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Stalybridge Canal Restoration

At the close of the 18th century, industry in the form of cotton mills began to flourish in an area to the north west of the town known as Rassbottom. This marked a distinct change from domestic industry to large scale manufacture. The growth of Stalybridge illustrates the social and economic history of the 19th century,with building types and materials that are typical of their time and place. The development of the town was greatly influenced by the steep valley slopes of the River Tame and its water course, a complicated road pattern, and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

At this time Stalybridge was a very large and extensive village, with house well built, some of stone but the greater part of brick. Part of the village is on the Cheshire side of the Tame, but by far the greater in Lancashire, in a continued street of half a mile, well paved. Tall factory chimneys and tightly-packed terraces defined Stalybridge’s mid-19th century character,

The population swelled with mill workers and their families and growth took place on both sides of the river and canal. The town was naturally contained by the surrounding moors, building works were largely unplanned and apparently chaotic.

However, the English cotton industry entered into terminal decline in the 20th century and by 1932 seven of the town’s largest mills had closed. This ensured the town’s decline continued after the Second World War. By the 1950s the route of the Huddersfield canal through Stalybridge had been culverted and filled in, new road junctions and car parks had forced the town centre to expand to the south, and new housing estates replaced Victorian mill terraces.

In the past decade, the canal has been restored. The following pages detail the restoration. Images and text have been kindly supplied by the Huddersfield Canal Society.

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