During January 2021, my wife and I walked the majority of the length of the Micklehurst Loop from Stalybridge to Diggle. This was the goods relieving line for the main Stalybridge to Huddersfield railway line. It had been hoped to alleviate congestion by making the mainline into a 4-track railway but the geography mitigated against this and a route on the other side of the Tame Valley was chosen instead.
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. 
The first articles about the Micklehurst Loop can be found at:
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 3
There is a series of addenda to these articles which include additional material found or shared with me after the drafting of the relevant article. These can be found on the following links:
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1A
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1B
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1C – Including Hartshead Power Station
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1D – Some Miscellaneous Items relating to the area around the Staley and Millbrook Goods Yard.
The Micklehurst Loop – Part 3A
In my perambulations around the internet, I have also encountered a series of videos (on YouTube) which start from the Northern end of the line. 5 videos cover the length of the line in 2020 and a separate video covers some of the structures on the line. These videos are easily available on YouTube. This is the first  in the series:
Part 4 – Chew Valley Road, Greenfield to Diggle
We continue our journey travelling North from Chew Valley Road. The images immediately below appear at the end of the last article about the line which finished at Chew Valley Road. …………..
We finished the last length of the Micklehurst Loop at Chew Valley Road in Greenfield.
In concluding, we saw a couple of older postcard images of Greenfield Viaduct, the second of which looks along Chew Valley Road towards the Southeast, and a 21st century Google Streetview image of the point at which the Loop crossed Chew Valley Road.
We get ready to set off on this last length of the Loop by looking at a few images of Chew Valley Road Bridge which I found on the “Greenfieldgoneby” Facebook group. 
The adjacent image looks from the Southeast along Chew Valley Road. 
The second image is taken from the same direction and a little closer to the bridge. The first was a winter-time shot, the second was taken in the summer. 
The third, below, is taken from the Northwest and shows the Conservative Club on the right side. 
This final image of the bridge before we begin our journey, is also taken from the Northwest, but from much closer to the bridge. 
Wellington Mills – the postcard above and the extract from the OS Mapping show Wellington Mills to the West of the railway in Greenfield. The mills were built in 1852 for Shaw, Son and Lees cotton Spinners who traded until 1858 and were succeeded by N. Broadbent and Sons. When Broadbent ceased trading the mills were left unused for 6 years (from 1932 to 1938). 1938 saw part of the buildings used as a general engineering works and in 1941 the rest of the premises were opened up with the installation of 362 looms by the fabric weaver B. Kershaw. 
In the years up to 1946 the engineering section of the mill produced engine parts for bombers. It was then used for storage, first by the Navy and then by the British Wool Board. In 1946 the buildings and land were purchased by William Oddy. He transferred his woolen carding and mule spinning operations form Shipley to Greenfield. The Knoll Spinning Company was formed at this time. It seems that 362 looms were installed at this time. The company ceased trading in the 1990s and the mill again became vacant. 
Huddersfield Narrow Canal – along this stretch of the Loop the Canal is conspicuous by its absence. Having followed the Eastern valley side and hence having been very close to the Loop at times on the way up from Stalybridge, the Canal crossed both the Tame valley and the River Tame in the Friezland area. Through Greenfield and Uppermill it followed the line of the older mainline railway on the West side of the valley. The River Tame can just be made out in the Northwest corner of the map extract above running on the Southeast side of Frenches Dye Works. The Canal was on the northwest side of the Works.
Frenches Dye Works – Owen Ashmore, in The Industrial Archaeology of Northwest England, notes the existence of this Dye Works but as having been closed at the time of his survey – “At Frenches … is [the] site of [a] former Dye Works built on [the] site of [an] early 18C fulling mill.” [10: p130]
Our walk along the line of the Micklehurst Loop took us across Chew Valley Road and Higher Arthurs on 25th January 2021. Just to the north of Higher Arthurs, we had to choose between scrambling up the embankment face seen just beyond the dwarf wall which is all that is left of the abutment of the bridge which carried the Loop over the lane, or a short walk along Carr Lane to access the track-bed along the approved walking route. We chose the latter and joined the route of the old line a few tens of metres ahead of the steep track shown in the picture.
The old railway continued Northeast from Higher Arthurs curving gradually round towards a Northerly direction. At the time the map below was drawn, there was a footbridge carrying a footpath from Wellington Terrace across to Kinders Lane and Fur Lane Farm. This footbridge was a narrow blue-brick arched bridge. It remains in place in the 21st century. These next two pictures show it from track-bed level.
