The Rochdale Canal

The Rochdale Canal runs for 33 miles between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, UK.  In Sowerby Bridge it connects with the Calder and Hebble Navigation. In Manchester it connects with the Ashton and Bridgewater Canals. The canal was re-opened to navigation along its entire length in July 2002 and forms part of the South Pennine Ring. Its name refers to the town of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, through which it passes.

The Rochdale is a broad canal because its locks are wide enough to allow vessels of 14 feet width. As built, the canal had 92 locks. Whilst the traditional lock numbering has been retained on all restored locks, and on the relocated locks, the canal now has 91. Locks 3 and 4 have been replaced with a single deep lock, Tuel Lane Lock, which is numbered ¾, and at 19 feet 8 and a half inches is the deepest lockk on the UK canal system

Officially, the canal opened in 1804, but construction work continued for more three years.

Apart from a short profitable section in Manchester linking the Bridgewater and Ashton Canals, most of the length was closed in 1952 when an act of parliament was obtained to ban public navigation. The last complete journey had taken place in 1937, and by the mid 1960s the remainder was almost unusable. Construction of the M62 motorway in the late 1960s took no account of the canal, cutting it in two.

From 1975 onwards various projects were undertaken to restore the canal and it finally re-opened along its full length in July 2002.

The Rochdale is significant for leisure boating in that it is one of the three canals which cross the Pennines and thus join north-western canals with the waterways of the North East, as well as opening the possibilities of touring various Pennine Rings (the Huddersfield Narrow Canal had reopened the year before, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal had never closed).

A great attraction of the Rochdale Canal for the leisure boater lies in the fact that (unlike the Leeds and Liverpool and the Huddersfield Narrow) it climbs high over the Pennine moors rather than tunnelling through them, and the boater is surrounded by scenery which is correspondingly more spectacular (with the “penalty” of having to work more locks).


Royd RegenerationThe Rochdale Canal