Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   
HOME
BAPTISMS
MARRIAGES
BURIALS
MI's
CENSUS
CHURCHES
PARISH RELIEF
PLACES
PEOPLE
MILLS & MINES
HISTORY
MAPS
PHOTO GALLERY
LINKS

 

THE ROCHDALE CANAL - A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

a story on some who made a living on the canal,

and some of the many thousands who drowned in it

   
HISTORY OF THE CANAL
   

The castellated railway bridge at Gauxholme

It doesn't take an engineer to understand the achievement of building the Rochdale Canal over the Pennines from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester with the primitive equipment available to the architects, engineers and builders in the late 18th century. The canal stretches for 32 miles and climbs to a height of 600 feet above sea level with the aid of 92 locks.
   
Construction began in 1794 under the supervision of William Jessop of Derbyshire and the resident Engineer, William Crossley. The canal was seen as a revolutionary way of transporting goods. A load of about 35 tons could be dispatched by barge from Todmorden in the evening and be in Manchester by the following morning. This was a miraculous improvement on the packhorse.
   
The area must have been a hive of activity during the construction stages. Many labourers and navvies were imported from other parts of Lancashire to work on the canal, and many of these men and their families were housed in shanty huts, particularly at Gauxholme. Pubs, beerhouses and a few lodging houses were built to accommodate their needs and the hamlet became renowned as a place of mysterious deaths and disappearances.

canal at Gauxholme

   

The first boat came from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden 24 Aug 1798 and the first to go through Walsden to Rochdale was 21st Dec. 1798. The canal opened through to Manchester in 1804 when the first boat, the 50 ton Mayflower, a seagoing vessel, was taken across the Pennines from Hull to Liverpool.

Local men, previously engaged in agricultural work, were drawn to the waterway where employment was readily available and wages were higher than average. When the canal was being built and a section had been finished and flooded, boats were used to carry the building materials to the construction areas. The construction companies provided these boats. Many small farmers and others were involved in carrying goods by horse and cart.

   
The carters were encouraged to abandon their carts and put their horses to good use pulling the boats. The carters were taught to steer and navigate a boat and when the canal was fully operational the carters and their horses stayed with the boats. Many saw this was the way forward and many did it because the remuneration was better.
   

 

Every horse needed a stable at the end of the day and every stopping place was equipped with stabling facilities, whether it was a wharf, warehouse or pub. Ostlers were employed at these places to care for the horses, change them where necessary, and look after the lame or sick ones. Blacksmiths were also required to keep the industry "on its feet". The wharf at Gauxholme had stabling for 14 boat horses and 14 cart horses

   
SOME OF THE MEN WHO WORKED ON THE CANAL
   
Some men set up businesses as carriers, running services with a fleet of boats on which they employed captains, and there were some people who had a single boat which they ran themselves. These latter boats were known as Number Ones. Two such local men had Number Ones. Robert Scholfield, son of Samuel of Naze and Higher Knowl was a single boat owner and general carrier. He dealt in stone mainly, trading along the canal between Luddendenfoot and Manchester. He became a successful stone dealer and merchant. Samuel Fielden of Winterbutlee was another. He was known as "Coal Sam" as he traded in coal up and down the canal.
   
James Veevers of Lower Kilnhurst had a successful company, running boats to Manchester twice a week. At that time, John Hill was the Wharfinger at Gauxholme Wharf and Thomas Taylor junior was the Wharfinger at Todmorden.
   
By 1837 the Veevers family of Kilnhurst had increased their trade. John and James ran services daily from Todmorden Wharf to Manchester and Leeds. From Gauxholme Wharf they sent boats regularly to Rochdale, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull and all parts of the Kingdom. William Veevers was the Todmorden Wharfinger and John Thurlow was his counterpart at Gauxholme. John and William were still in the business in 1851.
   
