It’s been a quiet day so today’s blog will be devoted to the Bugsworth Basin.
Bugsworth Canal Basin is at the head of the Peak Forest Canal and was the largest and busiest inland port on Britain's narrow canal system and the only one to survive intact. Famous canal and tramway engineer, Benjamin Outram, built the 14 mile long Peak Forest Canal from Dukinfield to Bugsworth, although plans to extend to Chapel Milton via Whitehough were never realised. Construction of the six-mile Peak Forest Tramway in 1795-96 linked Bugsworth Basin to the limestone and gritstone quarries in Derbyshire, and the canal linked Bugsworth to Manchester and the trans-Pennine canal network. With these transport systems in place Bugsworth thrived commercially. However, as early as 1804, experiments using steam locomotives to haul iron were underway in Wales. The ensuing unstoppable advancement in railway technology would, inevitably, lead to the decline and ultimate demise of the canal system.
Prior to 1900 the large basin would have been a hum of activity, with several quays, cranes, limestone crushing facilities, lime kilns, a gauging station (where the boats' displacement was measured and the toll calculated), horse transfer bridges, a canal master's house and a pub. Some of this, like the gauging station, canal master's house and the pub (The Navigation) remain, and interpretation boards have been placed around the basin to explain how the area looked and was used in the past. Other features, like the horse transfer bridges (built so that barges in the Middle and Upper Basins did not need to unhitch their horses), have been reconstructed.
Work on the restoration of the derelict Bugsworth Basin, a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1977, commenced in 1968. Volunteers of the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) helped by the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) and many locals restored parts of this important site over three decades. The IWPS obtained a 50-year lease in 1992, which allowed them to restore, manage and operate the basin. Funding for the improvements came from British Waterways, the European Regional Development Fund and a Derelict Land Grant from Derbyshire County Council. The basin was reopened to boats at Easter 1999, and a significant increase in the use of the canal occurred. However, this was the first time that powered boats had used the basin, and the dry-stone walling with clay puddling deteriorated rapidly. Walls collapsed, there were several near breaches, and a breach resulted in the basin closing again in October 1999. British Waterways restored pedestrian access to the basin by carrying out emergency repairs.
Bugsworth Basin was officially reopened on 26 March 2005 when 94 narrowboats attended the opening ceremony.