History

In the 1830s traffic between on the Trent & Mersey Canal was so heavy that the Cheshire Locks proved a bottleneck for all the goods going to and from Stoke-on-Trent so, apart from Pierpoint Locks nos. 55 and 56, all the locks in the flight were duplicated. This considerably reduced the time to pass through the flight and also helped conserve water as the likelihood of boatmen finding one of the locks already in their favour increased, so filling empty locks or emptying full ones was reduced.

Lock 62As commercial traffic declined, especially after the Second World War, some of the locks suffered the effects of subsidence due to brine pumping and coal mining. One, Thurlwood no. 53a, was replaced by a steel lock, but others (nos. 51a, 57b and 62a) were simply filled in. The duplicate Red Bull lock no. 42a fell victim to a road widening scheme.

Boatmen always said that the long flight was a hard one, hence they named it "Heartbreak Hill".

Since 1965 during which time the waterway was classified as a Cruising Waterway, four other locks closed "temporarily". These are the two at Wheelock, nos. 65b and 66b, and Church Locks, nos. 47a and 48a. Two of these locks were closed because the pound (stretch of water) between the locks is so short that water management is problematic. In addition, the Thurlwood Steel Lock was dismantled in the 1980s due to difficulties in operating it.

Since the start of the Cheshire Locks campaign in 2009, the two locks at Wheelock have been reopened. Lock 66 was refurbished and reopened in 2010, with Lock 65 following in May 2012. A volunteer work camp by the Waterway Recovery Group carried out an investigation and undertook some stablilisation works at Lock 47, and this is the next lock we would like to work to reopen.

We have started undertaking regular volunteer work parties along the line of the canal, carrying out a wide range of tasks including painting of locks and vegetation clearance. Reports from recent work parties and and information about upcoming dates can be found on the Trent & Mersey Canal Society website.