John Burrow was a boatman most of his life, working for James Veevers. His second wife, Hannah, was a very stoutly built lady who he always referred to affectionately as "the Great Woman". They lived in a cottage on the canal side, the entrance to which was from a landing stage and up a flight of steps. One dark night John was at home when he heard an almighty splash. He ran outdoors to find Hannah had fallen into the water. With the help of several neighbours he managed to haul her out of the water, and later told his friends that when he heard the splash, it was so loud he thought a horse had fallen in.

Gauxholme wharf and lock house

   

Edmund Haigh was another boatman employed on the Rochdale Canal. He left home when he was about 14 years of age to work on the boats. He was married to his first wife before he was 19. He married three times in all, the third time to an Irish girl he met in Manchester whilst on one of his trips. He worked on the boats and in the warehouses most of his life, dying in Bacup in 1845 aged 56.

Others were Samuel Fielden of Hanging Ditch in Langfield, Thomas Fielden of Holmes, William Haigh of Knowlwood in Walsden, Charles Mitchell of Warland Gate End in Walsden and William Sutcliffe of Gauxholme.

   

Gauxholme Lock Keeper's house

As well as boatmen, there were lock keepers. Edmund Wild kept the lock at Lanebottom in 1841 and was succeeded by Zachariah Jackson who had been the lock keeper at Summit, whilst Ely Whittaker kept the locks at Gauxholme in 1841. The cottage is still there today.
   

Another early firm of carriers by water was the Sutcliffe family. They originated at Cross Stone, moving to Gauxholme very early in the 19th century. John and his brother Henry started a carrying business from Shade in Todmorden. They became very successful, and built a large storage warehouse close to the canal, with more housing and stables, occupying all the land between the canal and the turnpike road. Henry's son Robert continued with the business until after 1841. By that time, the railway was in full swing and the Sutcliffe family business dwindled as far as carrying by water was concerned as they concentrated more on moving goods by train.

Boat people were notorious for being uncouth and semi-civilised folk, foulmouthed, immoral and perpetually drunk. Public houses with stabling for canal horses grew up alongside the canal and gained an unsavoury reputation for fighting and drunkenness. Often the barges were used as weapons in a race to be first at the lock. (Hence the term "to barge") Crime was prevalent, particularly pilfering from the cargo and poaching from the land alongside the waterway. Drink was the root cause of most of it, there being beerhouses and inns all along the banks and at the locks. Having said that, the work was hard and dangerous. The boats had to be loaded and unloaded, and on the Rochdale Canal this mostly involved stone and coal. The boats had to be steered through gaps hardly wider than the boat itself with only a horse to pull it - and often the horse or boat went unexpectedly off course, causing serious accidents to barge, horse and crew. This work was done in all weathers and on longer trips involved nights away from home.

Danger wasn't limited to the boatmen, however. With the increase in beerhouses along the towpaths came an increase in drinking generally. Alcohol and dark, unlit towpaths don't mix, especially when the paths are wet and muddy as is often the case; and lock gates are a temptation to youths eager to show off their balancing skills. There were many cases of drowning, some through alcohol, some through accident, some through design, and at least one through murder...

REPORTED DROWNINGS

Ely Crossley 1798

Shortly after the canal was filled with water there was an incident at the canal between Gauxholme and Gauxholme Stones. Ely Crossley had a small farm at Gauxholme and had spent the evening at a Public House in the hamlet. Ely set off to walk home along a newly altered road alongside the canal but he never arrived. The next day his body was found in the canal.

   

Copperas House Bridge.

The family story was that Ely had been involved in an argument with a man called Eastwood about the price of a cow, and that this man had followed him and pushed him off Copperas House Bridge in to the canal. Ely had struggled to reach the side but was pushed back in again by Eastwood and then drowned.
   
Ely and his wife had 7 children at this time and an eighth was born soon after his untimely death. He was buried at St. Marys in October 1798.
   

