Images of M65 construction

Traffic waiting for the official opening of the first completed section of the M65 in October, 1981. Spectators line the bridge, above. (s)

Traffic waiting for the official opening of the first completed section of the M65 in October, 1981. Spectators line the bridge, above. (s)

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Last week, in the Retro article “M65 now part of history”, we reflected on the fact that the Burnley section of the M65 was opened almost 35 years ago, writes local historian ROGER FROST.

I selected four images from the Fred Woodhead Collection which is held by the Briercliffe Society and I asked you to see if you could identify them. I hope you kept your copy and I will now describe the pictures.

Earth moving equipment at Oswald Street Gas Works in February, 1981.

Earth moving equipment at Oswald Street Gas Works in February, 1981.

The first of these images, printed upper left of last week’s article, was taken on July 12th, 1980. It was probably the hardest to identify as it shows the construction of the Gannow roundabout in Burnley. Unfortunately, there is nothing of the old Gannow now remaining in the image, which might have helped you and I have to admit that I was surprised by the size of the structure you can see there, but, as you will know, the Padiham road has to cross the M65 at this point and this was the purpose of the structure.

I suspect that many of you will have worked out the second image which was printed, upper right. It shows the aqueduct which carries the Leeds and Liverpool Canal over the motorway. The image was taken on Monday, April 21st, 1980, and it shows a narrow boat heading towards Whittlefield on its way to the Gannow Tunnel.

The clue by which this image might be identified can be seen in the background. The large houses on Westgate can be seen first and, behind them, some of the chimneys of the Weavers’ Triangle. The clincher is Clock Tower Mill, the clock of which is identifiable though it is half hidden by the Wiseman Street mill chimney.

What you might not realise is that this that this aqueduct, though Mr Woodhead refers to it as a bridge, has something of a claim to fame in that it was built from the top down! You don’t believe me? Well, let me tell you that this is indeed the case.

In those days British Waterways was responsible for the canal system and they were very proud of the fact that the Leeds and Liverpool was open for virtually its entire length. There were only a few yards, in both Leeds and Liverpool, that were not passable but here, in Burnley, the canal was still being used for the carrying of coal (to the power stations West of Burnley) until around 1970. A decade later the canal was still open, largely used by pleasure craft, and BW wanted to keep it that way.

The canal, therefore, continued to use the route in the Gannow area which had been determined almost 200 years before. It should be remembered that, originally, the canal was in a cutting, the Whittlefield Cutting, the waste from which had been used in the building of the Burnley Embankment.

The M65 was constructed at a much lower level. This being so, the aqueduct which you can see in the picture was constructed first and when the construction workers, building the M65, approached the new aqueduct, they gradually removed material from under the structure supporting it, in the final instance, with the concrete pillars you can see under the aqueduct.

This method of constructing the present Gannow Aqueduct is quite remarkable and, later this year, a television programme celebrating the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal will be broadcast on the BBC. The show will feature images supplied by both the Friends of the Weavers’ Triangle and the Briercliffe Society. I have not got a date but, when I have, I will let you know.

The third image, published bottom left, is of the section of the canal adjacent to Crow Wood. Mr Woodhead describes it as follows: “Crow Wood section of the M65 motorway under construction, January 6th, 1979.” Prominent on the image is the Oswald Street gas holder, centre left, which itself is now redundant and it may not be long before it is demolished. On the right, you will be able to see some of the mills of the Daneshouse area.

On the extreme left the access road, which takes traffic from Burnley centre on to the motorway, is visible. Last week I referred to some of the problems associated with the M65. This is another of them as there are only two access/egress roads when usually there are four at junctions like this one.

The last image, bottom right last, shows the construction of a footbridge over the M65. Mr Woodhead refers to it as the “Cook Footbridge” and it, too, is also in the Gannow area. This image contains a few clues, the main one of which appears to be Pendle Hill which is in the background.

Mr Woodhead did a really good job of recording the building of the M65 in our area and I conclude this article with one of his photographs. Mr Woodhead describes it as follows: “Waiting for the ribbon to be cut to open the M65 motorway”. He gives the date as Thursday, October 15th, 1981, and adds that this was only the first section to be completed. We had around another 15 years to wait before the whole project was open to the public.

A final picture reminds us of some of the equipment used to build the M65. This was a subject which interested Mr Woodhead in particular. Here earth moving equipment is “parked up” at Oswald Street Gas Works, in February, 1981.