The track-bed continues to curve round towards the North.
The next map extract shows the immediate approach to what was Uppermill Goods Yard. The goods yard was protected on it southern boundary by another accommodation bridge which provided access to Ballgrove from Uppermill. On Google maps this bridge can be seen to carry Rush Hill Road.
This image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website, where Alan Young comments: “In the late 1940s a Leeds-bound goods train is seen from Rush Hill Road bridge approaching the goods station at Uppermill. The locomotive is Bowen-Cooke-designed ex-LNWR 7F 0-8-0, built at Crewe works in August 1896. Numbered 9020 by the LMS, and previously 2540 in LNWR ownership, she continued to work as British Railways No.49020 until October 1961 when she was withdrawn from 10A, Wigan Springs Branch shed, and cut up the same month at Crewe works – Photo by Jim Davenport.” 
A view from the East of Rush Hill Road as it crosses the line of the Micklehurst Loop – the blue brick parapets are almost hidden by summer vegetation, (Google Streetview).
Rush Hill Road Bridge Northern parapet taken from the Western end of the bridge, (Google Streetview).
Once closed, Uppermill Goods Shed was demolished and the tracks were lifted. In the 21st century, the site is used for a variety of sporting interests. The route of the old line crosses the carpark facilities of the sports centre and continues to the North. Before following it, we take a look at some images of the goods facilities on the Loop at Uppermill.
This image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website, where Alan Young comments: A view of “Uppermill goods station looking east c1937. A cricket match appears to be in progress on the ground to the left. The goods warehouse dominates the scene, built on a generous scale, as were those at the other Micklehurst Loop stations. The single storey section of the warehouse contains offices and toilet facilities. The sidings are occupied by numerous wagons. New houses can be seen beyond the railway, on Bankside Avenue – Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” 
The above image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. On that site Alan Young comments: This is “Uppermill goods station, looking north-west from near Ballgrove. This view (circa 1905) highlights the goods warehouse, a commodious structure in engineering brick. Some rakes of goods and mineral wagons occupy the sidings. A traction engine is standing in the yard (left). Uppermill (or Saddleworth) Viaduct is seen on the original Huddersfield-Manchester route which runs parallel to the Micklehurst Loop. Den and Ladcastle quarries, both in operation at this time, are excavated into the distant hill – Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” 
The above image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. On that site Alan Young comments: “At all four stations on the Micklehurst Loop the passenger and goods facilities were some distance apart. This northward view from Rush Hill Road bridge is of the goods yard at Uppermill, and the passenger station is ahead but out of sight. The tall, brick-built warehouse on the left was a standard feature of these goods stations. On 5 June 1958 ex-WD 2-8-0 No.90671 is hauling loaded coal wagons southbound from Diggle (dep 5.55pm) to Heaton Norris (Stockport). The Riddles-designed locomotive was produced from 1943 for the War Department and entered British Railways service in 1948, based initially at 73C, Hither Green shed in Kent. She was withdrawn from 26F, Lees Oldham shed, on 30 September 1963 and cut up at Crewe works the following December – Photo by B Hilton.” 
Uppermill Passenger Station sat adjacent to the Station Road Bridge but at low level. Steps led up to wooden platforms which were sited to the North of the brick-built Passenger facilities. That arrangement can be picked out on the large image immediately above. The solid wooden area which looks a little out of place is the rear of the platform shelter on the Northbound side of the Loop.
The larger image above also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. Alan Young, on that site comments: This is “a panoramic view eastwards across the old Diggle-Stalybridge line (with train) towards Uppermill c1910. In the village are Victoria Mill (cotton), lower left, with Alexandra Mill (cotton) on its right and Dam Head Mill (cotton spinning) in its dominant position beside Church Road. A little right of centre in the distance the platforms and waiting sheds of Uppermill station on the Micklehurst Loop can be seen, with the station building to the right, at a lower level close to the railway bridge. … Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” 
The Passenger Station Building was of the same design as others on the Loop Line. The front faces of these buildings were built in red-brick the side and rear walls in blue engineering brick. The building is in private hands. Station Road passed under the Loop Line immediately adjacent to the Station building as shown on the panorama below.
In the text above a number of mills are mentioned:
Albion Mill – was a cotton mill, built circa 1854  which is listed in the ‘1891 Worrall’s Cotton Spinners Directory’ along with Spring Hill Mill, Waterhead as belonging to John Lees.  The Mill has been converted to apartments.