Abraham Law 1868

The Leeds Mercury Wednesday, November 4, 1868

A MAN DROWNED AT TODMORDEN

A little before 8 o’clock yesterday morning the body of an elderly man called ABRAHAM LAW was taken out of the canal at Dobroyd pool. He deceased who lived at Knowl near Todmorden must have been in the water a week. A bundle, which no doubt belonged to him, was found on the canal bank last Tuesday. This was mentioned to his relatives, but they could not believe that LAW was drowned. The body was, however, brought to the surface of the water by a passing boat, and was removed to the Lord Nelson Inn to await an inquest.

   

Child Drowned 1850

The Leeds Mercury Saturday, September 28, 1850

On Wednesday afternoon, a child about 4 years old, daughter of Mr. JOHN WADE, chemist and druggist, was playing by the side of the canal and fell in and was drowned. She was almost immediately rescued, and every means used to restore animation, but in vain.

Todmorden great wall

 
Luke Crabtree 1898 - the case of the fantastically tattooed man
 

Pinnel Lock

On 28th April 1898, Matthew Wadsworth of 150 Hollins Road, Walsden, was working on the canal bank below Pinnel Lock when he saw what he initially thought was a dog in the water. On looking closer he saw it was a man. He borrowed a clothes prop from some people nearby, attached a piece of string to it, and used it as a fishing rod to pull the body to the side.
   

He contacted the police and sent someone to find a drag and a ladder. The man was pulled from the water. Matthew thought he could have been in the water 8 or 9 days from the looks of him. The dead man was a stranger and could not be identified. The man had nothing in his pockets apart from a Vi-Cocoa sample tin containing a small amount of tobacco, a lead pencil and a pipe. His body was unusual - he was "fantastically tattooed" The inquest report noted:

"on the left, inside forearm were tattooed representations of two ladies in theatrical costume - in tights; and both wrists had bracelets tattooed upon them ... between the forefinger and thumb of each hand were: on the left he had an anchor, and between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand he had a heart pierced by an arrow ... On the left side of the forearm he has an anchor rudely done, as if by a novice; on the right forearm he has a shamrock very badly done; but the others were evidently done by an expert ..."

As luck would have it, one of the men on the inquest jury was THOMAS SPARKS who owned a lodging house on Butcher Hill in Walsden. He immediately recognised the stranger by his tattoos. He told the inquest the man had stayed at his lodging house several times, the last time being about 2 weeks previously. He normally stayed two or three days at a time and was a respectable man, not known to drink, and who liked to go round the public houses in the evenings to sing. He was well dressed and appeared to want for nothing. He didn't know his name or where he normally lived, but knew he had been a soldier in India, which is where he had his body tattoed. He was always alone and wore a "pepper and salt" cloth suit and cap.

There were no marks of violence on the body, although it was covered in mud as though it had been sunk in the bottom of the water. The jury retuned an Open Verdict and the body was released for burial.

The Relieving Officer made arrangements for the body to be buried, but just in time, someone came forward and identified him. It turned out that the deceased was Luke Crabtree of Burnley, where he had been employed as a gas stoker at the Burnley Gasworks. He left a widow and two children, the elder of whom was about seven years old.

   

 

The widow said her husband had been absent from home about a fortnight. He was better known by the name of “Ludlow.” The orders given by the relieving officer for interment were cancelled, and the body was removed by his relatives for interment at Christ Church in Todmorden. Although Luke's home was in Burnley, he was a Todmorden man, having lived in the town all his life until shortly before his death.

the place where the body was found

© Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

   

