Bugsworth canal basin, tramway, quarry and limekilns


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

High Peak (District Authority)
High Peak (District Authority)
Chinley, Buxworth and Brownside
National Grid Reference:

Reasons for Designation

Inland navigation using rivers originated in Britain in the prehistoric period and continues in use to the present day. From the Roman period, both canals (artificial waterways constructed primarily for navigation purposes) and river navigations (improvements to existing waterways to make navigation easier) were constructed, and medieval canals such as the navigable dykes dug by the monks in Holderness or the Exeter Canal are known. Although the advantages of canals and inland waterways for the inexpensive and safe means of transporting heavy, bulky or fragile goods had long been recognised elsewhere in Europe, it was not until 1759 that the principal age of canal building began in England began, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Manchester. Constructed by James Brindley and opened in 1761, it carried coal the seven miles to Manchester from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines at Worsley at less than half the cost of the traditional packhorse method. Over the next 70 years canals played an important part in the growth of industry and the expansion of trade in many parts of the country, in particular in the cotton, woollen, mining and engineering industries of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, in the Staffordshire pottery industry with its new water connection to the River Mersey and the port of Liverpool, and in the huge industrial expansion of Birmingham which, as the hub of the inland waterways system, rose to become England's second most prosperous city. Canals also facilitated the relatively rapid movement of bulk agricultural produce from the countryside to the rapidly expanding industrial towns of the north and midlands. Canal construction also brought with it the requirement for a whole range of associated structures. Many of these, such as bridges, canal workers' houses, warehouses, wet docks, dry docks, locks and water management systems involved the modification and development of the existing designs of such structures to meet the new requirements of the Canal Age, which also introduced the need for major technological innovation in, amongst other things, the construction of tunnels and aqueducts, and the development of inclined planes and boat lifts. The great age of canals lasted until about the 1840s, when their utility was eroded by the huge expansion of railways with their quick and cheap transportation of people and goods. During their relatively brief period of use, however, canals became the most important method of industrial transportation, making a major contribution to England's Industrial Revolution. Surviving remains of the early industrial waterways transport network are particularly important both by virtue of their rarity and representivity.

Bugsworth canal basin became one of the largest inland ports on the English narrow canal network. It remains unique as the only complete example of a canal and tramway terminus in Britain. The standing and buried remains combined with the available documentary sources provides a clear picture of the layout and importance of the canal basin. The surviving remains and documentary sources provide evidence that Bugsworth developed into a port of considerable capacity, fulfilling an important role as a major source of local and regional employment. Continuing expansion of the basin complex indicates a substantial increase in the transport of limestone, gritstone and production of lime throughout most of the 19th century. As a focal point for the Derbyshire lime trade for nearly 90 years the basin was clearly integral to the commercial activities of the Peak Forest Canal Company. It contributed significantly to the local and regional economies, but declined principally as a result of nationwide changes in transport and economic geography.


