The maps used in this sequence of articles are predominantly 25″ OS Maps from 1896 through to 1922 and have been sourced from the National Library of Scotland.  There are a number of websites which focus on the Loop which are excellent. The sites concerned are noted immediately below and the relevant link can be found in the references section of this page or by clicking on the highlighted text here:
- The most detailed treatment of the line and its stations can be found on the Disused Stations – Site Records website. The particular pages on that site which cover the Loop were provided by Alan Young. One page covers the route and pages covering each of the stations can be accessed from that page. 
- Particularly good for old photographs of the Loop is the Table 38 webpage about the railway. 
- 28DL Urban Exploration has pages about Stalybridge New Tunnel under Cocker Hill  and about Hartshead Power Station. 
Part 1 – Stalybridge to Staley & Millbrook Station and Goods Yard
This first map extract shows the Western end of the Micklehurst Loop. It left the mainline at Stalybridge Station which can be seen on the left side of the extract. Both the mainline and the loop entered tunnels under Stamford Street, Stalybridge. This modern satellite image covers approximately the same area of Stalybridge as the map extract above. The route of the former Micklehurst Loop is highlighted by the red line.Looking west towards Stalybridge Station circa 1960 from Stamford Street BR standard Class 5 No.73162 takes the Micklehurst Loop as it pulls away from Stalybridge Station with a Huddersfield-bound freight and approaches Stalybridge New Tunnel. Photo by Peter Sunderland courtesy of Alan Young. 
The Western portal of Stalybridge New Tunnel sits just to the East of the Bridge that carries Stamford Street over the route of the Loop. It is difficult to photograph and access is not easy. While search for images of the line I came across a video on YouTube:
This video shows the Western end of the tunnel and then covers a walk through the full length of the tunnel and a glance out of the Eastern Portal. 
This next map extract shows the Micklehurt Loop emerging from the tunnel under Cocker Hill. The main line is in tunnel further North. Just South of the tunnel mouth Old St. George’s Church can be picked out, an octagonal church building which has now been replaced by St. George’s Church which is off the map extract to the North. Immediately to the East of the tunnel entrance, the Loop crossed the course of the River Tame and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal on a Viaduct.Much has changed in the satellite image above which covers approximately the same area. The canal basin can just be picked out, as can Knowl Street. The course of the River Tame is unchanged. Old St. George’s is long-gone. There is no evidence left of the Viaduct which carried the line.
Old St. George’s Church was located almost directly over the tunnel. It was an unusual church building and over its life was rebuilt twice on essentially the same plan. “The first was built in 1776. It was the first recorded church in Stalybridge and it did fall down shortly after it was built. The next church was demolished around a hundred years later because of structural problems and the last church was demolished in the 1960’s as it was no longer used.” The last incarnation of Old St. George’s Church on Cocker Hill. This coloured monochrome image is held in the archives of Tameside MBC. The Micklehurst Loop can be seen exiting the tunnel below the church to the right and immediately crossing the River Tame on Knowl Street Viaduct. This monochrome image is provided with permission, courtesy of Alan Young, once again.  He comments: “looking north up the River Tame the western end of Knowl Street Viaduct in Stalybridge is seen in this undated view. Having crossed this 16-arch viaduct the Micklehurst Loop promptly plunged into Stalybridge New Tunnel through Cocker Hill (left). This section of line ceased to handle traffic in 1972, when coal movements to Hartshead Power Station (near Staley & Millbrook) ceased, and the line was taken out of use in July 1976, but it was not until 1991 that the viaduct was demolished.” 
The Eastern Portal of the tunnel, which was directly below the church can still be reached with a little careful clambering. The image below has a Creative Commons Licence. (CC BY-SA 2.0).The East Portal of Stalybridge New Tunnel which is directly below the site of Old St. George’s Church © Copyright Tom Hindley and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence. (CC BY-SA 2.0). 
