Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Macclesfield - NOT to be missed!

On Monday morning I took myself off to Macclesfield with Jill of NB Matilda Rose to have a good look at Macclesfield and see the museums that record/celebrate the Town's industrial heritage. Knowing nothing of the history of the town we headed for the heritage centre and bought tickets to see the Silk Museum, the Sunday School and the Paradise Mill. £8.75 made us wince a bit but let me tell you it was worth every penny and then some! The guided tour around the Paradise Mill was just brilliant.
The photo's start at the Paradise Mill which was built in the 1860's. Above is a Jacquard machine which was invented by a Frenchman to create intricate patterns in hand woven fabrics. The main competitors for English Silk were the French and the Italians and Jacquard had given the French a commercial advantage with his machine which used a roll of 'punch cards' to govern the number of weft threads that are lifted for the 'shuttle', carrying the warp thread, to pass over or under and therefore create a pattern in the woven product.
Well that's as clear as mud explanation Lesley...
A very well worn seat above. It has taken about 120 years to wear this hole.
Silk Bobbins above.
Above, the weaving floor. The Paradise Mill was owned throughout its operating life by one family and they clung on to traditional hand weaving production. The last weaver was made redundant in 1981. What you see when you visit is the entire top floor of the Mill as it was, or very close to 'as it was'. The looms were operated by the weaver using a a single foot treadle. This meant that you stood on one leg all day and treadled with the other; see below.
The ancilliary tasks of preparing the perns and creels was less skilled and usually fell to lower paid women and many children. In 1873 25% of the Macclesfield workforce were children. They worked 10 hour days over a 6 day week. On Sunday they attended the Sunday School, now the Heritage centre, where for the contribution of a penny per week they got an education!

Above, the Sunday School. This was paid for by wealthy benefactors - there are plaques all over the building declaring for all to see who contributed, how much they contributed and when they contributed. Now where does that fit with Christian teaching about charitable giving? The Sunday School was non-denominational and throughout the rest of the week was used by any number of groups and societies.
The contraption above was used to spin the silk thread onto 'perns' or bobbins in preparation for weaving. This would have been designated as childrens work.
Above and below, preparing the creels that will hold the weft threads. Up to 11500 individual silk threads had to be threaded across this contraption to create the weft threads. Womens work!

Above, an intricate engraved block for silk printing.
Above, the weaving floor with the looms stretching away into the distance.

Are you on time? Clocking in machine above.

The Macclesfield Silk Mills funded an Art and Design School where they trained people in the skills needed to produce fine silk designs. Above is a silk design in process. The Paradise Mill had a design office where skilled artist would create designs and then convert them into workable patterns for the card maker (Jacquard cards) to punch the cards that would enable the weavers to produce the new pattern. Below, the punch machine that was used to produce the jacquard cards.

The Office above...
Above, a terrace of Weavers cottages in Paradise Street Macclesfield. See the windows on the top floor. These were to allow plenty of light in so that the loom workers could see what they were doing. Originally silk weaving was a cottage industry here with all the family involved in generating an income. There were 700 cottages like these in Macclesfield at one time.
Macclesfield in the 17th and 18th Century was primarily a producer of buttons, wooden buttons and this was very much a cottage industry. The fashion however moved towards silk covered buttons so silk was imported and transported to Macclesfield from London where it was used to adorn buttons that were then transported back to London and the South East. An entreprenaur by the name of Charles Roe established a water powered 'throwing mill' that meant silk could spun into thread in trhe town and from there it wasn't too big a step to start weaving the silk as well. Macclesfield prospered throughout the Napoleonic wars because the fashionable and wealthy couldn't get French and Italian silk but had to settle for English silk. After the end of the wars with France the market was flooded with French Silk so the move to weaving away from spinning was that much more imperative. Mills soon opened alongside the cottage industries. A 62 hour week would provide eleven shillings in wages in the late 19th century.
Above, cobbled streets abound.

Below, the Town Hall.
Below, The Castle, a 500 hundred year old Inn. We enjoyed a pint and a salmon sandwich here with the convivial company of three elderly gentlemen. Instead of being bought a drink, one of the Gent's bought us a pack of roast ham to share. How kind...


Monday, 7 September 2009


There we were having a quick planning meeting on board Caxton when suddenly Daisy the monster cat appears..
Floyd is bewildered as to why this cat is on HIS boat and Fletcher is looking at anything but the cat. If he doesn't see it, its not there..
Having walked provacatively past the dogs any number of times, checked the boat out from stem to stern, walked all shelves and checked out all laps she settles for Jill's attentions..

Bollington or Bust..

Above, Caxton moored at Bridge 25 Bollington.
We left our mooring at Higher Poynton on Saturday morning, reversing back under bridge 15 to the water point and filling the tanks on Caxton and Matilda Rose. As soon as I knew our water supply was going to be topped up the washing machine was loaded and switched on and I showered whilst we filled the tank. Myself and Jill walked along the Middlewood Way, which runs parallel with the canal, emerging at Bridge 25 to look for a suitable mooring just as the bow of Matilda Rose came into sight. Things are a bit shallow in these parts but after a couple of attempts we managed to moor up albeit the boat sterns are not close in.

