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The Delph

The Delph (the name is derived from 'the delved place') was a standstone ridge that had been quarried for centuries. It provided stone for the Bridgewater canal construction and is also the entrance to the underground canal system - a total of 48 miles extending as far as Farnworth. You can see the entrances to the twin tunnels which meet after about 500 metres.

The underground canal intersected with coal mines to the north and had three purposes: it transported coal from the face to the surface canal; it drained the pits; the resultant drainage water fed the main canal. The canal was also one of the first examples of a one-way system - especially on water!

Work started on the underground canal in 1759. It was cut by hand using picks and shovels, although later gunpowder was used. Spoil from the construction was used to reclaim Chat Moss. A million tons of coal a year passed through the underground canal until 1887. Then the new, deeper mines and the colliery railways made the canal redundant as far as coal transportation was concerned, although it continued to provide a means of draining the pits until 1968, when the last pit in the area closed.

Specially designed boats were built for use in the underground canal with both ends designed as prows to allow them to sail in either direction. The visible ribs and narrow shape gave them the nickname 'starvationers'. M boats worked on the main level, T boats on the side and upper levels, and tub boats worked the lowest levels.

A corn mill stood next to the Delph as far back as 1420. Worsley Brook powered a 24ft water wheel that operated two pairs of grinding stones and a boulting mill to separate the flour and bran. The mill buildings complex was cleared c.1903 and the present half-timbered property built. At one time this housed the Post Office.

The canal itself was also famous as the location for the first trials of boats powered by steam, the forerunners of the mighty paddle steamers that still navigate the Mississippi today.

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