Black Brook

Features of the Black Brook,
Bugsworth Basin, Buxworth, High Peak

The Black Brook rises on Barmoor Clough at an altitude of 1,200 feet, some 400 yards east-northeast of Bolt Edge Farm at Grid Reference SK 08687995. This point is close to Bennetston Hall (Coach House, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 8EY), which stands by the A623 trunk road and the Ebbing and Flowing Well, which is a Holy Well or Sacred Spring. It then flows for about six miles to its confluence with the river Goyt, near Bridgemont, at Grid Reference SK 01618240. Over that distance it falls by about 710 feet at an average gradient of 1:44.62.

The river first skirts around Bolt Edge and then turns to flow in a north-westerly direction through the hamlet of Blackbrook and, skirting around Chapel-en-le-Frith, it passes through Townend and then below the Peak Forest Tramway in a culvert adjoining the bottom of the Great Inclined Plane. After emerging from this culvert it turns in a westerly direction to pass under the Peak Forest Tramway again near Stodhart Tunnel and then on to Chapel Milton. At Chapel Milton, Hockham Brook joins the Black Brook and the former rises to the west of the 1,772 feet peak, known as the Lord's Seat, to flow through the hamlet of Wash. The Black Brook then flows on to Bridgeholme Green, Chinley, Whitehough and Buxworth, beyond which, on the approach to Bridgemont, it joins the river Goyt on its way to Stockport.

In the vicinity of Bugsworth Canal Basin, there are, and were, several noteworthy features. Referring to the above map:

Features 1 & 2
Bugsworth Mill Access Bridges, one low level and one high level, Grid Reference SK 01658231

The low-level bridge is of arched stone construction and its design is similar to the accommodation bridges built over the Peak Forest Canal. This bridge pre-dates the building and opening of the Bugsworth New Road turnpike and its original purpose was to connect the wharf, lying to the west of Teapot Row, to the mill and it would also provide a river crossing for the residents of Teapot Row. Hereabouts the river banks are made up of solidified lime ash from Bugsworth lime kilns and this is still clearly visible.

Little is known about the high-level bridge, as there are no records or photographs of it. It had tall stone abutments on either side of the Black Brook and it is known that it accessed the mill on the first floor. It is likely that the bridge deck was of timber construction. Its purpose was to provide direct access between the wharf and the mill but its dates of erection and demolition are unknown.

Feature 3
Wharfinger's House/Canal Office Access Footbridge, Grid Reference SK 01858211

It is not known why this footbridge was built but it is likely that it was for the convenience of the wharfinger, his family and staff. It was sited between the house and the adjoining stable. There are no records or photographs of it but it is likely that it was of timber construction with handrails, similar in design to the two horse-transfer bridges at Bugsworth Basin. It is not known when it was erected or demolished.

Feature 4
Lower Basin Wharf (New Drop) Tramway Access Bridge, Grid Reference SK 01908210

This bridge was sited about 20 yards to the east of horse-transfer bridge 58. From the wharf, the tramway went due north to cross the river and then it curved sharply to the west through an angle of about 90º. It then ran parallel with Bugsworth Mill head race as far as the access road from Bugsworth New Road turnpike but the head race continued below the access road to the penstock of the waterwheel that powered the mill.

The existence of this bridge and tramway is only known from a map and there are no photographs or other records of it. It is likely that the bridge was of timber construction but its dates of erection and demolition are unknown.

The purpose for laying down this isolated short tramway is unknown but three possible reasons can be deduced:

  1. Bugsworth Mill was rebuilt in 1851 and it was for the supply of building materials.
  2. Prior to the building of Bugsworth New Road turnpike, it was for the conveyance of raw materials and finished goods to and from the mill. This would be an alternative and/or supplement to using the low-level bridge adjoining the mill.
  3. For the disposal of lime ash from the Gnat Hole lime kilns. It is known that lime ash was dumped in large quantities on the narrow strip of land between the mill head race and the Black Brook.
Feature 5
The Weir, Grid Reference SK 01938213

The Black Brook was diverted to the north of the site of Bugsworth Basin and during construction of the channel opportunity was taken to build a weir to impound water to create a head of water at Bugsworth Mill. From above the weir water flowed along a headrace, passing through a millpond (reservoir), to the waterwheel. The inlet to the headrace incorporated a sluice that could be adjusted to control the supply of water or be closed for maintenance purposes. At the waterwheel there was a penstock used to control the flow of water onto the wheel.