Sunday morning Jill and I set out to walk the dogs and explore the area around Bollington leaving Joe to clean the rugs in the saloon which were looking decidedly grubby and Graham pootling about doing some paperwork I think.Above and below, the new Clarence Mill Bridge (26a) now in place. This was being built when we came through a month but the span was fitted over the bank holiday weekend.
Our walk took us along the canal to Beehive bridge (named after a Mill called Beehive that has since been lost) and up a track heading eastwards. Below is a terrace of Mill workers cottage that we passed. The public footpaths are paved with stone and wend their way at the back of the cottages up through the village. These were the paths used by the workers as they made their way to the Mills. There were fifteen Mills here at one time, 1830's onwards. The American Civil War of 1860-1865 put paid to a number because there were no supplies of cotton to be had. The Clarence Mill survived because fortuitously it had just secured two years supply of the raw material for spinning as war broke out.

Below, a view of Clarence Mill from the top of the Kerridge Ridge.

The White Nancy Monument commemorating the Battle of Waterloo and built on top of the Kerridge Ridge overlooking Bollington.

Above, a portion of the steps up to The White Nancy. The thighs were throbbing a bit after this climb I can tell you...
Posh PF's and gates on our route back down.

And as we came off of the Ridge and back into Bollington, low and behold an Ale House....how spooky. The four dogs dragged us in for their ration of pork scratchings while we had to buy a pint to be sociable of course.
Above, more lovely cottages on he High Street and below, a selection of the old shops.

Coming down the village streets towards the valley bottom and the enormous canal embankment brought us back to Clarence Mill and the heritage centre which was doing a brisk trade. It was a short walk then along the towpath back to the boats.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Eat your heart out...

Eat your heart out all you Gardner, Russell Newbery, Lister and National engine fans we have been eyeing up this for Caxton Mk2.... it ran on coal gas
Joe and Graham went to the Anson Engine Museum which is a stones throw from the Macclesfield canal here at Higher Poynton. The museum was established to preserve the history/heritage of gas and diesel engines and is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. For anyone interested in engines this place is a must with over 200 engines on display.
And how about this for a crank shaft? Caxton might sit a little lower in the water with this fitted don't you think?

Spice Run

Update on Poynton - The new Morrisons supermarket opened only last week in Poynton - a 2 mile walk away from our mooring - and it is the smallest supermarket in their chain. So that put paid to getting large bags of nuts and spices as planned. Fortunately there is a large health food shop in the Poynton High Street so all was not lost. I returned with a myriad of plastic bags full of exotic spices but still no nuts.
On our return to the boats, Graham had completed his oil change on NB. Matilda Rose, Joe had walked the dogs and Brian Jarrett had appeared on NB Kyle so we repaired to The Boar for a pint where Brian regaled us with amusing monologues!

As the autumnal weather has now arrived with a vengence and coal supplies have been delivered to The Trading Post Chandlery at Lord Vernon's Wharf we have placed our order for today, five bags for Caxton and four bags for MR. We haven't given in yet and lit a fire aboard Caxton but I don't think it will be long now...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Boars Head and Spice

We eat out last night at the Boars Head Higher Poynton which is minutes walk from the canal. A pleasant meal at reasonable prices, eg. smoked haddock fish cakes, steak and kidney pie, ham, eggs and chips,smoked haddock fillet with spinach and three sweets for £40.10. Not three bad.
We walked to the pub dressed in full wet gear yet we had walked for eight miles in the day in tea-shirts... Last night the rain and wind lashed Caxton and we expect winds to gust to 48mph today so we intend to stay put. There is a newly opened Morrison's in Poynton so I intend to walk in the couple of miles, shop and get a cab back with the groceries. Lot's of Co-Op's in this part of the world but they tend to keep a limited range and I need to replace a lot of spices and nuts etc. in sensible sized packs not over priced under sized sachets.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Middlewood Way to Marple

The Middlewood Way is a ten mile trail that runs from Macclesfield to Marple. Originally a railway line, The Marple, Bollington and Macclesfield Railway opened for business in 1869 but closed a hundred years later having never been very profitable. It re-opened as a recreational trail in 1985 and this morning Joe and I plus the two dogs walked the stretch from High Poynton into Marple and returned to Caxton via the towpath, after coffee and teacake al fresco in Marple of course.


Yesterday evening the setting sun lit up the far bank of the 'flash', which is a flooded subsidence caused by mine workings.
And what happens when you point a camera out of a side hatch, well anything out of a side hatch really, company happens...

A crust of bread later and I continued to snap pictures of our view from Caxton.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

How the other half lived..

We moved down the Macclesfield Canal this morning early to get water from Lord Vernon's Wharf and see if we could moor on the flash after bridge 15. This location would give us good access to Lyme Park House and it was time use our new National Trust Membership and see the house/palace. Above, Caxton blocking the arm to Braidbar Boats while we wait our turn on the water point. We waited about 45 minutes but used the time to fill up with diesel and get another bottle of gas. Just after 11am we set off to walk to Lyme Park from bridge 15 which is approximately a mile. Above, the National Trust clearing up after having had a dry stone wall rebuilt on the estate. Leaving our dogs with Graham and Jill of NB Matilda Rose, we headed in to view the House. Formerly a Tudor Manor the Lords Newton had it converted into this Italianate Palace in the 1700's. This grandiose conversion was financed by the coal mines that the family owned in Cheshire. Apparently the house was only occupied three months of any year because the owners were in London at their Town residence. The house was beautiful but I can't help feeling that there is just a little injustice when people could afford this level of opulence on the backs of miners and the like....
Above and below, a view of the Cheshire Plain from the Hunting Lodge.

Below, a cats cradle of springs between NB Matilda Rose and Caxton.