Alexandra Mill – was a cotton mill “built in 1860 by flannel manufacturers J.Bradbury & Co. This four-storey stone built mill has had many uses over the years. In the mid 1980s it was a craft centre which was divided into small units. Today the mill, on the banks of the River Tame, has been converted into stylish living apartments. For reference, a 2-bedroom fourth floor flat was on the market for £199,950 in March 2009.” 
Dam Head Mill – was also known as Willow Bank Mill.  Neither this mill nor Alexandra Mill seem to be listed in the ‘1891 Worrall’s Cotton Spinners Directory’. 
Victoria Mill – was a cotton mill and housed Ellis Meanock, cotton spinners and manufacturers.  The mill has been demolished but what were outbuildings remain and house the Saddleworth Museum and Art Gallery. 
Continuing North from Uppermill Station, the Line passed two further Mills and two relatively large houses.
Buckley Mill and Buckley New Mill sat either side of Uppermill High Street, neither is mentioned by Wikipedia  or Grace’s Guide . They were owned by the Kenworthy family and produced flannels and shawls.
Two larger private dwellings stand out on the 25″ Map below and are relatively typical of a number of properties around Uppermill.
Fernthorpe Hall – is now a series of luxury apartments.
Hawthorpe Hall – is now two separate semi-detached family homes.
They both can be made out on the satellite image below.
It is now only a short distance to what was the mouth of Butterhouse Tunnel, named after Butter House which sat almost directly over the tunnel.
The next 25″ Map extract shows the tunnel mouth and also shows how the mainline and the Loop are now gradually moving towards each other as they travel North by Northeast. Brownhill Quarry and Saddleworth Station can be seen on the left side of the extract.
North of Church Road we regained the old railway formation and walked North past Saddleworth School.
A short trek beyond Saddleworth School along the gentle gradient of the old Loop and approaching Ryefields Drive the public bridleway is forced away from the Line of the Micklehurst Loop as first the cutting and bridge under Ryefields Drive and then the tunnel portal have been infilled.
Once the footpath/bridleway separated from the old line and our walking route took us across Ryefields Drive at road level and then on towards Brownhill Lane. A left turn before reaching the junction of Brownhill Lane and Butterhouse Lane and Butter House.
It can be seen on the adjacent satellite image that two roadway lengths bear the name Ryefields Drive, both of which provide access to Rye Fields and that these are linked by the bridleway which also bears the name Ryefields Drive.
Rye Fields which sat above the Old Loop to the East is still occupied today. It is a Grade II listed 18th century structure. 
Butter House is similarly a Grade II 18th century property. 
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. …. The lower arm of Ryefields Drive crossed the Loop on a girder bridge, very soon after this the old railway entered Butterhouse Tunnel. I have so far only found one image relating to either of these structures. It is not reproduced hear for copyright reasons. It can be found in a short article carried on the Saddleworth Independent website in an article by Peter Fox entitled “History: Saddleworth by Rail – Part 2.”  The second image in the article on that webpage is a view taken from inside the South Portal of Butterhouse Tunnel looking towards the bridge which carried Ryefields Drive.
We then walked along Butterhouse Lane before following a footpath which led off the the left which brought us out close to the Northeastern portal of Butterhouse Tunnel. That portal is still open and the tunnel can be accessed from the track-bed if desired. 
The footpath that we used can be seen entering the above map extract from the bottom right and then turning North-northeast to run parallel to the railway. We left the footpath at the point where it turns North and wandered South toward the Tunnel portal.
North of the tunnel portal, the Loop left its cutting behind and ran alongside the main Huddersfield Line towards Diggle.
What was a 4-track line was (and is) closely followed by the Huddersfield Narrow Canal over this next length.
The 25″ OS Map extract above shows that at the time of its drafting the Dobcross Loom Works were rail served. The Dobcross Loom Works was built in 1860 and was set over a 22-acre site.  It still features a Grade II Listed building known locally as ‘The Cathedral’ which houses a Gothic clock tower. 
During the Great War, the factory doubled up as a munitions factory to assist with the war effort. Later, during the Second World War it helped create parts for Russian submarines to help counter the U-boat threat. 
The Loom Works closed in 1967  and was then (in 1969) used for 37 years until 2006, as the home of Shaw’s Pallet Works, reputedly one of the largest pallet works in Europe. 