Knowl Street Viaduct carried the Loop over the River Tame, Knowl Street and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and a series of arches in between. There were 16 arches in all.This photograph taken from the East alongside Knowl Street Viaduct is included with permission, courtesy of Alan Young.  Alan comments: “The Micklehurst Loop diverged from the original Huddersfield-Manchester line a short distance east of Stalybridge station, entered Stalybridge New Tunnel (about 300yd in length) then promptly crossed the broad valley of the River Tame on Bridge No.3 (also known as Knowl Street Viaduct). This impressive curving viaduct, in the blue engineering brick used by the LNWR on the Loop’s major structures, was 330yd in length with 16 arches. In addition to crossing the River Tame, the viaduct also strode across Huddersfield Narrow Canal and three roads. In this undated westward view, the viaduct and Stalybridge New Tunnel through Cocker Hill are shown. Coal trains that served Hartshead Power Station ceased to run over the viaduct in 1972, but it was not until July 1976 that the line was officially taken out of use. Fifteen years elapsed before the viaduct was demolished in 1991.” A further image used with permission, courtesy of Alan Young.  Alan comments: “Looking north-east from a point close to the eastern portal of Stalybridge New Tunnel. The Knowl Street Viaduct, 330yd in length and with 16 arches, is seen crossing the River Tame then curving away towards the next station of Staley & Millbrook. The local passenger service on the Micklehurst Loop, on which this viaduct was located, ceased in 1917, but occasional passenger trains and many freight workings continued into the 1960s; coal traffic continued to pass over the viaduct until 1972 en route to Hartshead Power station near Staley & Millbrook station and the line was officially taken out of use in 1976. Nature is taking over the former trackbed as seen on this undated photograph. The viaduct was demolished in 1991.” A modern view of Knowl Street taken from Google Streetview. Knowl Street Viaduct crossed Knowl Street at this location. The spandrel walls on the North side of the Viadct passed very close to the gable end of the terraced building to the East of Knowl Street, the righthand side in this view.
After crossing the Huddersfield Narrow Canal the Loop line regained the embankment shown on the next OS Map extract below. Just to the North of the point where the viaduct crossed the canal is a stone bridge carrying what is now (in the 21st century) the canal-side walk. That bridge is shown at the centre of the Google Streetview image below and at the bottom left of the OS Map extract. It is named Knowl Street Bridge and carries the number 97. 
After crossing the Canal the line was carried on embankment, passing to the West of Brookfield House and running North by Northeast parallel to the Canal with Huddersfield Road a distance away to the South. Across the valley of the River Tame to the West were Riverside Mills.The approximate line of the railway, shown in red, runs parallel to the canal. We parked in a small car park just off the south of this satellite image, as illustrated below. The image shows that the site of the Riverside Mills is now occupied by the premises of Smurfit Kappa, Stalybridge. Stalybridge and the Southwest end of the Micklehurst Loop.
Brookfield House was “a large detached house built in the early 19th century for James Wilkinson, and shown on the 1850 Stayley Tithe Map. All that remains is the former mid-19th century lodge house at 93, Huddersfield Road, with the entrance to the former drive with stone gate piers on its south side. The grounds of Brookfield House are clearly shown on the 1898 OS Map, and included an oval lake and glasshouses, …. Brookfield House was demolished and the lake filled in between 1910-1933. The grounds are now overgrown with self-set woodland.” This next OS Map extract illustrates, at the the top right, how tightly the river, railway and canal follow each other at times up the Tame Valley. The railway sits above the canal which in turn sits a little above the river. Also evident is the name used on this series of OS Maps for the Loop Line – the “Stalybridge and Saddleworth Loop Line.”
Alan Young explains: “Although described as both the ‘Stalybridge & Saddleworth Loop‘ and ‘Stalybridge & Diggle Loop‘ on Ordnance Survey maps, the line is more commonly known as the ‘Micklehurst Loop’.” 
River Meadow Cotton Mills were owned by Henry Bannerman who was a successful farmer in Perthshire, Scotland At the age of 55 in 1808 he “moved with his family to Manchester, determined to get involved in the burgeoning Lancashire cotton industry.” 
At one time the company had “four cotton mills in the Manchester area: Brunswick Mill in Ancoats, Old Hall Mill in Dukinfield and the North End Mill and River Meadow Mill, both in Stalybridge.” 
