Rochdale Canal, Deansgate Locks - A History

Learn more interesting facts and information about this great lock.

Manchester Deansgate Locks Manchester Deansgate Locks

The locks are part of the Rochdale Canal, which is a trans-Pennine waterway, opened in sections between 1799 and 1804, with several eminent canal engineers involved in the design and construction process including William Crosley (Snr), John Rennie, and William Jessop, as well as numerous assistants.

After nearly 30 years of discussion, it wasn't until 1790 that a meeting was called in Hebden Bridge to discuss extending the Calder and Hebble Navigation westwards to reach Manchester. The Duke of Bridgewater agreed for a junction between the Rochdale Canal and the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield.

By 1799 the canal was open between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden and through to Manchester in 1804.

When the Manchester and Leeds Railway opened in 1841, the canal company had to reduce tolls to retain business.

The canal remained profitable for some time but by the twentieth century the tonnage being carried was in sharp decline. In 1937 the last boat made the through journey across the Pennines on the Rochdale Canal. In 1952, the canal was closed apart from the short section between Castlefield and the junction with the Ashton Canal at Piccadilly. By 1965 the nine locks through Manchester city centre, including locks 90 and 91 were almost unusable.

OS Map 1850, Rochdale Canal

The Rochdale Canal Society was formed to promote the restoration of the canal and in the 1980s and 1990s small scale work began to re-open stretches of the canal. In July 2002, the whole canal became navigable once again, almost 200 years after its original opening.

The earliest remains of the medieval town of Manchester are from the 15th century. During this time the proposal site lay outside the township, an area of open fields. By the late 18th century. 

1804 Fast Facts (when Rochdale Canal opened)

  • Richard Trevithick's first locomotive runs in Wales
  • London's Drury Lane Theatre burns to the ground
  • Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned emperor of France in Paris
  • William Pitt the Younger begins his second term as Prime Minister.
  • Alice Meynell becomes first English woman jockey
  • Thomas Jefferson re-elected as US President
  • John Wedgwood founds the Royal Horticultural Society


Last date edited: 7 December 2017