The monument includes the standing, buried and submerged remains of Bugsworth canal basin, tramway, quarry and lime kilns. The site lies in three separate areas of protection, the largest of which extends east-west along the southern edge of Buxworth village. The quarry and part of the tramway are defined by two smaller areas of protection to the north and centre of the village respectively. The Bugsworth basin was proposed in 1791 as a linear communication between Manchester and Dove Holes for the transportation of limestone and lime to north west England. A survey of the proposed route was conducted in 1793 by Thomas Brown who later became the resident engineer. In September 1794 work begun cutting the 23km canal. Benjamin Outram was the consultant engineer who, with Thomas Brown, directed operations on the canal and tramway. Originally the canal terminus was to be located 3km east of Bugsworth at Chapel Milton. However, the system required would have been too complex and water consumption too high so the canal terminus and tramway interchange were built at Bugsworth instead. The upper Peak Forest Canal was opened in 1796 and the entire length from Dukinfield to Bugsworth was opened in 1800. The flight of locks dividing the upper and lower canal pounds was completed in 1807. Prior to this the two pounds were connected by a temporary tramway. In 1846 the canal and tramway were leased to the Sheffield, Ashton under Lyne and Manchester Railway but ownership subsequently passed to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR), the Great Central and finally the London and North Eastern (LNER). The Peak Forest Canal Company was dissolved in 1883, and the complex was closed around 1927 by the LNER. The site remained abandoned until 1968 when the Inland Waterways Protection Society began the ongoing restoration project. Bugsworth canal basin became one of the largest ports on the English narrow canal network, and remains unique as the only complete example of a canal and tramway terminus in Britain. Demand for lime, both for agricultural and industrial purposes, was high in the late 18th century. At Bugsworth a total of four batteries comprising 17 kilns were built between 1800 and 1830. By the early 1880s lime burning activity was in decline at Bugsworth. The exact number of kilns during this later phase, either extant or operational, remains uncertain, although there appear to have been 16 between 1880 and 1890, 13 in 1899 and nine in 1921 when the kilns were closed. The monument survives as a series of standing, buried and submerged remains. The first phase of construction, which dates from 1795-1815, includes, from west to east, the Gauging Stop Place (a narrowing in the canal where laden barges were assessed for tolls); the Wharfingers House and Canal Office (on the north side of the canal channel); the Entrance Basin, the main canal channel through and including `The Wide'( a widening of the canal channel on the southern side which would have acted as a waiting or passing place for the boats); and the Upper Basin Arm which extends to the east of Silk Hill bridge. The Upper Basin incorporates the head of navigation to the east of which lies the tramway interchange. The basin was originally covered by a lime transfer shed which was constructed between 1800 and 1806. The inner stone arch, and steps leading down to the water level are still clearly visible. Within the transfer shed, laden wagons could unload their lime into waiting barges. A wooden post, situated close to Silk Hill bridge, is all that survives of a five ton crane which was used to load gritstone from the wharf to the barges. Wagons containing limestone for transhipment into boats were directed to the wagon tipplers. These were built on wooden staging above the wharves. They were supported by an A-shaped frame with a hand operated mechanism being used to lift one end of a wagon to tip its contents through the staging onto the wharf below. Wharfingers House and the Canal Office are occupied buildings and therefore not included in the scheduling. They stand just outside the western edge of the largest area of protection. Construction of the six mile Peak Forest Tramway started during the initial phase of construction and was complete by 1796. The tramway extended throughout the basin complex, servicing the various wharves and lime kilns. The visible remains of the trackbed continue to delineate these flow lines. Most of the structural features at Bugsworth are constructed from locally available yellow/brown gritstone. The majority of this, at least for the early phases of construction, was obtained from Crist quarry approximately a quarter of a mile to the east. The site gradually expanded as trade and traffic increased and a greater wharfage capacity was required. A second phase of construction included the Middle Basin and Arm (1800-20). Middle Basin contains several features including cantilever stone steps leading down to the wharf from the upper level close to Silk Hill bridge; tippler beam slots in the wall above the draw tunnels and corresponding padstones on the wharf deck. These recessed padstones were used to locate the vertical support posts for the horizontal beams. Across the canal to the south stand the remains of the Gnat Hole (west) lime kilns. The surviving remains of the battery include four combustion chambers although the draw tunnels have been either destroyed or covered by a collapse which occurred around 1890. The three surviving draw tunnel openings, which remain visible in the southern wall of the Middle Basin, belonged to the east battery which was demolished in 1984 during construction of the A6 bypass. Footing stones in the middle basin channel, beneath the kilns, are the remains of one of three lime transfer sheds where lime was loaded onto barges. The Middle Basin Arm is situated immediately south of Black Brook and west of Brookside Road. A lime transfer shed