterway system. The tunnel beneath the relief road means that, when the first section of the canal was restored, Locks 1 and 2, originally next to the junction with the River Irwell, needed to be relocated further away from the river, on the other side of the railway.

See photos of the first boats entering the newly restored Middlewood Locks section in September 2008.

A key moment for the canal's future, in May 2002, was the launch by British Waterways and its partners of the plans to restore the canal. It is envisaged that the scheme will cost £32 million and could lead to the creation of up to 6000 jobs. An independent study has shown that the restoration of 12 miles of the canal can act as a magnet for investment, employment, leisure and housing and lead to the re-development of derelict brownfield sites. The proposals include a new visitor centre at Nob End, Little Lever.

Margaret Fletcher, Chairman of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society at that time, said "We are delighted that, following our 14 years of campaigning, the canal is now to be restored." Sadly, Margaret did not live to see the first boats entering the first restored section of canal, but the new tunnel under the Salford Inner Relief Road has been dedicated to her.

Salford Relief Road - Photo: John and Margaret Fletcher Collection
Photo: John and Margaret Fletcher Collection
Parts of the original wash walls were uncovered during the construction of the Manchester and Salford Relief Road.

Salford Relief Road - Photo: David Schofield
Photo: David Scofield
The line of concrete piles running across from left to right show the line of the canal.

Salford Relief Road
The stone wash walls of the infilled canal can be seen in behind the excavator.

Salford Relief Road
The completed Manchester and Salford Relief Road. The only indication of the tunnel below for the canal is a change in the drainage holes in the kerbstones.

Middlewood Locks before work began
Photos of restoration of the canal at Middlewood Locks, Nov 2007
First boats on the re-opened canal at Middlewood Locks
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