In 1929, the Lancashire Cotton Industry was struggling. It had not regained its markets after the First World War. In an attempt to save the industry, the Bank of England set up the ‘Lancashire Cotton Coroporation’. Bannermans’ mills were taken over a few years later. The mills were acquired by Courtaulds in 1964 and all production ceased in 1967.”  After closure the four-storey mill which was Grade II Listed “was used by Futura before they moved to Quarry Street and then S. A. Driver warp knitters, dyers , printers and finishers.”  As can be seen in the satellite image below, the Mill is now demolished.Souracre and River Meadow Cotton Mill and Souracre in the 21st century .
North of Souracre and visible at the bottom left of this next OS Map extract were Hartshead Calico Print Works East of Printworks Road and close by Heyrod Hall. Also visible on this map extract are Stayley Hall and the first Station on the Micklehurst Loop – Stayley and Millbrook Station.
Hartshead Print Works – is visible just below centre-left on the OS Map extract above. The works was listed in the Stalybridge Directory of 1891 as owned by John L. Kennedy &Co. Ltd, Calico Printers. lt was purchased in 1899 by the Calico Printers Association. 
Heyrod Hall – is shown on the top left of the OS Map extract above.
Stayley Hall – is a Grade II* Listed Building which dates back to at least the early 15th century. The first records of the de Stavelegh family as Lords of the Manor of Staley date from the early 13th century. Stayley Hall was their residence. 
It came into the possession of the Assheton family through marriage and united the manors of Stayley and Ashton and thence into the family of Sir William Booth of Dunham Massey. In the middle of the 16th century. In the middle of the 18th Century the Earldom of Warrington became extinct and the Hall, alonng with all the Booth’s estates passed to Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford. Stayley Hall was owned by the Booth family until the death of Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford in 1976. 
Wikipedia concludes its history of the Hall as follows: “In 2004 the Metropolitan Borough Council announced that they had granted permission to a developer to build 16 homes next to Stayley Hall. A condition of the planning consent was that the hall be restored. The developer has converted the hall and outbuildings into houses and apartments, most of which are now occupied.” 
Early 25″ OS Map covering the length of the passenger facilities and most of the goods facilities at Staley & Millbrook Station. 
Staley and Millbrook Station – Alan Young’s on his webpage about the Station comments as follows: “Staley & Millbrook station stood on a steep slope immediately south of Spring Grove Viaduct. The two facing platforms were equipped with waiting rooms, most likely of timber construction, with glazed awnings, as is thought to have been the building style at all four of the Loop’s stations. The platforms, too, were most likely of timber construction as that material was used for the platforms at Micklehurst, where they were also on an embankment, and timber would be a much lighter load than masonry for an embankment to support. The stationmaster’s house and adjoining single-storey office range to its west faced Grove Road across a small, triangular forecourt. The station house was constructed of dark red brick with string courses of blue engineering brick and pale stone lintels.” Staley & Millbrook Station building and the Sprong-grove Viaduct take from the East on Grove Road in the early 20th century. The picture shows a clean and relatively well maintained site, very different to what remains in the 21st century, please see the pictures below. Staley and Millbrook Railway Station and Spring-grove Mill. 
Staley and Millbrook Station buildings have long-gone as has the Viaduct, the first arch of which spanned Grove Road and looked to be a graceful structure. Also of interest in the monochrome picture of the Station and Viaduct above is what appears at first sight to be evidence of a tramway or industrial railway in the cobbles of Grove Road. I have not as yet been able to find out anything about what this feature actually is. The feature is not marked on the map extract immediately above. Closer examination of the picture above suggests that rather than being part of a short industrial line the cobbles may have been laid to facilitate a particular movement around the Spring-grove Mill.
In the 21st century, this length of Grove Road has been tarmacked – a thin layer of tarmac covers the original sets. The next two pictures were taken on 30th January 2021 on a second visit to the site after walking the route of the Loop.
