A Walk up the Locks pt.1

Marple Locks

Familiarity breeds contempt but it can also lead us to looking at our surroundings quite casually. How much do we really notice? One of the favourite parts of our local heritage is the Peak Forest Canal and particularly the locks. How many times have you walked up (or down) the locks? You must know every inch. Or do you? Let’s take a walk up the flight of locks and look at some of the aspects that together make our canal so interesting. Some are well known, some might be new to you and a few are mysteries to almost everyone.

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Marple Viaduct

ViaductIt is easy to forget that we have two bridges over the Goyt into Low Marple. It is the aqueduct that gets all the attention. This is the Grade 1 listed monument, the popular walking path to Romiley, the one that gets all the publicity and the heritage grants. However, alongside it and in some ways overshadowing it, is the railway viaduct. It might only be a Grade 2 listed monument but it is higher and longer and more massive than our favoured aqueduct.

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Albert Schools - Heritage

Oere 1900 Albert SchoolSo, the Albert Schools will soon be no more. Its familiar facade has been a part of this community for 150 years so perhaps we should learn a little about it before it is gone forever. It has only been a school for less than half that 150-year history but why the name “Albert” and why “Schools” (plural)?

To answer that we need to look at the way we educated our children in centuries past.

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Cruck Barns

Pear treeCruck barns

Pear Tree Farm in Mill Brow recently came up for sale. Grade II listed, it was originally a seventeenth century farm house, complete with mullion windows and a stone roof. This makes it distinctive though not unique, but what really makes it stand out is the adjacent barn. As with the main house, this has been given a thorough twentieth century ‘makeover’ but it is not difficult to envisage its original function as a barn. Local legend has it that John Wesley preached there on one of his visits though the authentication is not as reliable as Bongs.

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Marple Baths

Marple Baths 1931Our local heritage does not have to be old. Nor does it have to be architecturally distinguished. What it does have to do is to play or have played a significant part in the life and culture of the area at some time. One such building is Marple Baths. Right in the centre of Marple, it has been there longer than almost everybody living and it has played a significant part in the community for almost ninety years.

So why is it part of our local heritage? Architecturally it has been described as “a simple industrial building, built to a budget but modified and extended over the years.”

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Romiley Folds

barlow fold postcardThe clue is in the name - Fold. It means an enclosure from waste land or moor land, either for people or for animals. It still survives in the word ‘sheepfold’ but originally it had a much wider application.

The enclosure of common land has been a continuing process for centuries in England, but at first it was an occasional movement though it did become more systematic under the Tudors and the Stuarts. The early enclosures were mainly in southern and eastern England, south of a line from the Severn to the Humber but by the eighteenth century the Enlightenment was suggesting new approaches to agriculture as well as other fields such as transport and industry.

The final wave of land enclosures in England occurred between about 1750 and 1850 in the form of Parliamentary enclosures and these affected the north of England as well. The first enclosure movements in the Stockport area took place at the beginning of the eighteenth century at Heald Green but by the middle of the century the poorer eastern areas were being enclosed..Parliamentary inclosure acts were not just for existing agricultural land but also for the division and privatisation of common ‘wastes’ (in the original sense of uninhabited places.) In Romiley the western end of Werneth Low was enclosed by the 1750s and a farm and cottages was built at Greave to work the land. The same development occurred at Barlow Fold though on a somewhat smaller scale. It was recognised that these new dwellings could not prosper purely by working the land and they incorporated workshops for either weaving or hat-making. A similar development took place in Mellor in 1779 when the common land of Mellor Moor was enclosed.....

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The Masonic Tombstone

Masonic tombstoneThere is much in Mellor that is ‘special’ - the views, the church, Mellor Mill - but very little that is genuinely ‘unique’. One feature that is truly unique is the Masonic grave of Thomas Brierley, the eccentric printer from Brookbottom, near Strines. A very enthusiastic, though somewhat eccentric, mason, he arranged for a gravestone to be prepared for him in anticipation of his death. Parts of the inscription were written in cipher and other parts left blank because information of the date of his death were not known when the memorial was made.

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High Lane Wharf

curve of Bridge 12

Two bridges on the Macclesfield Canal in High Lane are “listed” by English Heritage. They are both interesting but not particularly noteworthy. Bridge Eleven carries the A6 over the canal so it is wide enough to almost be described as a tunnel. About 150 metres to the south Bridge Twelve curves gently as it carries the towpath over the entrance to High Lane wharf, a much more interesting feature. This is a particularly attractive bridge with a gentle curve taking the towpath over the entrance to the canal arm. The canal itself is important as one of the last narrow canals built.

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Strines Dovecote

 2011 01 29 Chinese dovecote Strines 640Anyone travelling to Strines station will pass an exotic structure on the left hand side - a dovecote planted firmly in the middle of the mill pond. It is a Grade II listed building but that immediately raises two questions. Why is it there and when was it constructed? The short answer to both these questions is the same - “We don’t know” but we can make some informed guesses.

First, the date. English Heritage claim it is of uncertain date but probably late C19. However, according to Rosemary Taylor, the Strines historian, it was there in 1852 because it appeared on the cover of the Strines Journal of that date. The printing works was first established in 1792 but experienced two subsequent expansions. The reservoir where the pigeon cote was erected was excavated about 1832 so that would seem to date the pigeon cote to between 1832 and 1852. So far we cannot be more precise.

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Upper Hibbert Lane Cottages

09 05 07 IMG 0544r550d 81 83 U Hibbert LaneHibbert Lane owes its name to the local Hibbert family. In 1606 Thomas Hibbert, a local yeoman , bought the title ‘Lord of the Manor’ from Sir Edward Stanley of Tonge.

This building, on the east side of Upper Hibbert Lane near the junction with Hawk Green Road, is one of the oldest in Hawk Green. Built as a single structure, it is now two cottages, though originally it was probably three. Two storey cottages such as this are relatively modest by modern standards but at the time they would indicate an owner of some substance - a yeoman or skilled craftsman. As to its age, the initials and date on the door lintel - IBK 1686 - gives us a clue.

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Coach House

Coach house 2There is an unusual building on Church Lane, close to the tower of the old Georgian church. To be precise it is two buildings, roughly joined together at a slight angle and presenting four pointed-arch bays to the road. Although there are architectural differences, both buildings are built of dressed stone with separate graduated split-stone roofs.

The larger of the two buildings is now used as a domestic dwelling but it is not too difficult to work out what it was. It was built by John Bradshaw-Isherwood of Marple Hall to accommodate his coach and horses whilst he was attending services at what was then a new church.........

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Industry of Bredbury and Romiley

steel 1 For most of the last millennium the basic units of local government were townships. These were divisions within the ecclesiastical parishes which gradually gained civic and administrative responsibilities as society became more sophisticated. Bredbury and Romiley were two separate townships in the Middle Ages but they were brought together in the nineteenth century in order to establish units of local government. First as a Local Board, then as a sanitary district and finally, after 1894, as an urban district council, it was a unified authority. In 1976 it lost its autonomy when it was brought under the control of Stockport MBC at the same time as Marple UDC.

The authority is adjacent to Marple and many of the same factors influenced the growth of industry in the two townships as in Marple but there were and are distinct differences. Industrial activity began earlier in Ludworth and Mellor because of the fast-flowing streams which provided adequate power for early mills. Nevertheless the two districts had much in common. There were.....

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