Peak Forest Canal


Prior to the Roman era, milestones were used in Britain as measuring points or as tribal meeting place. Nowadays, these are more accurately referred to as 'direction posts', 'guide posts', 'boundary markers' or 'way markers', but, nevertheless, they were the direct ancestor of milestones. It was not until the Roman era that the first true milestones arrived in Britain where they were extensively used to measure distances along the many Roman roads.

With the widespread introduction of canals during the 18th century, the natural thing to do was to place milestones along them as well, where they had the benefit of helping to reduce disputes over the collection of tolls by the issue permits. Many of these have now been lost due to a combination of negligence, vandalism, unsympathetic development and under the tracks of bulldozers making 'improvements'. The Peak Forest Canal was certainly not immune to losses such as these. Surviving relics from the bygone age of working canals need protection and some care if they are to remain part of our industrial heritage.

Permit No. 371:
Issued on Tuesday, 14 May 1805. It permitted John Wardle on board Samuel Oldknow Esquire & Co's Boat No. 5 to carry 23½ tons of limestone from Bugsworth Basin to Marple, a distance of 7 miles. It was signed by E E Turner, the Wharfinger at Bugsworth Basin. Transport and stone charges are shown separately.

23½ tons x 10½d per ton for transport  =  £1  0s  6¾d
23½ tons x 2s 4½d per ton for stone    =  £2 15s  9¾d
                                Total  =  £3 16s  4½d

It was signed for at Marple Lime Works by R Goodwin, the Clerk.

Peak Forest Canal
Milestones on the Peak Forest Canal were made of gritstone and they consisted of rectangular stones of variable section and height with a double ogee curved top. They were placed at ½-mile intervals over the length of the canal and, in general, those marking half miles were half the thickness of those marking miles. With the exception of the 0 and 8 milestones, all were positioned with their face at 90º to the canal.

Distances along the canal were measured from the datum (or zero) milestone located at Ashton Junction, which is at the south end of the Tame Aqueduct in Dukinfield. Only one original milestone had the details carved into it and this is the 8 milestone adjoining lock 15 at Marple. This is inscribed:


At the outbreak of the Second World War, the bottom line was chiselled out in case the place-name was of use to the enemy.

Initially, it was thought that all other milestones did not have the mileage marked on them but a close examination of the 4 milestone in 1975 showed that distances were painted on them with white paint. This particular milestone is no longer extant as a result of vandalism.

Peak Forest Tramway
Distances along the tramway were similarly measured from the start of the Peak Forest Canal at the south end of the Tame Aqueduct in Dukinfield and the first milestone on the tramway was the 15 milestone just outside Bugsworth Basin. Milestones were placed at half-mile intervals along the canal but there is no evidence to show that this practice was continued along the tramway. Instead, it appears that they were only placed at intervals of one mile. It is assumed that those on the tramway were similarly painted with distances.

Boundary Markers
The Peak Forest Canal Company also set up stone boundary markers like the one illustrated on the right. These indicated the limits of land in company ownership and their purpose was to prevent disputes with neighbouring landowners. The boundary of most of the company's land was well defined by drystone walls or similar, so it was unnecessary to provide boundary markers in large quantities. Rather, they were provided at isolated locations where the canal company's land extended beyond the normal width of the canal boundary walls for constructional or legal reasons. Regrettably, none of these have survived.

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MilestoneLower Peak Forest Canal
Dukinfield to Bottom Lock, Marple
0 Milestone

Date: 9 Feb 1978
This is the datum milestone for all distances along the Peak Forest Canal and Tramway and it is located at Ashton Junction at the south end of the Tame Aqueduct, Dukinfield.
½ Milestone No image
1 Milestone

Date: 6 Mar 1978
Before Dukinfield Hall (or Well) Bridge, Dukinfield.
1½ Milestone No image
2 Milestone

Date: 4 Mar 1978
Before Throstle Bank (or Bowlers) Tunnel, Hyde.
2½ Milestone

Date: 4 Mar 1978
Before Captain Clarke's (or Woodend) Bridge, Hyde.
3 Milestone

Date: 4 Mar 1978
Beyond the former Foxholes Footbridge, Hyde.
3½ Milestone

Date: 4 Mar 1978
Before Burgess's Bridge, Woodley.
4 Milestone

Date: 4 Mar 1978
Before the former Woodley Swivel and Footbridge.

This milestone is no longer extant and only the stub remains.
4½ Milestone After Butterhouse Green Tunnel, Woodley.

No longer extant.
5 Milestone

Date: 28 Jul 1978
Before the Sheffield and Midland Railway Bridge, Woodley.
5½ Milestone

Date: 9 Feb 1978
At the south end of Hatherlow Aqueduct, Romiley.
6 Milestone

Date: 9 Feb 1978
Before the north west portal of Hyde Bank Tunnel, Romiley.
6½ Milestone No image
7 Milestone

Date: 2 Mar 2008
Just before Bottom Lock House, Marple.
MilestoneMarple LocksImage
7½ Milestone

Date: 11 Feb 1978
Between locks 7 and 8, Marple.
8 Milestone

Date: 24 Jul 1978
Adjoining lock 15, Marple.
MilestoneUpper Peak Forest Canal
Top Lock, Marple, to Bugsworth Basin
8½ Milestone

Date: 24 Jul 1978
Beyond Brick Change Bridge, Marple
9 Milestone

Date: 24 Jul 1978
Before Plucks (or Rawton Walls) Bridge, Marple.
9½ Milestone

Date: 11 Feb 1978
Before the former Moores (or Turflea) Swivel Bridge, Strines.
10 Milestone

Date: 11 Feb 1978
Beyond Stanley Hall (or Kicker's) Bridge, Strines.
10½ Milestone No image
11 Milestone

Date: 27 Aug 1978
Beyond Dryhurst Bridge, Disley.
11½ Milestone No image
12 Milestone

Date: 27 Aug 1978
Immediately beyond Thornsett Road (or Albion Road) Bridge, Newtown, New Mills
12½ Milestone No image
13 Milestone

Date: 11 Feb 1978
Before Furness Aqueduct, Furness Vale.
13½ Milestone

Date: 11 Feb 1978
Beyond the former Bongs (or Yeardsley Bank) Swivel Bridge, Furness Vale.
14 Milestone

Date: 30 Apr 1978
Before Whaley Bridge Junction, Bridgemont.

No longer extant.
14½ Milestone

Date: 5 Nov 2004
Immediately beyond the second horse-transfer bridge at Bugsworth Basin.

This milestone was specially commissioned to commemorate the Millennium and it is inscribed:


The reverse is inscribed:


The presence of an original milestone at, or near, this point is unknown.
MilestonePeak Forest Tramway
Bugsworth Canal Basin to Dove Holes Dale
15 Milestone

Date: 4 Aug 1976
Outside Bugsworth Canal Basin.
16 Milestone No image
17 Milestone
No Image
18 Milestone

Date: 7 Aug 1976
On the inclined plane at Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Unlike other milestones on the tramway, this one was positioned with its face parallel to the tramway instead of at 90°.
19 Milestone

Date: 2 Aug 1976
At the top of Barmoor Clough.
20 Milestone No image