Macclesfield Canal Conservation Area
This principally includes the canal corridor but also extends
through Bollington to provide protection for Clarence Mill and
Clarence Terrace, all of the property between the canal and the
Middlewood Way as far south as Clough Bank. On the east side of
the canal it also includes the wharf at Hurst Lane and that at
Grimshaw Lane opposite Adelphi Mill. Also included is Bobbin Cottage
just south of bridge 28.
The following text is taken with kind permission from Macclesfield
Borough Council's Conservation Area Guide for Owners & Occupiers.
The Industrial Revolution could never have gathered pace without
improved transport. In the early stages of industrialisation, that
transport took the shape of canals, which at first tended to link
navigable rivers, but soon developed to form a comprehensive route
network which transformed the movement of bulk goods, fuel and
building materials within that area of central England which was
destined to become the industrial heartland of the nation. In Cheshire,
we have the first of these waterways, the Bridgewater Canal, and
one of the last, the Macclesfield Canal.
Early canals tended to be "contour canals"; in other words, they
meandered across the landscape following, as far as was possible,
the natural level of the land to avoid the necessity for locks.
However, by the end of the canal age engineers such as Telford
had anticipated later railway engineering by moulding the landscape
to the canal; the waterway would run deep into hills by way of
cuttings or tunnels and would be carried high above plains or valleys
on embankments or aqueducts. The Macclesfield
Canal is a fine example of a late canal for, apart from a flight
of twelve locks at Bosley in the south of Macclesfield District,
the canal runs for over fifteen miles at over 500 feet without
a change in level, a feat achieved only by considerable landscape
reformation and impressive works of engineering.
The Macclesfield Canal was cut to shorten the journey between
Manchester and the Midlands. For fifty years, traffic has had no
alternative but to use the Bridgewater Canal to reach the Trent
and Mersey Canal, a considerable dog-leg. Telford surveyed the
line of a new canal in 1825, conceived to link the Trent & Mersey
with the Peak Forest Canal, but the actual construction and the
detailed design was supervised by William Crosley. The canal was
opened in 1831 during the earliest dawn of the railway age.
Despite the subsequent rapid development of railways, the Macclesfield
Canal enjoyed many years of brisk trade, especially in coal and
cotton. A railway company took it over in 1846 and ran it efficiently,
but after the Great War the narrowness of the canal led to an inability
to compete with more modern forms of transport and resulted in
an inevitable commercial decline.
Today the canal carries almost no freight, but has become an important
component of a circle of canals known as the "Cheshire Ring", which
are heavily used for cruising, walking and other recreation. Along
with most other British canals, it has been recognised as an historic
environment of considerable importance and the entire length within
Macclesfield Borough was designated a conservation area in June
1975 [and those parts of the canal in other areas are also designated].
Conservation areas are designated to protect those parts of our
environment which possess architectural or historic character,
or which evoke a sense of the past life of the nation. The Borough
Council has an obligation to protect and enhance such areas, but
British Waterways, as well as other owners and occupiers of building
along the length of the canal, also have a responsibility towards
the part of our heritage which is under their care. Together we
must all ensure that our successors can enjoy the heritage which
we have been fortunate enough to inherit.
The Character Of The Macclesfield Canal
Because the waterway is a "cut and fill" canal, open vistas on
embankments are interspersed with a sense of enclosure in cuttings.
To the east lie the Peak Park hills and to the west the Cheshire
Plain, over which the canal offers many panoramic views. The overall
character of most of the canal is rural, and even in the urban
stretches through Macclesfield and Bollington, the backcloth of
hills and expansive views ensure that good countryside never feels
are a great many canalside structures of historic interest and
aesthetic appeal within the Macclesfield Canal conservation area.
For example, the twelve locks at Bosley are attractive single locks,
unusual in that they have two pairs of lock gates. There are thirty
nine bridges within the conservation area, two of which are particularly
beautiful "roving bridges". These bridges, characterised by sweeping,
curved flans were so designed as to allow a towing horse to follow
the tow path across the canal without unhitching the tow rope.
There is a dry dock and, perhaps most impressive, two aqueducts
at Bollington one of which, crossing Palmerston Street (left),
is a particularly fine work of engineering and architecture.
It is conspicuous that earlier generations erected buildings and
other ancillary structures so as to face the canal. Its importance
dictated this for it always provided the life-blood of transport
for which the buildings existed and by which they prospered. Typical
of such buildings are three vast mills, the Clarence Mill, and
the Adelphi Mill at Bollington and the Hovis Mill at Macclesfield.
In the 20th century, in contrast, we have tended to build with
our backs to the canal, a tendency which must now be challenged
and reversed. When considering the development of sites adjacent
to the canal, it is important to bear in mind the visual opportunities
offered by directly relating new buildings with the waterway and
the canalside scene.
