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]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that. Walking alongside the canal with some friends we were mystified as to their meaning but at least we now know that more knowledgeable people than us are by no means certain, although the theory sounds good to me!