was founded in the bleak days of the Second World War when it was illegal to
use petrol in a pleasure boat. It is therefore not surprising that the Club
was formed in somewhat unusual circumstances. Pleasure boats had moored in
this canal arm since shortly after the turn of the century and many of them
had been kept in boathouses. A brief history of the canal arm may be found
In 1937 the
boat house owners in the Arm, for the first time, grouped together to employ
a solicitor to fight a demand from the local council for rates on their
boathouses. Although they did not succeed and had to pay rates, the idea of
forming themselves into an association was first kindled. In May 1943 Mr HW
Downs, who had owned a pleasure boat since 1925, was approached by a group
of boat owners who suggested that a club be formed to rent the wharf and
yard which was at this time unoccupied. The railway owners (L.N.E.R.) were
approached and asked a rental of 1/- (5p) a yard which was beyond the means
of the moorers. Subsequently Mr Downs was visited by the L.N.E.R. district
engineer who said that they would like to see a club formed that
could take over all of the yard and wharf.
A meeting of all interested parties was
called and it was decided to form a club to rent the area on 11th
June 1943 - there were sixteen founder members. A name for the
Club now had to be chosen and many years later Mr Downs
recounted how this came about. “Having had much to do with the
North Cheshire Water Board the name “North Cheshire Cruising
Club” came naturally.
clubhouse and arm today.
A prize of 5/- (25P) was offered for
the best design for a Club burgee and was subsequently won by Mr Bill Axon
for the only design submitted.” Mr Axon moved from the area shortly after
the war and lost contact with the Club. In 1983, when we were preparing the
celebrations for our fortieth anniversary, he was traced and it was found
that after nearly forty years he still had the original hand made burgee
pinned up on his garage wall. He donated it to the Club and it can be seen
today in the Clubhouse, framed and preserved for all posterity in a vacuum.
Regrettably Mr Axon, the last of our founder members, died in 1992.
There was a
small office that then stood by a weighbridge at the entrance from the main
A6 road. It was in a deplorable state as it had not been used for years and
was badly affected by dry rot. The members set about repairing it and
converted it into the first Clubhouse. The crane on the wharf was unusable
at this time and in true war time spirit, it was repaired with parts
salvaged when a Manchester tram route was being dismantled. Although this
crane has not survived nor the succeeding crane that was scrapped as unsafe
Club cruises in war time were also rather
unusual. Because of the prohibition of the use of petrol in
their boats members would arrive at the Arm by public transport
and bow haul their boats to the main canal. Here they would eat
the sandwiches they had brought with them before they bow hauled
their boats back to their moorings. Quite how the Commodore led these cruises is not
recorded! Accounts exist of several powered cruises at this time, all of
which ended in brushes with the police.
view of the High Lane arm clearly shows the boathouses on
the south side of the arm and their limited extent. The boat
in the middle distance is 'Stella' renamed 'Puffing Billy'
because of its funnel which was used to ventilate the
exhaust from the inboard petrol engine.
Heaton Photos from the NarrowBoat magazine archive"
war small amounts of petrol became available for pleasure cruising but
members found that the condition of the canal was fast deteriorating as
little maintenance was being done as commercial traffic had virtually
ceased. In 1953 the club was deeply involved in the Macclesfield National
Rally that drew attention to the threat then hanging over the canal.
On 6th March 1955 the secretary reported that a number of
officers of the Club had attended a meeting of the County Anglers
Association which was addressed by a representative of the IWA where the
results of the Board of Survey of the canals were reported. The
conclusion of the Board of Survey was that the Ashton, Peak Forest and
Macclesfield Canals were recommended for closure. The meeting resolved
to take all necessary action to combat this. Local MPs and councillors
were contacted, a public petition was organised and meeting of all
interested parties held.
It is difficult to know at this point in time simply from the minutes
of committee meetings, whether the Committee of the NCCC or its members
appreciated how close the Macclesfield Canal came to closure in 1955.