Eli Sutcliffe 1850

Manchester Times Wednesday, April 24, 1850

A YOUNG MAN DROWNED IN A FROLIC

A fatal accident took place on Friday evening last about half past 9 o’clock at the lock contiguous to the bridge over the Rochdale Canal and situated near the Todmorden Wharf. It appears a respectable man 23 years of age named ELI SUTCLIFFE, who was in the employ of Ashton & Co. Mechanics etc. Salford, left their establishment, where he and others in the same employ had some stimulating drink which rather affected him; he took the canal bank on his way home, and when he arrived at the higher lock gate, he would, not withstanding the kindest remonstrances of his friends, persist in making an attempt to cross the canal by walking on the lock door, which he used to practice daily on his way home. The attempt this time proved fatal; he slipped off and fell into the lock, which was nearly filled with water. Every effort to save him proved of no avail. Sergeant Heap found the body after an hour’s labourious search. It was immediately removed to Mr. Blomley’s Golden Lion Inn. The deceased was an excellent swimmer, and it is supposed he must have been stunned by the fall. He has left a young wife, to whom he was but lately married. On Saturday last an inquest was held before Mr. G. Dyson and a respectable jury, Mr. John Lacy, foreman. The jury returned a verdict of Accidentally Drowned.

   

William Southwell 1880

William Southwell, alias Billy Sixpence, was helping to unload a boat one evening at Gauxholme Wharf. He had taken his fair share of the beer allowance in payment. Instead of returning home he decided to walk to Dulesgate Toll House to buy a present for his grandson.

Gauxholme Lower Lock.

   

Having done that, he returned to the canal heading towards the Black Bull for another one for the road. Instead of crossing by the bridge he tried to cross by the plank at the lower lock. He fell in. His body was found by the bridge the next morning, 27th December 1880. He was 68.

William Woodhead 1833

William Woodhead, a carter of Bottoms, was found drowned at Gauxholme on November 10th 1833. He had not been seen since November 5th. His mother was drowned in the same place 13 years earlier.

   

The canal bridge at Gauxholme, which leads

to the workhouse

Betty Greenwood 1868

In April 1868 Betty Greenwood, a woman of unsound mind, escaped from the workhouse at Gauxholme during the night. The next morning she was found drowned in the canal in the vicinity of the workhouse.

   

Robert Taylor 1851

Manchester Times  Saturday, March 29, 1851;

Man Found Drowned

On Wednesday morning last, Robert Taylor, engineer, of Heywood, was found drowned in the Rochdale canal at Walsden. He had been missing since Saturday evening, when he left the Bird in Hand Inn, Walsden, in liquor. He was 39 years of age. An inquest was held on the body by Mr. Dearden, coroner, yesterday, at the above named inn. Verdict “Found drowned”.

James Howarth 1850

James Howarth (Old Jock), timber merchant of Todmorden , was lost on 7th. Feb. 1850. His body was found on the 11th. in the canal opposite the Sun Inn, Walsden. He was 56 and had previously been landlord of the Woodcock Inn, Walsden. His death was redorded as follows:

Manchester Times Saturday, February 16, 1850

Melancholy Event

On Friday week a report was widely circulated that Mr. James Howarth, timber merchant, was missing. Various were the conjectures as to what had become of him, some persons supposing he had left the neighbourhood on business, while others supposed that possibly he might have got into the canal whilst on his way home from the Waggon & Horses Inn, Walsden, where he had been in company with some friends on Thursday evening. On Sunday afternoon, Sergeant Heap was informed that the hat of Mr. Howarth had been found in the Rochdale Canal opposite the Sun Inn, Walsden. He promptly gave orders to PC 468 to search the canal, which he did with great care till 11 o’clock on Sunday night, without success. At 5 o’clock on Monday morning, Sergeant Heap and police officers 910 and 468 resumed the search, and in the course of the forenoon Sergeant Heap found it advisable to despatch one of the officers to Rochdale to procure leave from the Canal Company to draw off two of the pools. About 7 o’clock in the evening the body was found in a portion of the canal designated Dean Royd Pool. On Wednesday afternoon an inquest was held at the Lord Nelson before J.F. Dearden Esq. coroner, on the body. The jury, after a patient examination of the case returned a verdict of Found Drowned.

   

Joshua Fielden 1843

Old Joshua Fielden of Bottoms left his home on the night of November 10th 1843 and was not seen until the morning of December 11th when he was found drowned in Light Bank Lock.  

 

Light Bank Lock.

