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Middlewood Locks, Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal

Accessible to all craft kept on the connected inland waterways

Silver Propeller Challenge



Middlewood Locks on the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal were chosen as a new Silver Propellor location for 2023 as very few boats visit the upper Irwell, and to show support for the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society’s restoration campaign.

A photo of your craft anywhere on the upper River Irwell in the vicinity of Middlewood Locks and the entrance to the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal would be good evidence of your visit.


About the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

The Canal was conceived to link Manchester with Bolton and Bury, and opened in 1797.  In 1808 it was extended down five locks to the River Irwell.  Built to carry coal, the canal was originally planned with narrow locks, but whilst being built the locks were altered to become broad.  The Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal became a prosperous waterway, carrying coal from collieries at Clifton and Kearsley up to the mill towns of Bury and Bolton and down to Manchester and Salford.  Large tonnages of coal were transported on the canal in the 1930s, when some of the principal mines closed, of particular impact, in 1928, the West Earth colliery on the private 1.5 mile Fletcher’s Canal, constructed in 1791 and which joined the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal at Clifton.

With coal went subsidence, with which the Canal suffered, resulting in breaches, most notably in 1936 at Prestolee.  Although traffic at the time had been good, the railway owners decided against repair.  In 1941, the canal was closed above the Clifton aqueduct to Bolton, leaving the Bury line an isolated waterway, which still carried coal from the Ladyshore colliery until that closed in 1951 and other traffics until 1956.  The canal was completely abandoned in 1961.  Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society was formed in 1987 with the aims of preserving the remains of the canal and restoring it, with work parties commencing in 1989.

The Middlewood flight of locks, which connect the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal to the upper River Irwell and thus to the rest of the connected navigable system were restored and reopened in 2008 as part of a £600 million large property development.  However, due to an absence of water supply, the locks are not available for public access and the entrance off the Irwell has silted up.

[The photo shows an artist’s impression of how the Middlewood flight will look when the redevelopment surrounding them is complete] 


Notes for visitors


Postcode: M3 5FY

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Boat Dimensions

Access to the bottom of Middlewood Locks is via the upper River Irwell, beyond the terminus of the Manchester Ship Canal.  Boaters can access the Ship Canal and the Irwell via Pomona Dock No3 from the Bridgewater Canal.  The maximum size of boat that can fit Pomona Lock is:

Length: 71′ (21.6 m)
Width: 15′ 6″ (4.7m)
Draught: 3′ 6″ (1.0 m) depth to the upper cill.

Passage through the lock needs to be booked 72 hours in advance with the Manchester Ship Canal Company (Peel Ports)

Canoeing, Trip Boats and Boat Hire

Canoes and other small craft are not usually permitted on the Manchester Ship Canal.  Canoeing does take place on the River Irwell outside the Ship Canal Company’s jurisdiction but access in the vicinity of the Middlewood Locks is difficult.  There are no trip boats or hire boats in the vicinity.

Challenge Location

Middlewood Locks

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal

Discover more nearby

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