The whole waterways movement fully expected the BTC annual Bill to
include powers to abandon the majority of the class 3 waterways which
included the Macclesfield, Ashton and Peak Forest Canals. But when the
Bill was published on 28th November 1955 there were no such
draconian powers sought. This reprieve was a consequence of the
widespread public disquiet and parliamentary concern about what was
being proposed. The NCCC organised a petition and the all party meeting
at Stockport Town Hall was part of this pressure. The Bowes committee
was established to take a broader view of the future use of the canals
within the BTC umbrella. It did not report until July 1958, which gave a
Meanwhile some curious events had occurred.
On 8th Jan 1956 Mr E Burgess reported that he had
received a letter from the commercial manager BTC Liverpool
expressing good wishes for the success of pleasure cruising on
the Macclesfield Canal! In October 1956 it was reported that we
had been approached by Cheshire County Council and the Mersey
River Board for information to be supplied to the Bowes
committee. Then on Thursday 27th February 1958 at a
half hours notice we were visited by Sir Reginald Kerr the head
of British Transport Waterways, Mr Marsh NW Head of BTW and Mr
Scarlett the local inspector. The visit occurred mid week and
they were greeted by Messers Brierley and Kennerley (the Club
chairman being unavailable at such short notice). The object of
the visit was a preliminary survey prior to a visit by water of
Sir Reginald Kerr. This visit occurred on 21st May
1958 at one day’s notice, when he was accompanied by Lady Kerr
in the inspection launch Kingfisher. Sir Reginald was
accompanied from Poynton by an escort of eleven club boats. Upon
arrival at High Lane he inspected the accompanying craft and the
Clubhouse and then addressed a gathering of about 40 people,
stating that he was very anxious to develop the use of canals by
private boat owners.
The BTW booklet No. 11 on cruising the
Macclesfield and Upper Peak Forest Canals was issued in 1958 and
no mention was made of the Ashton or Lower Peak Forest Canal.
Lady Kerr enjoys a joke with
the club chairman Len Cohoon. Sir Reginald Kerr is behind
From these disconnected strands can be divined official policy on the
three canals: support for the Macclesfield and abandonment of the Ashton
and Lower Peak Forest from Marple top lock. In 1961 and 1962 Sir
Reginald and his wife were invited to be the honoured guests at the NCCC
dinner dance to thank him for his support and he was elected an honorary
member in 1961.
struggle for the Macclesfield canal succeeded with only modest
effort but that for the Lower Peak Forest and Ashton canals
intensified. Requiring a National Rally at Marple in 1966 with
follow up events in the four succeeding years all heavily
supported by the Club. Fortunately opinions were changing there
was a new Labour government, the southern Stratford canal had
been restored and there was a greater demand for leisure. All
this combined to encourage the passing of the 1968 transport act
which assured the future of the canal network. The Ashton canal
still had to be saved but the method by which this could be
achieved had been demonstrated and was applied by the Peak
Forest Canal Society. The canal was reopened in 1974 and its
status increased to cruise-way by the 1983 transport act.
Club boats in Dale street Basin 1976 having just navigated the
reopened Ashton Canal.
In the mid
1950’s a wooden estate agent’s building in the yard became vacant and, as
the Club had outgrown its original Clubhouse, was acquired and converted.
The Club continued to grow and after about twenty years this building was
proving to be too small. A lease was subsequently negotiated with B.W. on
the present Clubhouse which was in a semi derelict condition and after
considerable restoration was opened in 1975 by General Sir Hugh Stockwell.
The original slipway was constructed in the mid 60s. This was replaced in
1995-6 by the present slipway constructed by the considerable efforts of
accounts of club and individual cruises the most notable of which were
to Market Harborough in 1951, The reopening of the Stratford canal,
which was attended by a magnificent array of 15 club boats and the
Commodores Cruise of 1993, taking in the Manchester Ship Canal, Weaver
Accounts of all these events can be found in
Golden or Diamond Reminiscences.
account of the Club History can be found in
“In The Arm” the story of North
Cheshire Cruising Club, 2009, Published by NCCC.
Dennis Suleman revised by Noel Christopher, 2010.