22 December 2007

"CBW" Stones - A Theory

This is an attempt to explain the "CBW" stones by linking together some pieces of circumstantial evidence and a bit of history.

I was intrigued having read the article in Pennine Link, and having a copy of the Act, I decided to look at the reference of 11th. May 1837 to stones being set up.

This proved to be a red herring as the Act clearly refers to the setting-up of milestones and this would appear to be one of a number of cases of the Canal Company, in its early days, neglecting to carry out its obligations, presumably to save money.

What caught my attention was a couple of sections in the Act giving the Company toll-free access to the warehouses on Sir John Ramsden's navigation and even the right to maintain that section of canal should he fail to do so.

Perhaps this might go some way towards explaining why the (now disappeared) stones on the Broad Canal existed. Then it occurred to me that, with those at Lock 1E, the stones seemed to define the limits of the warehouse area - the missing one I recall near the old coal hoppers was at the side of a gate.

Thinking about the other stones, it would appear that most of them bear a relationship to former wharf or warehouse sites and this might go some way to explain why they seem to be in groups with long stretches of the Canal having none at all:-
CBW stone near Lock 1e

The next one west from Aspley is just below the old Lock 3E, where there was formerly a large Canal Company warehouse. Any "pair" to it will have disappeared under Sellers.

The two at Milnsbridge are either side of the old wharf area and the Factory Lane access. We need to be careful about the one at Lock 9E as it is in a wall that was rebuilt by one of the Community Programme schemes, as witness the pvc drains in it. This probably explains the stone's position at the bottom of the wall - being "a nice big bit", they probably used it as a foundation! However, I doubt that it has moved far along the canal as they tended to use as much material from the site as possible.

Those near Lock 15W may well be an old wharf site, adjacent to the main road between Mossley and Greenfield, though again the central one of these can't be guaranteed as it is located in a later, brick, wall.

Alwyn Ogborn's yard is part of the old "Mossley Docks" area. Sadly there is not a lot of original walling still standing around here, so this could be the only stone surviving at this site.

Grove Road is a known wharf and the stone clearly marks the eastern end of the wharf - again any "pair" to this stone will have vanished when the canal around Lock 8W was infilled or when BW rebuilt the old coal yard as their depot.

If my theory is correct, it is possible to speculate on where there may have been others. Ignoring probable private or minor wharves; Slaithwaite (again probably lost when the canal was infilled), Marsden (probably either side of Warehouse Hill, given what we now know about the history of Tunnel End warehouse?), Woolroad (one near the old drydock below Lock 25W and another disappeared in the former infilled section?), at least one more at Mossley, and a couple around Lock 1W and the former warehouse there would be my suggestions.

This "wharf" theory does require a few stones to have disappeared, but nothing like the number that would be implied by them being boundary posts, and it is possible to explain why several of them might have gone.

So what were they for? One of the more colourful bits of local history concerns the "Slawit Moonrakers", who were supposed to have used their moonraking to cover up the recovery of smuggled goods from the canal. This supposedly happened soon after the opening of the Canal, 1802 being the only suggested date I have found.

If this kind of thing was as regular as suggested by John Sugden in his "Slaithwaite Notes", then the Company would have needed to limit where such cargo could lawfully be unloaded - could the "CW" be "Company Wharf" or even "Customs Wharf"?

I prefer this to the "Canal Wall" theory, which always seemed to be an exercise in stating the obvious - surely they would have used "HC", "HCCo" or something similar? If the Company later gained "Bonded Warehouse" status for some of its wharves, could this explain the added "B"?.

[Trevor Ellis]

21 December 2007

Standedge Tunnel transit

Keith Noble writes about possible solutions to the problems of Standedge Tunnel.
Thorough and regular readers of Pennine Link will have noted that the Society has been campaigning for a relaxation in the regime in force for boats requiring passage through Standedge Tunnel.

The artificial constraints put on traversing the Narrow Canal, limit the number of boats using it both directly and indirectly. If too few boats are seen using the canal, restoration will be perceived to have failed. If so that would be bitterly disappointing to those who strove for a quarter of a century to bring the canal back to life. It would also be to the detriment of future restorations if the Narrow were to be cited as an adverse precedent. 

Quite apart from the embuggerance of arranging a passage through Standedge, this year, BW, reacting to Government imposed budget cuts, have limited passages to two days a week. No more that four boats at a time have been allowed in each direction. That means a maximum of 16 boats passing over the summit each week. Previously eight boats at a time have been taken through but it is assumed that this year's reduction arose because the batteries in the tugs were proving unreliable. New batteries have now been installed so hopefully more boats will be accommodated in 2008 even if the established regime persists. 

Even before the budget cuts your Council was concerned about the applied constraints and the announcement of cuts presented an opportunity to put a paper to BW suggesting a relaxation of the present regime for managing the use of the tunnel. The paper is summarized as follows:-

The present method of operation consumes excessive manpower and cash. This diverts BW's already scarce resources away from maintenance of the canal. The restricted times of opening and of passage through the flights either side of the tunnel are highly inconvenient to boat users. This, added to the reputation of the Narrow as a difficult canal to navigate, acts as a powerful deterrent to boaters. This is against the interests of BW, who need more traffic to justify the expense of maintaining the canal. 

This paper suggests that the present operating method is based on an over-cautious safety case.
Other ways of operating the tunnel are recommended for further study :-
1. Allow boats to pass through the tunnel under their own power.
2. As 1. but with forced ventilation.
3. As 1. but with gas detection and gas masks for use in emergencies.
4. Allow boaters to take their own boats through the tunnel but powered by small electric tugs. 

Improvements to the water supply without unduly limiting boat movements should be considered :-
1. Allow boats to use of Diggle and Marsden flights more frequently than at present. This might necessitate addressing lock leakage.
2. Back pump to summit pound from Lock 33E.
3. Tap into available unused water supply at Lock 24W and back pump to summit pound.
In all cases, it is recommended that emergency communications equipment be provided.

Last April, BW called a meeting of representatives from a number of organisations, the canal society, IWA, boat clubs, hire businesses and individuals to discuss operation of the tunnel and HCS' paper was tabled at the meeting. BW agreed to review the whole method of operating. This would entail carrying out atmospheric tests on the restored tunnel. Tests had been carried out in the early 1990s when the tunnel was partly blocked by roof falls. 

A study then concluded that there would be ventilation problems but no new tests had been undertaken to verify the position since the tunnel was restored. 

In October BW took the representatives through the tunnel and there are now grounds for optimism that the whole operation will be improved. Consultants have undertaken new atmospheric tests with a diesel powered boat. The initial results are very encouraging but further tests will have to be undertaken using boats with older engines, taking more than one through at a time and in varying wind conditions. 

No immediate changes are expected for 2008, but in the longer term, watch this space!

01 December 2007

Greenfield Marina

Here is the latest photo of progress on the construction of Frenches Marina at Greenfield.

Click on the photo to see a larger version. (Use the back button to return here.)