   

His disappearance was reported as follows:

Leeds Mercury

25th November 1843

Missing – A person of the name of Joshua Fielden of Bottoms in Walsden, aged 60, left his home on Friday evening the 10th November about 6 o’clock, and has not since been heard of. He has frequently shown symptoms of derangement, and some time ago attempted to cut his throat, though not effectually. A short time before he left home that day, and while sitting at tea with his wife, he told her it was the last time he would eat, and that he knew a place where he could hide himself, and where no one would find him. They have searched the canal and the mill dams in the neighbourhood, but no clue has yet been found to this mysterious affair. The missing individual has a large scar or mark on the left side of his head that reaches to the back part of it, caused by the tread of a horse, and left home without hat, having on a brown fustian uncut coat and waistcoat, drab cotton cord trousers, and a pair of clogs on his feet. It would be an act of the greatest kindness and compassion in anyone transmitting to his disconsolate friends any intelligence respecting him.

   

Shade Lock Todmorden

John Howarth 1854

Old John Howarth of Lanebottom was taken out of the canal at Stonehouse Bridge on October 25th 1854.

   

Sarah Priestley 1848

Sarah Priestley of Ramsden Wood was drowned above Ping Lock on 2nd November 1848. Her death and inquest were reported as follows:

Manchester Times  Saturday, November 4, 1848;

Death from drowning.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Abel Marland, roller maker, Ramsden Wood, and Sarah Priestley, wife of William Priestley, band maker, Ramsden Wood, were seen together at a late hour in Todmorden at the Nelson Inn, and being neighbours it appeared they agreed to go home together. When the got to Copperas House Bridge they either lost their way or went up the canal bank for shortness. They had got a little above the lock near to Smithyholme when they both fell into the water. Abel, by some means or other, got out. He saw the female in the water and jumped in and brought her to the side, but was unable to get her out. He called for assistance, and the woman was got out, but not till 2 o’clock on Thursday morning, when she was found to be quite dead.

Manchester Times  Tuesday, November 7, 1848;

Inquest.

An inquest was held at the house of Mr. John Bentley, Waggon & Horses, Bottoms, Walsden, on Friday last before T.F.Dearden Esq. and a respectable jury. (James Fielden Esq. foreman) over the remains of the unfortunate Sarah Priestley, aged 50, whose death was recorded in our last. Mr. Abel Marland who accompanied her at the time of the accident which caused her death was placed in no enviable situation by the evidence produced. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death, after which the coroner gave Marland a severe castigation and made him to understand that though there was not sufficient evidence to warrant his committal, it did not exonerate him in the eye of the public, as to his foul and disgraceful intentions in persuading, or even allowing, the deceased to go by such a dangerous road in the dead of night. Mr. Fielden cautioned him to be more careful of his conduct in future

   
Joseph Pearson 1866  

The Leeds Mercury Thursday April 19, 1866;

Todmorden

Eearly yesterday morning an old man. About sixty years of age, named Joseph Pearson, of Walsden, was taken out of the canal near Birk’s Mill, Walsden. Deceased had been drinking on the previous evening at Hollins, and was not again seen until he was taken out of the water.

canal at Birks Mill

   

John Walton 1836

John Walton of Hollingworth Gate, gamekeeper on the east side of Walsden Moor, was found drowned at Birks Lock Tail on Sunday morning, November 6th 1836. He had been missing since November 3rd. His death was reported as follows:

 

Manchester Times and Gazette Saturday 19 November 1836

Fatal Effects of Intoxication

John Walton, who has been employed by the gentlemen shooting over the moors of Todmorden and Walsden, as their gamekeeper, left home on Wednesday, in the afternoon, and visited several public houses in the neighbourhood of Todmorden, where he became very much intoxicated and remained from home during the night.

On Thursday he again repaired to the haunts he had visited the previous day, where he remained until about half past ten in the evening, and then left with the intention to proceed home: on his way, having to pass a bridge leading over the Rochdale Canal, at or near Birks Mill in Walsden, about a mile and a quarter above Todmorden, he unfortunately missed his way, and was drowned in the Rochdale Canal. He has left a wife and five small children.

