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Marple Aqueduct

Marple, UK

Close view of Marple parapet weaving into the distance

Marple Aqueduct

Marple, UK


Canal and River Trust


2017 - 2018

Structural Engineer



Living Waterways Awards - Heritage & Conservation 2019 (Runner-Up)

Contemporary detailing to enhance a scheduled ancient monument

Marple Aqueduct is a Grade-I Listed structure and Scheduled Ancient Monument in Greater Manchester. The aqueduct was constructed in 1800 and carries the Peak Forest Canal over the River Goyt.

The 112m-long structure consists of three semi-circular masonry arches, supported on stone columns up to 30m above the valley floor. As with most aqueducts in the UK, a parapet was originally provided only on the towpath side, leaving an unprotected drop on the offside.

The brief called for the addition of a parapet that would be visually understated to avoid detracting from the historic structure and it was clear that a pastiche design solution would be inappropriate.

The contemporary design solution consists of a horizontal rail fixed to uniformly spaced vertical posts comprising two legs, one vertical and one raking. Brought to site by canal barge as preassembled units, the parapet was anchored to the existing concrete, with the main base plate hidden under the gravel layer, leaving only intermittent fixings to the aqueduct coping stones. This allowed minimal disturbance of the historic structure and suited the desire for a module-free appearance.

The simple yet finely detailed design was inspired by the concept of weaving, highlighting the aqueduct’s historic relationship to the nearby cotton industry, still seen at Mellor Mill. The vertical black steel posts act as the “warp” wrapped around the horizontal stainless steel “weft”, producing interesting patterns in oblique views. The parapet form, in combination with a carefully developed colour scheme, results in maximum transparency when it is viewed against the sky or from the neighbouring railway bridge.

Looking directly at the parapet from on the Aqueduct looking at bridge, trees and houses behind
Canal boat on Aqueduct and train on Bridge next to Aqueduct with parapet in between
Marple parapet curving into the distance

“Knight Architects fearlessly took on the challenge of designing a bespoke parapet for this iconic structure – skilfully broaching design concepts, providing model prototypes and ultimately presenting an elegant design with a real story to it - which won widespread support and praise”

– Ian Draycott, Canal and River Trust
Ground view looking up at the Aqueduct with the parapet in distant view