Monday, 9 January 2017

The Kickety Brook, Stretford, once a vital part of our flood defences


I first walked the Kickety Brook with my old botanist friend, David Bishop.

It doesn’t look much but it was vital in its day for protecting the Duke’s Canal at Stretford.

The Canal dates from the 1760s and was cut to bring coal into the heart of the city and also was used by our farmers and market gardeners to ship their produce into the Manchester markets.

But the canal was close to the Mersey which could flood with little warning. In July 1828 flood water transported hay ricks from the farm behind Barlow Hall down to Stretford only later to take them back, while later floods proved to be even more destructive with one destroying the bridge across Chorlton Brook.

It was, wrote Thomas Ellwood the local historian
“no uncommon thing to see the great level of green fields completely covered with water presenting the appearance of a large lake , several miles in circuit,” and he recorded six major floods between  December 1880 and October  1881

By then the stone weir had been in place for nearly a century.  It had been built after a heavy flood in August 1799 had broken the banks where Chorlton Brook joined the Mersey.  This had led to fears that the Bridgewater Aqueduct across the flood plain could be damaged in a subsequent flood.

The weir was designed to divert flood water from the Mersey down channels harmlessly out to Stretford and the Kicketty Brook.  Not that it always worked.  Soon after it had been built flood water swept it away and during the nineteenth century neither the weir nor the river banks prevented the Mersey bursting out across the plain.

This happened in 1840 and in the following year it was rebuilt by the engineer William Cubitt. After litigation the cost of repair was borne by the Bridgewater Trust who paid out £1,500, the Turnpike Commissioners £500, Thomas de Trafford £1,000 and Wilbraham Egerton £1,000.

Today, standing beside the weir you get little sense of the force of the river in full flood. In the winter there can be a pool of water at its base stretching out across the plain but on many occasion in the past on warm summer’s days even this bit of land can be bone dry.

And likewise the Kickety Brook seems just an overgrown and quite forgotten bit of water. The last time the weir took an overflow of flood water was 1915 when these two pictures were taken.

Pictures; Higgibotham's field in flood, 1946, from a painting by J Montgomery, 1963, m80092, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and 1915 pictures from the Lloyd collection

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