Tuesday 3 April 2012

Tod walk 2 : Industrial leftovers

When construction on the 32 mile long Rochdale Canal first began in 1794, many workers came into the area from across Lancashire. These navvies were housed in shanty huts and lodging houses along the canal, including here at Gauxholme.

We were fascinated by the shape of the upper room in this house. It must have been interesting trying to walk around under that ceiling!

At the top end of Gauxholme Highest lock is this old stone warehouse. Built in 1798 as part of the Gauxholme Wharf complex, it looks to have been converted into a business premises. The arched opening on the lower floor of the end of the building was where the narrow boats would draw up to load and unload.

The canal climbs in earnest from this point, navigating a series of locks to reach its highest point at 600 feet above sea level, topping the Pennines to create a first canal transport link across the chain of hills (1804); beating both the Huddersfield to the south (1811) and the much longer Leeds and Liverpool to the north (1816). In total, the building of the Rochdale Canal required 92 locks, but it provided a quick and easy means for the transportation of coal and stone to Manchester in the west or to the port of Hull (via Leeds) to the east. 

We also must go upwards from here, but not along the canal. This is the point at which we leave the water, crossing it via the Bacup Road and immediately climbing the steep hillside.

Towards the top of the hill we came across more evidence of the industrial heritage of this part of the Pennines; a lead smelting chimney. The lead would be smelted in a furnace-like oven with a fireplace at one end and a chimney at the other. The ore would be let down into hoppers behind the fire. The draught then blew the flames over the ore, smelting it to separate out the lead. All that now remains is the blackened chimney,  leaning slightly as though to emphasise the hard work of the past.

Talking of hard work, we aren't quite at the top of our first hill yet. Onwards and upwards :)


  1. Oo you are so clever knowing all that. Fascinating top room, hands and knees only!

  2. I love these tours you take us on! The lead smelting chimney is my favourite on this outing. ~ Maureen

  3. That room at the top of the house is, indeed, strange!
    How would one pronounce Gauxholme?

  4. We have plenty of Industrial remains here Helen - from the lead mines - and also the navvies who built the Ribblehead viaduct - my goodness me, they lived in harsh conditions didn't they? I think the powers that be felt that a navvy's life was expendable.

  5. You capture the misty isolation of those odd boarder regions perfectly. It is almost as though Yorkshire and Lancashire are not prepared to get too close, a certain degree of no-mans' land still being necessary.

  6. The industrial buildings are wonderful. How hard people worked then and lived in such basic conditions whilst building our canals, railways and roads. Whole villages would be built up around an area of work and then abandoned as the navvies moved on. It sound like you had much further to go on this walk:)

  7. Don't believe it would have been a whole lot of fun working in that lead smelting factory! Enjoying the tour, H!

  8. Hpw interesting to see these remains!