Fairbottom Branch Canal

off the Hollinwood Branch Canal.
Bardsley Colliery Co's Pit Disaster
& Park Bridge Tramway

On the 28 March 1793 the Second Bill of the Ashton Canal Co received the Royal Assent (32 George III. Cap. 21) and this authorised the extension of the proposed Hollinwood Branch from Waterhouses to Stake Leach in Hollinwood rather than to New Mill near Oldham as shown on the plan accompanying the 1792 Bill and on a map drawn by Thomas Brown in 1793. This amendment became the Hollinwood Branch Canal and it left the main line of the Ashton Canal at Fairfield Junction to follow the south side of the river Medlock upstream to cross the river at Waterhouses. It then continued towards Hollinwood where it made a head-on junction with a private canal cut by the Werneth Colliery Co (associated with the Chamber Colliery Co). This branch was ultimately 4 miles and 52 chains long to its junction with the private canal and it was completed towards the end of 1796. It climbed through four locks at Waterhouses (locks 19 to 22) and four locks at Hollinwood (locks 23 to 26).

The Fairbottom Branch Canal was 1 mile 11 chains long and it was constructed using powers that permitted the canal company to make collateral cuts, so it was not specifically authorised. It left the Hollinwood Branch Canal at Waterhouses Junction, which was immediately above lock 22, and access to its towpath was via a footbridge across the tail of lock 22. As built, the Fairbottom Branch Canal terminated at Fenny Field Bridge across the river Medlock and it was completed in 1797.

Route Description, with distances measured from Waterhouses Junction
1 chain = 22 yards

Chamber Colliery Co's Loading Stage
5 chains
At this point there was a deep delta-shaped basin and loading stage on the offside of the canal. Here, a single-track tramway, with one passing place, swept down the hillside in a shallow arc from beside Crime Ln to terminate at the loading stage (or staithe) on the north facing side of the delta. This tramway connected Woodpark Colliery on the corner of Oldham Rd (now Ashton Rd) and Coal Pit Ln, Bardsley, to the canal. At the loading stage, waggons from the colliery ran onto wooden staging over the basin where coal was dropped into waiting boats via a chute. The tramway opened in 1836, when the colliery opened, and it continued in use until the early 1930s but the colliery remained open until 1955.
Waterhouses Pumping Engine
8 chains
This was on the towpath side of the canal and its purpose was to pump water from the pound below lock 19 and discharge it into the pound above lock 22 by way of the Fairbottom Branch Canal.
Taylor's Stop Place
25 chains
At this point the canal narrowed so that stop planks could be inserted across the canal for maintenance purposes.
Valley Aqueduct over lane
35 chains
This stone-built aqueduct is deeply arched in plan, with battered sides to enable it to withstand water pressure in the canal.
Junction of Bardsley Colliery Co's Private Branch
42 chains
This short private branch accommodated a loading stage for coal and a dry dock. Coal was brought to it from the Diamond and Victoria Pits of the Bardsley Colliery Co situated on the west side of Oldham Rd in Bardsley. By 1933, the tramway had been dismantled and the branch was abandoned.

In 1858, Bardsley Colliery Co's Diamond Pit was the scene of a disaster. Details here » Disaster

Valley Stop Place
43 chains
At this point the canal narrowed so that stop planks could be inserted across the canal for maintenance purposes.

Valley Stop Place with Bardsley House in the centre background, early 20th century.

This stop place is 176 yards beyond Valley Aqueduct and here stop planks could be inserted across the canal for maintenance. On the left, 22 yards before the stop place, there is a cutting which is the site of the former Bardsley Colliery Co’s Private Branch. Coal was transported down a tramway to a loading staithe to be loaded into boats. The head of this short branch was extended to create a drydock for boat maintenance.

Bardsley Bridge
57 chains
This bridge carried Oldham Rd (now Ashton Rd) over the canal. Bardsley Wharf was on the west side of the bridge and Jonah Harrop’s Bridge Pit and Private Branch Canal were on the east side on opposite sides of the canal. The bridge was rebuilt by the Ashton Canal Department of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Co in 1862. This was recorded on the cast-iron lintel on the west side that bore the lettering, 'M. S. & L. Ry. Co. A. C. DEPT. 1862.' In 1881 the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Co applied to Parliament for powers to stop up and discontinue the Fairbottom Branch Canal as a navigation from Bardsley Bridge to the termination of the canal at Fenney Field Bridge. Due to mining subsidence, it was recorded that the headroom below this bridge was reduced to 4 feet.