The weir is an overflow-type dam and its purpose was to raise the level of the river so that there was a difference in water level above and below the waterwheel (the head) to drive it and thus provide sufficient energy to power the mill. Once the water had passed over the waterwheel it entered the tailrace and flowed back into the river. The complete watercourse was known as a millrace, the headrace part being used to supply water to the waterwheel while the tailrace returned spent water from it back to the river.

Features 6, 7 & 8
Lime Kiln Access Bridges, Grid Reference SK 02208210

These bridges were three in number and their purpose was to enable burnt lime from the New Road lime kilns to be barrowed over the Black Brook and into the lime shed that spanned the head of the Middle Basin Arm. Here the lime could be loaded into waiting boats without risk of it getting wet when it was raining.

It is known that these bridges were of very simple construction consisting of wooden planks laid over the river.

Feature 9
Brookside Bridge, Grid Reference SK 02308210

This is the first of the two arched stone bridges over the diverted Black Brook. It is sited to the northwest of the Navigation Inn and its purpose was to maintain a road communication (formerly a packhorse road) between Macclesfield/Whaley Bridge and Chinley/Glossop via Chinley Road Bridge over the Peak Forest Canal.

Feature 10
Tramway Bridge, Grid Reference SK 02318210

At the same time that the Black Brook was diverted, the road along the valley bottom from Whitehough to Whaley Bridge (over Silk Hill) had to be re-aligned as well and the second of the two arched stone bridges was erected over the new channel of the river to the north of the Navigation Inn and this joined Brookside to maintain a connection with the road between Whaley Bridge and Chinley. Subsequently, the valley bottom road became the main line of the Peak Forest Tramway and this bridge was used to carry the earlier of two tramway branches to the head the New Road Lime Kilns.

Feature 11
Twin Tramway Bridges, Grid Reference SK 02538213

Two adjoining skew bridges that carried the elevated tramway branch to the New Road lime kilns, firstly over a medieval packhorse road and then over the Black Brook. The stone arches of both bridges are formed of spiral courses and this enabled the crossings to be made at a skew angle rather than at a right angle. These bridges date from the late 1860s.

Feature 12
Brook Bridge, Grid Reference SK 02730823

This footbridge is of timber construction with handrails and it is sited close to the point where the elevated tramway branch to the New Road lime kilns left the main line of the Peak Forest Tramway.

Bugsworth Mill low-level access bridge, 24 March 2005.

This view of the bridge is from the left-bank of the Black Brook looking up stream.

Bugsworth Mill high-level access bridge, 24 March 2005.

Both bridge abutments are still extant and this one is on the left bank of the Black Brook.

Bugsworth Mill with the low-level access bridge in the foreground, 24 March 2005.

On the night of the 28/29 August 2005 the mill was destroyed by fire.

New Road lime kilns and lime shed, early 20th century.

One of the three lime kiln access bridges over the Black Brook can just seen in this view. It is located (as a thin horizontal white line) to the left of the lime shed.

The rear of the Navigation Inn with Brookside Bridge in the left foreground, early 20th century.

This view is from the right bank of the Black Brook. Note the solidified lime ash forming the river bank to the right of the bridge.

Tramway Bridge, 6 April 1980.

The bridge is seen from the left bank of the Black Brook looking downstream. It was built to maintain a connection between the valley bottom road from Whitehough and the road between Whaley Bridge and Chinley.

Subsequently, the valley bottom road became the main line of the Peak Forest Tramway and this bridge was used to carry the earlier of two tramway branches to the head of the New Road lime kilns.

The bridge in the background is Brookside Bridge.

Twin skew bridges known as 'Bugsworth Arches', 2004.

The tramway bridge over the Black Brook is on the left in this view, which is from the main line of the Peak Forest Tramway.

Brook Bridge, 5 November 2004.

The footbridge is viewed from the left bank of the Black Brook.

In the autumn of 1866 a land slip occurred on the northern slopes of the valley of the Black Brook that caused irreparable damage to the Midland Railway viaduct in Bugsworth and the line had to be diverted.

For details of the diversion click here » Diversion

Photographs: Author's Collection