Upper Peak Forest Canal

Canal Diversion at Potters Hey

In 1897, the Midland Railway Company were surveying for their line between Heaton Mersey and Sheffield. When they were working in the proximity of the Upper Peak Forest Canal, between the 11½ milestone and Potters Hey, the surveyors observed the slippery clay bank lying between the canal and the line of the railway. Although the canal had not given any problems here in the 101 years of its existence, the Midland Railway Company were, nevertheless, concerned that the slippery clay slope could cause the canal to breach at this location at some time in the future and that such an event would sweep away the railway line in the vicinity.

Glacial deposits of clay, gravel, sand and silt, lying above friable rock, caused the unstable valley sides hereabouts. When the Midland Railway Company were constructing their line a short distance to the east, on the approach to Brunswick Mill (now Swizzels Matlow), the same problem was encountered and a substantial retaining wall had to be built to support the mill, which can be seen from the mill car park. This masonry wall was built on concrete foundations and it extends for a distance of 100 yards at a height of 30 feet above the railway line and beyond this for a further 100 yards at a height of 15 feet. The ground in this neighbourhood is very unstable and it produced many complications that had to be overcome when digging the wall foundations.

As a result of these geological problems, negations commenced between the Midland Railway Company and the Great Central Railway Company (then the owner of the Peak Forest Canal) with a view to persuading the canal owner to re-align the canal hereabouts to eliminate this danger. An agreement was finally reached on the 10 January 1903 and the canal, over a distance of about 328 yards was moved southwards onto a re-alignment where the land was considered to be more stable. On completion of this work the original section of canal was drained and left in situ.

Near Potters Hey, 29 January 1967.

A view of the towpath from the bed of the canal showing traces of stone wall edging the canal.

Photo: B Lamb
Near Potters Hey, 29 January 1967.

A view of the towpath from the bed of the canal showing the detail of a large coping stone.

Photo: B Lamb
Near Potters Hey, 29 January 1967.

A view from the towpath looking along a line of coping stones edging the canal.

Photo: B Lamb
Near Potters Hey, 29 January 1967.

A view from the bed of the canal looking along the towpath edging the canal. In the foreground, the coping stones are missing but the stone wall that lay beneath them is still extant.

Photo: B Lamb
Buttresses supporting the abandoned section of canal, 2008.

While the upper level of the canal was being constructed between 1794 and 1796, the canal builders recognized the unstable ground and the stretch of the now abandoned canal was supported above the valley slope by substantial abutments.

Photo: D Brumhead