Bardsley Bridge, early 20th century.

The effect of mining subsidence can be clearly seen.

Bridge Pit on the east side of Bardsley Bridge and on the north side of the canal, c.1870.

This view shows the headgear of the pit shaft with the winding engine house in the background. An endless chain hoist was used to wind coal tubs up and down the shaft. In use tubs were clipped to cross bars between two chains that were in constant motion. Miners descended and ascended the pit using the chain hoist. The shaft was about 110 yards deep and it passed through the Stubbs Mine (seam), Fairbottom Mine, Four-feet Mine and Two-feet Mine to finish at the Cannel Mine.

Junction of Jonah Harrop & Co's Private Branch Canal
59 chains
This private branch was associated with Bardsley Vale Mills and it was on the south side of the canal. These mills were built by Jonah Harrop (22 Feb 1799-9 Sep 1866) who was also the proprietor of Bridge Pit and Bardsley Colliery (Diamond and Victoria Pits). The first mill, known as Bardsley Mill, was built in 1835 and a second mill was built alongside it in 1857, the name then being changed to Bardsley Vale Mills. By 1888 the mills were associated with Dodgson & Grundy (cotton spinners and warpers) and by 1896 they were associated with Kerfoot's Pharmaceuticals. By 1933, there was no trace of this private branch. Jonah Harrop was born at Bardsley House and he was resident there for most of his life. He became a magistrate and on the 21 Sep 1852 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancaster by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancaster, Charles William Molyneux, 3rd Earl of Sefton.

Park Bridge Tramway

Junction of Dock Pit Private Branch and start of Park Bridge Tramway
1 mile 3 chains
This short private branch was on the south side of the canal and it accommodated a loading stage for coal. It was associated with Dock Pit, to the south of the river Medlock. It was abandoned in c.1870 and by 1881 the bridge across the river had collapsed. Rather than crossing over the entrance to this branch, the towpath circumvented it by passing close to the river.

Fenny Field Bridge, terminus of the Fairbottom Branch Canal
1 mile 11 chains
This is where the water supply from the river Medlock entered the canal. To facilitate this, a weir was constructed across the river in Rocher Vale and a water channel was cut alongside the river to Fenny Field Bridge. The river is some 10 to 12 feet higher at Park Bridge than it is at Fenny Field Bridge. The weir is still extant but there is now no trace of the water channel.
Fairbottom Colliery
1 mile 24 chains
Situated on the north side of the river Medlock, this was the location of the famous 'Fairbottom Bobs', a Newcomen atmospheric steam engine used to drain water from cannel coal mine workings, which is believed to have been built between 1705 and 1760 and was in regular use until 1830/34. Steam for the engine was generated by a waggon boiler and water pumped from the workings by the engine was then used to power two waterwheels also used for drainage purposes (Keaveney and Brown, 1974, p.26). A branch from Park Bridge Tramway crossed the river Medlock to access Fairbottom Colliery. In 1933 the tramway bridge was still extant but the tramway branch to the colliery had been dismantled.

'Fairbottom Bobs', c.1875.

This engine is now preserved at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

