Wooden roller on Brabyns Brow changeover bridge
In the last newsletter in May our look at local heritage followed the Marple Locks from the aqueduct, up eight of the locks but stopped just before the ninth lock at Station Road. This was not accidental, there were several reasons for this. It is a natural break point, roughly half way up the flight of locks; there had already been a lot of points of interest to see and to absorb; most of all, we were prevented from following on up the locks because of major repair work being carried out at Lock 11. The walls of the lock had begun to bulge inwards and when you are sailing a narrowboat built to specific dimensions to go through these locks, that could cause a problem.
The work looked as though it would go on forever. The contractors, Keir, blocked off the canal and took over a sizeable chunk of Memorial Park as well. Just how much space did they need? However, all’s well that ends well. The lock has been repaired; Keir has left; and the park has been beautifully restored.
It seems appropriate to explore the rest of the locks and we have a detailed description of the Upper Eight in the “Our Local Heritage” section of the website. However, as a “taster” we could look at some of the points of interest at Lock 9.
This bridge at the start of Brabyns Brow is a changeover bridge - a point where the towpath changes from one side of the canal to the other. If you haven’t noticed it before, the wooden roller mounted on the wall prevented the tow rope from abrading on the stonework. The deep grooves on the roller show that it did its job effectively.
Just above the lock, opposite the towpath, is a small brick shed. (above) This was the control shed for diverting water from the canal to the railway. The steam engines which passed through Marple 60 years after the canal was built needed large quantities of water to create their steam. They would fill up from the large tank at the station which, in turn, would be filled by water from the canal. The foundations of the tank can still be seen above Platform One. However, water was a precious commodity and the canal company charged the railway for this supply, even though they were both owned by the parent company. The brick shed contained the valves and meters which controlled this supply. Until a few years ago the shed had an open door but the health and safety guardians have bricked it up completely though, to be fair, they have made a very neat job.
Just beyond the brick shed is a cast iron post, about one metre high but firmly fixed into the ground with a base plate. (left) Have a look at it and, if you can’t work out what it was or why it was there, go to our website. There you will find the answer plus much more of an intriguing historical walk up the flight of locks. Enjoy the journey!
Neil Mullineux, August 2019