The Daily Mail  reported on the site just before it was demolished to make way for a new secondary school – Saddleworth School. Their report is online and includes some excellent picture of the works and its interior prior to demolition. Further excellent pictures can be found on the www.28dayslater.co.uk website. 
The works are shown from the air on the monochrome aerial photograph below in 1926. They have been significantly extended compared to the buildings on the 25″ OS Mapping.
The Micklehurst Loop, the mainline to Huddersfield and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal can all be seen behind the Works and careful inspection also reveals the Works sidings. There is an added bonus of a goods train on the Northbound Loop line. Diggle Brook meanders in front of the Works.
There are a sequence of extracts from that image which focus on specific elements: The mainline railway; the canal and sidings and finally a grainy picture of private owner wagons in the Works sidings.
rail-online.co.uk carries an excellent photograph of the 4-track railway line to the North of the Loom Works in around 1964. It shows the siding drifting away to the west of the mainline and on the right side of the image the bridge over the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which gave access to the Works can also be seen. 
There is an excellent short illustrated article about the small locomotive employed at the Loom Works. It is written by Peter Fox and appears in the Saddleworth Historical Society Bulleting Volume 49 No. 4 p128-129. The locomotive was nicknamed the Dobcross Donkey and arrived at the Works in 1931 to replace horse-drawn shunting operations. Parts of the locomotive seem to have been in use in the years prior to the purchase on 3ft gauge lines in Ireland (the Clogher Valley Railway and the Donegal Railways). 
There is an excellent monochrome image in the Brian Hilton collection which looks North from the footbridge on the 25″ OS map extract above and visible in the image below and shows the junction between the Works siding and the mainline and provides an excellent view of Ward Lane Bridge and has a hint of the pointwork of Diggle Junction beyond. Not included here for copyright reasons. 
Diggle Junction was the point at which the Loop joined the main Huddersfield line before passing through Diggle Station and on into Standedge Tunnels. There was a relatively complex series of points which allowed access to the different lines to the North, and into the Works sidings to the South. Ward Lane spanned the tracks at this point. Diggle Junction was the scene of a significant rail accident in 1923, one picture of the aftermath of the accident is shown above. Full details of the accident can be found in an article by Alan Schofield in the Saddleworth Historical Society Bulletin Volume 43 No. 1 of Spring 2013. 
Warth Mill was constructed in 1919 in its present form, although there was an earlier, smaller mill on the site beforehand. It was acquired by the Tanner family in 1928 and in its prime was producing 50 tons of tyre fabric for the automotive industry every week. The building is now in use by a range of small industrial concerns – a café and a catering school are of most interest to me! Until recently Wooly Knits had a factory shop int he building, 
Kiln Green Mill was a Works that produced Ceramyl. It is marked as such on the 25″ OS Map from the turn of the 20th century. Ceramyl appears to be a hard synthetic product used in bathroom fittings – mainly basins and baths. Most modern references to the product on the internet are from Europe or North America. The word does not appear in the majority of on-line English dictionaries, but it was clearly being produced in Kiln Green early in the 20th century.
Diggle Station sat at the mouth of the Standedge Tunnels. 4 tracks ran through the Pennine Hills in Tunnel between Diggle and Marsden in West Yorkshire. The first tunnel was completed in 1848 and was large enough for just one railway track. The second was completed in 1871 and was also single-bore. The third tunnel was large enough for two tracks and was completed in 1894. It is the double-track tunnel which remains open in the early 21st century. 
Diggle Station was “opened in 1849 along with the first rail tunnel and closed to passenger traffic in 1968. The station features on the Diggle Community Association Website. 
In its heyday, the station had platforms serving all four lines but little trace remains of it today—all of the buildings and much of platforms having been demolished.” 
The next two monochrome photographs were carried by the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook group. They show trains leaving two of the different tunnel bores, with the third bore visible in the first of the two images.
The next sequence of photographs were taken in April 2021 and show the condition of the station site in the 21st century. The first three pictures are from Google Streetview. The subsequent images are my own photographs.
- https://maps.nls.uk, accessed on 4th April 2021.
- https://www.timepix.uk/Collection-galleries/OS-Revision-Points-in-Greater-Manchester/1940s-1950s-Middleton-Oldham-and-Rochdale/Lees-Grasscroft-and-Greenfield/i-sqpQVTp, accessed on 28th February 2021.
