The year 2004 is the bi-centenery of the opening of the Rochdale Canal over its entire length from Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire to the Castlefield Basin in Manchester. A distance of 32 miles with 92 locks and rising at its summit to 600 feet above sea level in the Pennine hills.

'The Rochdale' (as the Rochdale Canal is known) was the first canal to cross the Pennines from Lancashire to Yorkshire and was arguably the most successful from a commercial point of view.

In 2004 it is planed to celebrate the bicentenery of 'The Rochdale' with the completion of the restoration of the canal to navigation over the entire length. (Completed two years earlier in 2002).


'The Rochdale' passes through some of the most attractive scenery in the North of England.

The changes of scenery are dramatic, starting in Manchester at the Castlefield Basin with Victorian warehouses and commercial buildings, travelling out through industrial areas to the valleys in the Pennine Hills via Littleborough ,Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and finally arriving at Sowerby Bridge.

'The Rochdale' is an attractive linear park at all seasons of the year, summer and winter as well as the spring and autumn.

It is enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life with a wide spectrum of interests and not only boat owners.


In 1766 James Brindley was commissioned to survey a route for the proposed Rochdale Canal and in 1790/91, after the death of Brindley in 1772 at the age of 56, Two further surveys were carried out by John Rennie and William Crossley Senior,

Work started on the canal in 1794 under the guidance of William Jessop with sections from Manchester to Rochdale and from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden being completed 1n 1799. The stretch from Rochdale to Todmorden, connecting the two sections was finally completed in 1804, with the official opening on 21 December of that year.


The Rochdale is a broad canal suitable for boats up to 74 feet in length, 14 feet 2 inches wide with a draught of 4 feet.

This transport system revolutionised the movement of bulk goods reducing the price of coal by half. This was most important with the greatly increased demand for coal by both the growing number of mills and domestic needs.

The canal not only carried coal but also chemicals, cotton and finished goods etc.

1880 was one of the busiest years for the Rochdale with goods weighing 686,000 tons being transported. The equivalent to the movement of about 50 boats a day.

A load of about 35 tons could be dispatched by barge from Todmorden at 1800 hours and be in Manchester by the following morning. Not a bad performance even by toady's standards, but compared with pack horse transport it was a tremendous performance.


It was only 36 years after the opening of the canal to the completion of the summit railway tunnel which was to revolutionise transport once again.

By 1921 the traffic had fallen to 180,00 tons or twelve boats a day.

The last loaded barge to travel the whole length of the canal was in September 1937.

In 1952 a Bill of closure was passed by Parliament. The only part of 'The Rochdale' to remain open being the 'Manchester 9' joining the Bridgewater with the Ashton Canal a distance of only 1.25 miles.


It was in 1974 when the Reverend Philip Darnborough proposed the idea to restore the Rochdale Canal.

The Rochdale Canal Society was founded with the aim of:- The complete restoration of the Rochdale Canal to through navigation.

This vision has been achieved, when on Monday 1 July 2002 the Rochdale Canal was restored to through navigation from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester.

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