History: Uppermill bypass

THE VERY headline ‘Uppermill Bypass’ has already provoked shock – you are already looking up the telephone number for the local councillor and preparing a petition.

MUSEUM: Saddleworth Museum would have marked the start of the bypass
MUSEUM: Saddleworth Museum would have marked the start of the bypass

Please don’t panic – but it could however have been very much a reality.

The entrance to the south end of Uppermill was described in the early 1960s as a ‘dour’ part of the village: Victoria Mill which occupied the Museum car park and fronted the High Street up to the road was derelict, and High Street Mill on the site of the Museum gardens was similarly derelict.

The adjacent canal was unused and the whole area was a long way from the scene presented to us nowadays with Saddleworth Museum, pleasant gardens and a well-used canal with its trip boat all part of the Uppermill conservation area.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal had been closed as a navigable waterway for most of its length by 1944, having been little used by barges for a number of years; its main purpose remaining was to provide for industrial water and drainage.

There were many miles of canal derelict throughout Britain at this period and alternative uses were being discussed, with the Huddersfield Narrow being no exception.

HISTORIC: Original line of road at Wade lock and canal bridge
HISTORIC: Original line of road at Wade lock and canal bridge

As early as 1947 an outline scheme for a project to fill in the canal and create a bypass for Uppermill was discussed. It must be remembered the main road through Uppermill was probably busier than even now as it was one of the main roads between Huddersfield and Manchester.

The scheme involved remodelling the road so Oldham Road at Wade Lock swept smoothly onto the line of the canal and traffic bypassed the High Street along the canal route, coming to Saddleworth Viaduct which was threaded with a large roundabout feeding traffic back onto the current routes.

In the late 1950s the scheme was similarly suggested by a Greenfield man who had studied the project from a local perspective and even presented his proposals to the Ministry of Transport.

LEISURELY: A walk on the canal in Uppermill
LEISURELY: A walk on the canal in Uppermill

The ministry in 1960 replied that plans for a ‘new’ Lancashire and Yorkshire motorway linking Manchester to Huddersfield were in hand and it would take a lot of traffic away from the Saddleworth area and make such a project for a bypass unnecessary.

The M62 motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1976 and certainly took away a lot of none local traffic.

In 1972 however the Uppermill bypass scheme was once again brought to the public’s attention,with one local councillor commenting that “taking the traffic away would make it very pleasant”.

The plan even at this period was still in the Department of the Environment’s programme for major road improvements, though no start date had been given – let us hope that it has been filed away and all been long forgotten about.

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