   

Samuel Fielden 1848

Samuel Fielden, the son of Thomas Fielden of Bottomley, was taken out of the canal at Deanroyd Lock Tail on Sunday July 23rd 1848. He probably fell in on the night of the 20th or early morning of the 21st .

   

Deanroyd Lock

The Leeds Mercury  Saturday, August 5, 1848

An inquest was held a few days ago at Todmorden over the body of Samuel Fielden of Bottomley, labourer, who was taken out of the Rochdale canal. He had been missing some time, and when last seen alive he was in a state of intoxication. Verdict accordingly.

   

Abraham Sutcliffe 1821

Another casualty at Deanroyd was Abraham Sutcliffe of Scout. He was drowned near Deanroyd Lock when going home on a Saturday night bearing a heavy load of work - warps and weft for the looms. He was buried on 27th December 1821. His widow Sally only survived him a few weeks, dying of a broken heart.  They had 9 children.

Abraham Fielden 1877

Another victim of Deanroyd was Abraham Fielden, late of Waterstalls, who was found drowned in Deanroyd Pool on January 4th. 1877. He had been missing a few weeks. He was best known as Felley O'Crops.

   

Mary Travis 1864

The Leeds Mercury, Saturday, December 31, 1864

   

A girl drowned in the canal near Todmorden.Yesterday and inquest was held by Mr. D.W. Whitehead, deputy coroner, on the body of Mary Travis, aged sixteen years, who had been accidentally drowned in the canal on Tuesday night last. She resided at the lock house, and was on her way home from her work when she accidentally fell into Lane-Bottom pool, Walsden. The night was exceedingly dark. Verdict “Found drowned”.

canal at Lanebottom

   

Smithyholme Lock. Photo courtesy of

www.penninewaterways.co.uk

Henry Lacy 1850

Old Henry Lacy of Woodbottom was taken out of the canal at Smithyholme on November 6th 1850. He had been missing since the night of the 4th . A report of his death is as follows:

 

   

Manchester Times  Saturday, November 9, 1850;

MAN FOUND DROWNED

Yesterday, Mr. Dearden, coroner, held an inquest at the Hollins Inn, Walsden on the body of Mr. Henry Lacy, grocer. On Monday last, the deceased, aged 74 years, went to Burnley and in the evening he left Todmorden to go home on the towing path of the canal. He was not found until Wednesday morning, when his body was found in the canal between Todmorden and Walsden. He was a very sober man, and it is thought the old man must have fallen into the canal. He had £2 8s 2d in his pockets. Verdict – Found Drowned.

   

Samuel Butterworth 1860

Samuel Butterworth, a boatman, was found drowned at the Hollins Lock Tail on Pancake Tuesday, February 21st 1860.

Hollins Lock

   
James Gill 1870

 

The Leeds Mercury Tuesday, July 26, 1870;

Sad sequel to a funeral

On Saturday last, a man named Gill was buried at Lineholme Chapel near Todmorden. Amongst the mourners was a brother of the deceased called James Gill who lived at Knowlwood. On arriving at the graveside, James appeared to be overcome on finding that his brother was about to be interred in the grave, which already contained the bodies of their parents. He went away and could not be prevailed upon to accompany the mourners to the public house where tea had been provided for them. He commenced drinking; was seen at 11 o’clock at night worse for liquor by a companion who tried in vain to get him to go home. Next morning his body was taken out of the canal near the York Hotel. The body bore signs of ill usage, the head being badly cut, and the clothing torn. The body was removed to the hotel named to await an inquest.

   

The canal in the centre of Todmorden

John Scholfield 1855

Old John Scholfield of Hollingworth was taken out of the canal at Square Pool on Sunday March 11th 1855. He had been missing since March 8th . He was 78.

   
   

Allan Brook 1859

Allan Brook was drowned on May 24th 1859 at Summit Lock.

James Butterworth 1870

James Butterworth of Holme House drowned himself in Summit Lock on July 22nd 1870, aged 29 years. He was a very hard drinker.