Spring-grove Mill – As we have already noted, Spring-grove Mill is shown straddled by the viaduct on the OS Map extract above. When Staley & Millbrook station opened, “there was already some population and industry in the immediate neighbourhood. Spring Grove Cotton Mill faced the station across Grove Road, and map evidence suggests that the railway’s viaduct sliced through the existing mill building. A terrace of three cottages, also pre-dating the railway, stood immediately north of the platforms, and Stayley Hall was about 100yd south of the station. Millbrook village, with three cotton mills, was about ten minutes’ walk uphill east of the station.”  The remaining buildings of Spring-grove Mill. The lighter (cream painted) brickwork is the part of the mill shown on the map extracts as being on the East side of the viaduct. The portion of the Mill to the West of the viaduct has been demolished. The red-brick portion of the remaining building would have been under the arches of the viaduct. The Western spandrels of the viaduct arches would have followed a line running from the intersecting kerb-stones in the right-foreground over the redbrick part of the present building. (My own photograph – 30th January 2021)
Spring Grove Mill was a cotton mill from 1818 to 1868 and then was a woollen mill for 100 years, it was the last steam-powered mill in the area.  The image of Hartshead Power station below, includes Spring-grove Mill in the bottom right-hand corner. By the time the aerial photograph was taken Grove Road appeared to extend across the Canal and the River Tame towards Heyrod.
Hartshead Power Station was also located North of Souracre to the West of the River Tame. It was a coal-fired station and was served by trains on the Micklehurst Loop up until the 1970s. The picture immediately below was posted by Tameside Council on their Facebook page in 2015.An aerial picture of Hartshead Power Station taken before the Second World War. It was opened by the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield (SHMD) Joint Board in 1926 and the cooling towers were erected in the 1940s. The station closed in 1970 and was demolished in the 1980s. Although the Good Shed visible to the top right of the image still stands. The Micklehurst Loop curves from the bottom right to the top left of the picture. This enlarged extract from the image above show the coal transfer facilities and railway sidings associated with the power station .  The resolution of the image is not wonderful but it does highlight the traffic which was brought to the site throughout the middle 50 years of the 20th Century.The full extent of the Hartshead Power Station site at Souracre can be seen on the adjacent OS Map extract from the middle of the 20th century, which also shows the location of Stayley Hall and the Stayley and Millbrook Station build just North-northwest of Stayley Hall.
Approximately the same area is shown below on a relatively recent extract from the ESRI World Image website which is the satellite mapping used by the National Library of Scotland. 
The Good Shed which is considered further below is visible on both the map extract and the satellite image and the extent of the railway sidings on the East side of the Loop line is evident.The substantial Goods Shed was built at the same time as the Loop initially with two sidings to its East. These sidings were expanded with the advent of the power station in the early 20th century. The site is now overgrown and is returning to nature. The only exception being the Goods Shed itself. There is an excellent video showing its current condition on ‘Martin Zero’s’ YouTube Channel which is embedded below. My own pictures of the site also follow below.
The Goods shed at Stayley and Millbrook Station presided over a large expanse of sidings which served Hartshead Power Station on the opposite side of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the River Tame. Looking South towards the location of the passenger facilities at Staley and Millbrook Station. The Goods shed is on the left (the East side of the Loop line). (My photograph, 18th January 2021).The Goods Shed taken from the same location as the last photograph – a substantial three-storey structure. (My photograph, 18th January 2021).
The next part of this walk following the line of the Micklehurst Loop sets off from this goods shed traveling North.
- https://maps.nls.uk, accessed on 18th January 2021.
- Copley Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Proposals; Tameside MBC, March 2013, p9-10.
- https://cockerhill.com/2010/07/06/old-st-georges-church-cocker-hill, accessed on 23rd January 2021.
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- Mike Nevell; Tameside 1066–1700; Tameside Metropolitan Borough and University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. p. 112 & 141, 1991.
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- https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1795-Antique-Print-Stayley-Hall-Stalybridge-Greater-Manchester-after-E-Dayes-/292642997239, accessed on 29th January 2021.
- https://youtu.be/VdmWydx4VBw & https://www.facebook.com/martinZer0/?comment_id=Y29tbWVudDoxNTU4MjI2MDIxMDExNzUxXzE1NjA0NDMwMjQxMjMzODQ%3D, accessed on 31st January 2021.
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