The Newcomen atmospheric engine was named after its inventor,
Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729), who was born at Dartmouth, Devon.
Park Bridge Iron Works
1 mile 43 chains
Shortly before reaching the iron works, the tramway turned sharply eastwards where it divided into four branches. Of the three northernmost branches, two accessed the iron works and one accessed Wellington Pit (located between Waggon Rd and the river Medlock) while the southernmost one, the main line, entered a small-bore tunnel that ran alongside the iron works at Rocher Vale. Along the length of the tunnel it opened out for a short distance where there was a small yard. At the far end of the tunnel the tramway continued along the south side of the river Medlock to the far end of the iron works complex. Here, a branch turned sharply northwards to cross the river where there were several sidings that served the iron works. The main line continued ahead for a short distance until it reached Rocher Colliery where it ended. Park Bridge Iron Works was founded by Samuel Lees in 1786 on the site of a cotton mill by the river Medlock and following his death his widow, Hannah Lees nee Buckley expanded the business. The company began by manufacturing rollers and spindles for cotton mills and it was expanded by four successive generations of the family. At its zenith it employed around 800 men and boys engaged in making bars, rollers, spindles, shafting, gear wheels and rivets. Tradition has it that the rivets used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris were made here. The Lees family lived close by at Dean House in Park Bridge. The iron works began to decline in the 1920s, as the cotton industry began to decline, but it did not close until 1963 and it was under the control of the Lees family throughout its existence.
Rocher Colliery, terminus of the Park Bridge Tramway
1 miles 78 chains
Rocher Colliery was owned by the Lees family and it opened in the 18th century and it was abandoned in 1885/87. This distance is estimated so the overall length of the Park Bridge Tramway was about 75 chains.
Left: This view of Rocher Colliery in 1901 shows that this headgear had been adapted so that the shaft could be used to pump water out of the mine.
Right: Rocher Colliery, early 20th century.
Summary of coal mines bordering the Fairbottom Branch Canal
Diamond & Victoria Pits, Oldham Rd (now Ashton Rd), Bardsley
Extant by 1858: Bardsley Colliery Co, proprietor Jonah Harrop.
1866: Fairbottom Colliery Co (aka Leeses & Booth).
1885: George Wild.
Bridge Pit
This pit was also known as Bardsley Bridge Chain Pit and it was on the east side of Bardsley Bridge and north of the canal. About 66 yards distant on the west side of the bridge was a short-lived pit understood to be Old Cannel Pit. Both were owned by Jonah Harrop.
Fairbottom Colliery, Park Bridge Rd
Late 17th century: A cluster of shallow shafts were sunk, one of which became Fairbottom Colliery.
1854-1865: Leeses & Booth.
c.1865: Closed.
Dock Pit and Coal Pit, Park Bridge Rd
Grouped as part of the Fairbottom cluster of mines. Worked by Leeses & Booth.
c.1865: Closed.
Wellington Pit, Waggon Rd
Grouped as part of the Fairbottom cluster of mines it was located between Waggon Rd and the river Medlock just west of the junction between Waggon Rd and Alt Hill Rd. Worked by Leeses & Booth.
Rocher Colliery, Rocher Vale, east of Park Bridge Iron Works
Grouped as part of the Fairbottom cluster of mines.
1799/1800: John & James Lees
1856: Leeses & Booth
1873: Rocher Colliery Co Ltd incorporated, Company No. 7050.
1885/87: Closed.
1891: Winding up proceedings commenced.
Woodpark Colliery, Bardsley, on the corner of Oldham Rd (now Ashton Rd) and Coal Pit Ln
Grouped as part of the Fairbottom cluster of mines it was located just inside the Oldham border. Prior to c.1860 Woodpark Colliery was comprised of Copperas House Deep Pit and Copperas House Colliery.
c.1836: Opened.
c.1860: The name, ‘Woodpark’, was first used.
1860-1865: Leeses & Booth.
c.1873-1947: Chamber Colliery Co then Chamber Colliery Co Ltd
1947: Nationalised on the 1 Jan (vesting day) to be controlled by the National Coal Board (NCB).
March 1955: Closed.
A number of coal pits were clustered around Warmbley Wood Colliery which was off the north side of Coal Pit Ln about 1,150 yards west of Woodpark Colliery.
Knott Lanes Colliery, Bardsley
1880: In liquidation due to bankruptcy. The proprietor was Christopher Jacques.
Limehurst Colliery, Oldham Rd, Limehurst
c.1855: The colliery opened and was worked by John George Newton.
1859: Buckley & Co.
1880: Limehurst Coal Co Ltd was incorporated.
1889: The Fairbottom and Foxhole Mines were being worked.
1892: The New Limehurst Colliery Co Ltd was incorporated and Henry Lowe was the undermanager.
1898: Closed.
1899: Winding up proceedings commenced and the petitioner was Marshall Gartside Buckley (1864-1934).
Hartshead Colliery, Broadcarr, near Hartshead Pike
1879: R & J Marland, proprietors Robert Marland Jr of Lees, Ashton-u-Lyne, and James Marland of Saddleworth.
Also the proprietors of Bower Colliery, Bower Ln (now Hollinwood Ave), Hollinwood.
1880: Mountain Mine Coal Co Ltd, Company No. 10984, incorporated 1876. Used the name 'Junction Colliery'.
1909: Mountain Mine Coal Co Ltd was dissolved.

Roll of miners who lost their lives » In Memoriam