Two unique examples of engineering from the 1790s, that have stood the test of time on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple, have been awarded prestigious ‘Red Wheel’ plaques by the Transport Trust.
Marple Aqueduct – known as the ‘Grand Aqueduct’ - is Britain’s tallest masonry-arched aqueduct, carrying the canal 100 feet above the picturesque River Goyt valley, and the nearby flight of 16 locks at Marple raises the canal no fewer than 109 feet.
The Red Wheel plaque scheme commemorates Britain’s rich legacy in the development of transport and marks these two magnificent feats of engineering as among Britain’s finest.
The two plaques were unveiled at a special ceremony on Tuesday 21 June by the President of the Transport Trust, The Hon. Sir William McAlpine and Canal & River Trust Chief Executive, Richard Parry.
The Trust cares for the two structures and Marple Aqueduct has recently benefitted from a major restoration scheme as part of a £2.3 million legacy project.
The ‘Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy’ Project aims to protect and open to the public three important sites connected with Samuel Oldknow, who came to Marple in 1787 bringing prosperity with the development of Mellor Mill and was instrumental in the construction of the canal.
The project has been supported by a grant of £1.5 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and public donations to the Canal & River Trust and Mellor Archaeological Trust, who are overseeing the project.
As part of the unveiling ceremony guests were greeted by Bob Humphrey- Taylor, Chair of Mellor Archaeological Trust, in character as Samuel Oldknow - who outlined the importance of the Oldknow legacy to the prosperity of Marple.
Samuel Oldknow wanted his boat ‘Perseverance’ to be the first through the newly constructed locks and encouraged his workers to finish Bridge 18 on time by providing Ale Possett for breakfast! Ale Possett – a mixture of beer and honey – certainly spurred on the workforce and Bridge 18 is now called Possett Bridge.
Sir William said: "Britain led the world in the development of transport and, fortunately, much of our transport heritage survives - but is often little-known. Through its 'Red Wheel' plaques and their related website, the Transport Trust seeks to bring these sites to the attention of a wider and younger audience and we are delighted to be doing this at Marple, in conjunction with the 'Revealing Oldknow's Legacy' Project.
“Marple’s 'Grand Aqueduct' and Lock Flight were exceptional achievements of their day which, thanks to the efforts of the Canal & River Trust, are now 'as good as new'. They thoroughly deserve to be highlighted."
Project Officer for Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy, Fiona Turpin said: “Samuel Oldknow was a man with vision and ability which he used to transform the landscape of Marple through his many industrial endeavours here. The Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy Project provides the opportunity for people to understand more about the man and his legacy still evident today and we have been supported by many local people and organisations, some of whom we are delighted to have represented at today’s celebration.
“The Red Wheels are a recognition of what they have helped to achieve and we welcome anyone interested in getting involved in our future events, activities and volunteering opportunities to go to our website, Oldknows.com to find out more.
“These will be two of 28 Red Wheel Plaques on the canal network across the country, helping to mark the importance of Britain’s inland waterways to the development of the ‘Industrial Revolution’.
“The Canal & River Trust is committed to the conservation of the canal network and these plaques will help highlight the significance of our canal heritage, encourage visitors and bring a greater understanding of these unique sites.”