Progress Since Conservation Area Designation
The Borough Council, in conjunction with the Groundwork Trust,
have been active in works to upgrade the canal towpath as part
of a wider ambition to make the "Cheshire Ring" a greater attraction
to walkers. Work has also been done to widen and develop this programme
to include the provision of small car parks and picnic areas to
improve public access, better hedgerow and tree husbandry along
the length of the canal and occasional interpretive panels to enhance
public understanding of the canal and it history.
In the mid 1980's many of the canal structures, ranging from bridges
and aqueducts to the dry dock and locks were "listed" by the Department
of the Environment following a survey of their architectural and
historic value carried out by Cheshire County Council. This offers
these structures considerable protection against unsympathetic
alteration and greatly assists the Council in its objective to
protect the canalside scene.
However, much work still remains to be done. Wherever new development
is contemplated, it should not only be designed so as to relate
to the canal, but should be constructed of materials which blend
with or complement established buildings of quality or interest
in the immediate surroundings of the proposal.
Because of the historic importance of the canal, British Waterways
carries a great responsibility for the conservation of its essential
character during day-to-day works of maintenance and repair. For
example, bridges should be treated carefully and sensitively during
repair and maintenance work. In particular, stonework should be
left unpainted, and necessary repointing should be undertaken using
lime mortar with a flush or slightly recessed mortar joint. Joints
should never be struck for that finish is visually intrusive and
detracts from the character of the structure.
There should be careful control of advertisements seen from the
canal and where possible, the co-operation of statutory undertakers
shall be sought in order to place overhead lines and other unsightly
Listed Buildings In The Conservation Area
The Department of the Environment maintains statutory lists of
buildings of architectural and historic interest, documents which
legally protect included buildings from demolition or unauthorised
Once a building becomes "listed" any works involving demolition
or extension and any alteration which affects the character or
appearance of the property externally, internally or within its
curtilage requires LISTED BUILDING CONSENT from the Borough Council.
Quite modest alterations can require consent. For example, an
application may be required for the painting and rendering of bridges,
or external stone or brick walls, the replacement of lock gates
with gates of a different design or material, the repair of stone
copings or other stonework with concrete or reconstructed stone,
or the replacement of doors and windows with doors or windows of
a new design. Owners who ignore their responsibility to obtain
listed building consent when undertaking such alterations commit
a criminal offence and could be liable to prosecution. Additionally,
the Local Authority have the power to serve a Listed Building Enforcement
Notice to ensure that the building or structure is returned to
its original condition.
Responsibilities Of Owners Within The Conservation Area
Even if your building or structure is not listed, there are a
few rules you must follow if you wish to undertake certain works
to property within the boundary of the Macclesfield Canal conservation
You will require CONSERVATION AREA CONSENT for most works of demolition
or partial demolition; this can include the demolition of outbuildings
and, in some cases, boundary walls. Such structures can sometimes
make a contribution to the canalside scene disproportionate to
their size and importance.
You are also obliged to give six weeks notice, in writing, to
the Borough Council before lopping, topping, felling, uprooting
or otherwise destroying any tree within the conservation area.
This is to give the Planning Authority an opportunity to raise
a Tree Preservation Order for the affected tree, should that be
considered necessary in the interests of visual amenity.
Because they offer insufficient information on which to judge
a proposal's visual impact on its surroundings, applications for
outline planning permission are not usually accepted for development
within conservation areas. However, although you will be required
to apply for full planning permission for those works which require
it, advice regarding appropriate building materials and acceptable
design is always available from conservation staff on the Borough
Council. It is often best to consult them before you make necessary
planning or listed building consent applications, for their guidance
at an initial stage can often speed matters later.
How Can The Borough Council Help You?
As a wide cross-section of people are concerned about the character
of the waterways, applications for listed building consent and
planning applications for development within the Macclesfield Canal
conservation area are advertised in the local press and "on the
spot" in the form of site notices so that ordinary residents or
other interested people may voice their opinion concerning the
proposals. In this way you can help the Council protect the canalside
environment from inappropriate or damaging development.
Canal Society is
a voluntary body which works to increase public awareness and
knowledge of the canal. Its activities in the fields of research,
publicity and practical assistance are of acknowledged value
and the Council pays due regard to observations it makes regarding
proposals for towpath improvement as well as developments which
affect the canalside scene.
Macclesfield Borough Council offers grant assistance towards the
cost of enhancement schemes which improve the character and setting
of the canal and towards the cost of repair and restoration work
on listed buildings. Leaflets giving full details of these schemes
are available from the conservation staff.
If you require forms, conservation advice, further information
or assistance please contact:
The Chief Planning Officer