   

Un-named Man 1851

A man drowned below the Punch Bowl. On the side of the canal were his hat, a letter with his name and address on, together with a penny, assumed to be for the cost of posting the letter, April 11th 1851.

Todmorden Lock

   

Reuben Haigh 1847

The Manchester Times and Gazette Tuesday, October 5, 1847;

Man Drowned

On Saturday last, Mr. Dearden, coroner, held an inquest at the White Lion Inn, Wadsworth Mill near Todmorden, on the body of Reuben Haigh, a handloom weaver aged 65 years. It appears that on Thursday last he went to Walsden where he met with some old companions who treated him with ale, and at 6 o’clock in the evening, when going home down the canal bank, and when within about 200 yards of the Gauxholme pool, a porter named Robert Whittles saw him fall into the water, and by the assistance of another man named Butterworth, they succeeded in getting him out alive, but he died about 9 o’clock the same night. Verdict: accidentally drowned.

   

Shade Todmorden

James Hollows 1848

James was about 60 years of age and the father of 22 children. He was a brewer at the Queen Hotel in Todmorden. The inquest report into his death was reported in the paper as follows:

   

The Manchester Times and Manchester and Salford Advertiser and Chronicle Tuesday, October 3, 1848;

MAN FOUND DROWNED

Yesterday morning, Mr. Clark deputy coroner held an inquest at the Bull Inn Walsden on the body of James Hollows, ostler and brewer of Gauxholme, aged 55 years. On Friday evening deceased was the worse for liquor when he went home, and about 10 o’clock he was seen on the banks of the Rochdale Canal near his own home, and on Saturday morning he was found drowned in the canal near to where he had been seen the previous night. Verdict – found drowned.

 

Robert Fielden 1864

The Leeds Mercury  Monday, May 30, 1864;

TODMORDEN

On Saturday an inquest was held at the Navigation Inn Gauxholme before Mr. Whitehead, deputy coroner, on the body of Robert Fielden, collier, who was found in the lock at Gauxholme near Todmorden on Wednesday last, where he must have been for nearly 4 days. He was seen at the Royal George Inn Todmorden about half past ten on the Saturday night previous, at which time he was drunk; he was again seen about 12 o’clock when he called at a small shop at Gauxholme and had a pie and some peas. His cap was found on Sunday morning near to a house in Dulesgate, and during the night the inmates of the house heard a noise at the door, as if someone was trying to open it. Verdict Accidentally Drowned

   
So many drownings, and it all goes to show that alcohol and canal tow paths don't mix! There are many, many more of these cases of drowning in this canal.
   
   
The coming of the railway to the town about 1840 was potentially disastrous for the canal trade. The competition was such that the Canal Company was forced to reduce its toll charges, and the Carrying Companies had to cut wages. The Number Ones suffered the greatest. Nonetheless, trade continued for another 100 years and the canal and railway worked together.

Skew railway bridge over the canal at Gauxholme,

by kind permission of Frank Woolrych

   

Loading a barge at Derdale, Todmorden, about 1910

by kind permission of Roger Birch

   

September 1937 saw the last loaded commercial barge travel the whole length of the canal. She was the Thomas. In 1952 Parliament passed a Bill of Closure. In 1974 the Reverend Philip Darnborough proposed the idea to restore the Rochdale Canal. The Rochdale Canal Society was founded with the aim of: complete restoration of the canal for through navigation from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester. Thanks to these people, and the Inland Waterways Association, a partnership was set up with British Waterways, with the Waterways Trust taking over ownership of the canal and contracting British Waterways to carry out the restoration work and then to manage the canal for 50 years with the support of the various local authorities.

In July 2002 the whole canal became navigable once again, almost 200 years after its original opening. The total cost has been £23.8 million.

A Walk On T' Cut is a video of a transpennine journey on the Rochdale Canal, presented by Pathways Video Productions, available at

www.pathwaysvideo.co.uk

 

BACK TO TOP

"