THE North Cheshire Cruising Club launched its 80th anniversary celebrations on September 9, when Rt Hon Lord Andrew Stunell cut a red ribbon on a rare surviving exhibit, recently dredged out of the Macclesfield Canal High Lane Arm.
This historic relic, a significant section of tram rail that can be dated to 1922, is part of the Coal Tub Tramroad of the High Lane Colliery (Drift Mine). The drift mine was opened in 1906 and worked until 1922 when it was closed.
The tram rail was restored by William Walker who resided at Wharf Cottage, next to the club, for more than 40 years and was a highly valued member as well as a director and archivist. Sadly, William died on June 6, part way through organising the anniversary event. Hence, the club decided to devote a permanent tribute to him by mounting the rail as a feature in its clubroom.
Joined by other VIPs such as Stuart Mills, chief investment officer at Canal & River Trust, and Ian Edgar, chairman of Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust, the official ceremony also included the unveiling of a celebratory carved stone plaque by club member and local stonemason, Ian Spooner.
The North Cheshire Cruising Club, which stands proudly adjacent to the Arm, is the longest surviving cruising club on the narrow canal system. It can certainly boast a very colourful history as well as strength, durability and longevity in keeping with its oak anniversary.
The VIPs were taken on a short cruise on board local charity boat the Mary Sunley, to witness the first-class improvements undertaken to both the canal and its environs by the volunteer members. The canal has been dredged and piled in sections of the canal arm to ensure that the area remains a most attractive, safe and biodiversity inspired place for all members.
John Fenton, club chairman and commodore, said: “Throughout its 80 years of existence the club has maintained a vibrant programme of activities, with everything from commodore’s cruises, boat rallies, excavation of old working boats in the 1950s, Easter bonnet competitions, quiz and film evenings and even pantomimes and live performances.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved and look forward to unlocking many more years of member activities and expanding our engagement with our local community.”
Mills and millinery
The High Lane Arm, on the Macclesfield Canal, has always been, and still remains, a most significant part of the canal network. In its heyday, there were impressive tonnages of manufactured goods, raw materials, coal and agricultural produce handled by the Macclesfield Canal Company transshipment warehouse.
High class hat manufacturers such as Christy & Co, Chestergate Hat Manufacturing and Battersby & Co all had their raw materials, such as beaver furs and pelts and high-quality alpaca, delivered to the High Lane warehouse as well as dealing with the despatch of finished goods for export markets in America, Canada and Europe.
At least 47 cotton mills from Hazel Grove, Great Moor, Heaviley and Stockport within 26 miles of the canal were also shipping their goods via this historic site.
The culmination of the celebration anniversary was an afternoon tea for over 100 members, accompanied by a local jazz band.
John Fenton added: “The North Cheshire Cruising Club has a sustainable and exciting vision for future years with aspirations to become a strong ‘hub’ in the village community as well as launching a programme of funding and events to work with local school children and other like-minded voluntary groups and associations.”