The story of Bugsworth Basin

During the Industrial Revolution, canals were the motorways of their day — connecting manufacturers with their raw materials and their markets by joining cities, ports, mines and factories.

Limestone, lime and gritstone brought on the Peak Forest Tramway were loaded on to boats at Bugsworth Canal Basin ready to be shipped out to Manchester and beyond along the Peak Forest Canal.

Upper basin in around 1900

Bugsworth Basin

Bugsworth’s first basin opened in 1796. As Bugsworth became a thriving industrial centre two more basins were needed and 19 lime kilns were built around the site. Lime that was waiting to be transported was kept dry in one of the five lime sheds. At its height, Bugsworth Basin was handling over 600 tons of limestone per day.

Bugsworth became one of the largest inland ports ever created on the English narrow canal network which once extended to over 3,000 miles of canals (today there are 2,025 miles of motorway in England).

Towards the end of the 19th century the growth of the quicker railway system led to the decline of both the Peak Forest Tramway and the canal. In 1927, Bugsworth Basin was closed.

New Road lime kilns operational in around 1910

The Peak Forest Canal

The Peak Forest Canal was first proposed in 1791. The original plan was to build a canal to Chapel Milton which would link to the Peak Forest Tramway running down from Dove Holes. However, it was easier and cheaper to extend the tramway so the plan was altered with the canal finishing at Bugsworth and a short branch to Whaley Bridge.

The Peak Forest Canal was the brainchild of Samuel Oldknow of Marple and Mellor. He became the driving force behind its construction and prominent in its operation. However, it was the financial support of his great friend Sir Richard Arkwright and his son Richard Arkwright Junior that enabled him to avoid bankruptcy on several occasions.

Engineer Benjamin Outram started the building of the canal in 1794 and, by 1796 the Peak Forest Tramway and the upper part of the Peak Forest Canal had opened from Marple to Bugsworth. Four years later, the lower part of the canal from Dukinfield to Marple was complete.

The Role of Limestone

During the 18th and 19th centuries limestone was used in the construction of roads and railways. Also, when limestone is burned with coal, it produces lime. Lime was used as a fertiliser, building mortar and to make chemicals for soap and bleach.

Some of the purest limestone in England was found at Dove Holes in the Derbyshire White Peak hills where it was burned in local lime kilns. To help create cheaper and easier transport of the limestone and lime it was decided to build a waterway to join the Ashton Canal to these limestone quarries.

A group of quarrymen at Holderness Quarry, Dove Holes. Some are wearing discarded army tunics, which dates this photograph to post–1918.