- https://www.timepix.uk/Collection-galleries/OS-Revision-Points-in-Greater-Manchester/1940s-1950s-Middleton-Oldham-and-Rochdale/Lees-Grasscroft-and-Greenfield/i-GB6pX6v, accessed on 28th February 2021.
- https://picclick.co.uk/Greenfield-near-Uppermill-Oldham-Ashway-Gap-352652407476.html, 28th February 2021.
- https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/knoll-mill-wellington-mill-greenfield-july-2019.122608, accessed on 5th April 2021.
- http://disused-stations.org.uk/features/micklehurst_loop/index.shtml, accessed on 25th January 2021.
- https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/threads/wellington-mill-greenfield-oldham.14646, accessed on 5th April 2021.
- http://www.table38.steamrailways.com/rail/Micklehurst/micklehurst.htm, accessed on 24th January 2021.
- Owen Ashmore; The Industrial Archaeology of North-west England; Manchester University Press, 1982.
- https://twitter.com/saddleworthlife/status/805505076685078528/photo/1, accessed on 5th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/414417905268685/photos/a.425457050831437/425457284164747, accessed on 6th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=1618346588372481&set=gm.1320088341664545, accessed on 6th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=843332152540599&set=p.843332152540599&type=3, accessed on 6th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/Greenfieldgoneby.co.uk, accessed on 7th April 2021. There are four images of Chew Valley Road Bridge taken directly from that group. They are:
- https://www.facebook.com/124389994363907/posts/2149890145147205/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 7th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/124389994363907/posts/2170281923108027/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 7th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/124389994363907/posts/2149889381813948/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 7th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/124389994363907/posts/2182892861846933/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 7th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1741606352549827&id=414417905268685, accessed on 6th April 2021.
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- https://www.facebook.com/414417905268685/posts/3690399224337187/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 7th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/414417905268685/posts/3826630547380720/?sfnsn=scwspmo, accessed on 8th April 2021.
- http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/u/uppermill, accessed on 9th April 2021.
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- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mills_in_Saddleworth, accessed on 9th April 2021.
- https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/1891_Cotton_Mills_in_Uppermill_and_Greenfield, accessed on 9th April 2021.
- https://www.saddleworthmuseum.co.uk, accessed on 9th April 2021.
- https://www.facebook.com/414417905268685/photos/a.422158627827946/424481954262280, accessed on 9th April 2021.
- https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101068129-ryefields-and-ryefields-cottage-saddleworth#.YHLlquhKiUk, accessed on 11th April 2021.
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- See, for example, https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/butterhouse-railway-tunnel-saddleworth-28-04-2015.96108, accessed on 11th April 2021.
- https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7836803/Inside-crumbing-British-factory-built-Russian-submarine-parts-Second-World-War.html, accessed on 12th April 2021.
- https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/w-h-shaws-diggle-pallet-works-dobcross-loom-works-a-final-stroll-february-2020.122128, accessed on 12th April 2021.
- https://www.questmedianetwork.co.uk/news/oldham-reporter/demolition-begins-on-pallet-site-for-new-saddleworth-school, accessed on 12th April 2021.
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- https://www.oldham-chronicle.co.uk/news-features/139/main-news/132920/demolition-begins-on-pallet-site-for-new-saddleworth-school, accessed on 12th April 2021.
- https://www.saddleworth-historical-society.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/vol43no1-2.pdf, accessed 1st April 2021.
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- https://hmrs.org.uk/home, accessed on 14th April 2021. Search under Photographs- Collections.
- https://www.saddleworth-historical-society.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SHS-2019-Bulletin-Vol-49-No4i.pdf, accessed on 14th April 2021.
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- http://disused-stations.org.uk/d/diggle/index.shtml, accessed on 14th April 2021.
- Provided under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Warth_Mill_Diggle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_433985.jpg, accessed on 14th May 2021.
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- I know that this image came from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group but I did not record the link.
- https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1313967991980334&id=414417905268685, accessed on 15th April 2021.
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- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diggle_railway_station#/media/File:Railway_accident_at_Diggle,_Yorkshire_in_1923.png, accessed on 16th April 2021.
- http://www.digglevillage.org.uk/diggle-village/village/canal, accessed on 16th April 2021.
- I know that this image came from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group but I did not record the link.
- https://www.facebook.com/414417905268685/photos/a.414418885268587/1374937455883387, accessed on 14th April 2021.
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