was built across the Middle Basin Arm to service the New Road lime kilns which stood to the north across the Black Brook. The foundation remains of this building are still visible as are some of the lower buttress walls and a draw tunnel opening of the former kilns. Livestock were also loaded and unloaded from the Middle Basin Arm, some heading for the slaughterhouse operated in the village. Brookside battery's three kilns stood adjacent to Middle Basin Arm and, although no surface remains now exist, a grass earthwork embankment suggests remains survive beneath the ground surface. During this second phase of construction Bugsworth quarry, north east of the village, was opened. It is thought to have opened between 1839 and 1946. From map evidence it appears that this was connected to the mainline of the Peak Forest Tramway between 1846 and 1860 by a single line, narrow gauge feeder track. A tunnel, the entrance of which is still visible from Station Road, was constructed over the northern end of the cutting at a later date. A third phase of construction incorporated Lower Basin around 1835 and an Arm around 1850. The adjacent horse transfer bridges (rebuilt by the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) also date from this period. Lower Basin and Arm are both contained within a central peninsula which is connected to the Upper Basin by means of the tramway embankment and bridge adjacent to the Middle Basin. The channel and associated wagon tippler was built 1835-38 to provide additional wharfage and shipment facilities to ease pressure on the Upper Basin wharves. More beam slots are visible high in the retraining wall above the Lower Basin, these being from the fourth, and last, tippler pier to be constructed on the site. To the south, remains of the stone crushing engine stand just below the tramway embankment. The stone crusher was constructed around 1860 by the MSLR for the supply of ballast. The horse transfer bridges were constructed around 1840-50 over the Lower Basin and Arm to aid movement of horses entering or leaving the complex. The bridges made it unnecessary to unhitch the horse from its boat. The bridges were robbed of stone in the 1930s and the present reconstruction dates from the 1980s. Due to the level of reconstruction the bridges are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. A secure goods warehouse stood at the head of the Lower Basin Arm covering half of the channel for the entry of boats. The remains of the wall footings are still visible including the outer wall which divided the inner and outer channels. The sleeper blocks which enabled one of the many tramway extensions to enter the warehouse are also extant. A navigation staithe which is believed to have been used for the transhipment of limestone, lime, coal and gritstone from tramway to road wagons was connected by a flow line to the Peak Forest Tramway at least as early as 1878. The staithe is situated roughly 30m east of the Navigation Inn and survives as a linear feature measuring approximately 38m long and 1.6m high by 3m wide. It is faced on its south and western sides with locally quarried yellow-brown gritstone. By 1880 the tramway interchange and basin complex, then one of the largest inland ports in Britain, comprised approximately forty individual tramway flowlines, including over seventy sets of points, and incorporating an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 yards of track, excluding the extensive network from the Crist and Barren Clough quarry workings. Also by 1880, the lime transfer building above the Upper Basin Arm was connected to the interchange indicating that lime was by that time also being produced in large quantities at Dove Holes and ganged down the tramway for shipment at Bugsworth. A number of other features were also in place by this time including a timber pier along the Middle Basin, a stone crushing plant on the Lower Basin, and a building which stood above the Upper Basin adjacent to and above the limestone pens. This latter structure appears to have been serviced by two tramway extension tracks. The southern edge of the tramway and canal basin was constructed mainly during the primary phase of development but continued into the secondary phase. This includes the extant bed of a single tramway track from the Crist/Barren Clough gritstone quarries to the Upper Basin gritstone wharf. About 25m south east of the head of navigation (at approximately SK02298200) lies the former route of a short length of twin tracks servicing the main feeder line to the Gnat Hole (east and west) battery of lime kilns. This immediate area includes a low gritstone cross-wall which was constructed after the closure of the Gnat Hole lime kilns feeder branch. There are also the remains of what is thought to have been a workman's bothy. The tramway was surfaced with locally-quarried, yellow-brown gritstone sleeper blocks, many of which retain various types of cast iron saddles and/or fixing spikes. The layout of these features are associated directly with flowlines from the Peak Forest Tramway. Given the survival of tramway sleeper blocks within the tramway interchange it is likely that similar undisturbed features may lie beneath the present ground surface at the entrance to Gnat Hole lime kilns feeder branch. All modern fences, walls, road and path surfaces and the horse transfer bridges are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. Blackbrook house is excluded from the Scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
British Waterways Board, , British Waterways Architectural Heritage Survey. Bugsworth Basin1-14
Finlow, A J, Bugsworth Basin: A chronological Perpective 1795-1927, (1998)
Inland waterways Protection Society, , Bugsworth Basin, (1995)
Whitehead, P J, The Bugsworth Heritage Trail Series 1-9, (1998)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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