Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Stalybridge Aqueduct

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The cast iron trough can be seen behind the towpath bridge
JD Stbridge Aq.jpg
Looking down the gap between trough and towpath bridge, we see the bolted flanges of the cast iron trough, and the cast iron beam added to support the underside in 1875
1875 plate, below which is the vertical tension rod connected to the support beam
Northern corner of aqueduct. The cast iron block above the top flange was added in 1875 to attach diagonal tie bars for reinforcement

in Stalybridge, Cheshire.

c.2001. Photo courtesy of David Brown
c.2001. Photo courtesy of David Brown

Also known as Tame Aqueduct or Stakes Aqueduct.

This is a cast iron aqueduct built in 1800 (some sources say 1799-1801) to carry the Huddersfield Narrow Canal over the River Tame. The responsible engineer was Benjamin Outram.

A date of 1799-1801 would make it the third oldest navigable iron aqueduct in the world, after the Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. In fact, since Longdon aqueduct is long-disused, and Pontcysyllte was started in 1795 but not completed until 1805, Stalybridge can claim to have the world's oldest working navigable iron aqueduct. Note that the very earliest iron aqueduct (Pont-y-Cafnau, built c.1793) was not navigable.

It can certainly claim to have the least attractive location of any early UK iron canal aqueduct, and those who do seek it out will find there is little to see. The most interesting aspect, the north east face, is inaccessible for viewing. However, a photograph taken c.2001 has been provided by David Brown, taken from a site now occupied by a large plastics recycling plant. Another view is available here[1]. The duct is assembled from numerous small lightweight cast iron panels, characterised by a profusion of stiffening webs.

The trough is assembled from flanged cast iron plates. The towpath is carried by a hump back masonry bridge immediately alongside.

Concerns about strength of the aqueduct led to its reinforcement in 1875. On the now-inaccesible side, wrought iron trusses are fitted, connected to a support beam underneath at mid span. On the towpath side this beam is supported from the hump back bridge by a tie rod and spreader plate the the date 1875 cast in.

The aqueduct is Grade II listed. Details here. The Butterley Co is credited as the maker of the castings.


The aqueduct can be seen from the bridge taking Tame Street over the River Tame. Visitors determined to get close can head south east to access the towpath from a lane branching off Tame St, heading off left before getting to High St.

The 1892/1894 O.S. map [2] shows that immediately north of the aqueduct was the Globe Iron Works of John Summers and Sons. Immediately south was Aqueduct Mill. Tame Street did not exist at that time.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Aqueducts of the Inland Waterways website - Tame Aqueduct webpage
  2. 'The Godfrey Edition Old' Ordnance Survey Maps, Lancashire Sheet 105.07, 'Stalybridge & Ashton 1892'