Report - - Cornbrook Manchester - Rebooted, May 2019. | UK Draining Forum | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Cornbrook Manchester - Rebooted, May 2019.


Staff member

Cornbrook Manchester - Rebooted, May 2019.

The Cornbrook drains the urban area South of the River Medlock, it rises in Gorton and follows a tortous path through Manchester's Southern 'inner city' suburbs and empties itself into the Manchester Ship Canal at the Pomona Docks

@6.8km in length it's one hell of an undertaking, all told it's not that bad really, just requires some stamina and a genuine interest in drains in order to stay focused

I've always had a fascination with "lost/forgotten/hidden Rivers" or whatever you want to label them as.. (Culverts)

Bread and butter for me this sort of stuff; The doing is one thing but uncovering the history and burying heads in old maps and documents is equally as interesting

I've had equal fascination with Cornbrook for many years now, it being the only ancient buried water course in Manchester you can realistically traverse end to end, just not with ease

Almost a decade ago now I'd listened to tales of how hardcore this drain was and from the few who'd tackled it in one sitting of how ridiculously confined it is for the majority of it's course

The key things I picked out were "Hardest drain in Manchester" "Majority 4ft" "Needs a spine of steel" "It makes men out of boy's" etc etc

I long deliberated if it was worth the effort as most people have tackled it in 2 or 3 sittings

The main issue with this lot is access, getting in is one thing, getting out not so and quite a bit has changed also within the past decade making it less user friendly so to speak

There was only one thing for it, man up and tackle it in one hit, and in June 2010 myself and Thompski did just that.

It took us about 10+ hours, which included having to actually traverse almost half way back downstream before we could find a suitable exit

All I remember it was gone 5am and the fresh City air was a welcome blast as we walked across town back to the car in dire need of some Zzz

The majority of it is indeed between 4-5ft with the occasional sizeable offering, it's a tricky fucker from start to finish, although I'd no longer say it's particularly that hard having since encountered much worse

You DO however need a spine of steel, I just about had one when I first tackled this lot, however not a chance I'd be doing it in one undertaking these day's!

All that aside, it's well worth the effort and one of the best culverts in terms of features I've seen to date

The biggest regret I had was only managing to come away with a handful of usable pics due to the harsh and confined conditions, they didn't really represent the drain for what it's worth

Although I'd resided to the fact I'd rather shit in both hands and clap than re-visit this place ever again that night, the very thought of wanting to do just that has since played on my mind
I decided a good few years back it might be a good idea to re-visit Cornbrook and try and document it a bit better

Nothing ever materialised and when I did finally get my arse in gear, it actually took a good chunk of time putting this lot together among other distractions

In April 2017 I set the ball rolling and nipped down to the outfall section one afternoon for some better pictures which I left out of the original thread at the time as they were cack!

After managing some better pics I realised a solo mission for the rest of it wasn't practical and far from ideal should one get into difficulty

@Nickindroy was soon enlisted to partake in further outings in an attempt to jointly stick something a bit more useful together for future reference

One thing that we did notice 2 years ago and to date, is that there is no longer any flow from approx half way downstream and was eager to see what the cause was..

I'd normally document something like this from upstream to downstream, but it's more easily traversed the opposite way around and for the pics to make more sense here

The outfall is hidden away over on scrub land of the old Pomona docks, although by the time you read this lot, the whole area will have been re-developed :rolleyes:

Previously Pomona Island has been described as a "hidden gem" I beg to differ lol

It's been 'scene' to a couple of murderous activities, littered with bag heads paraphernalia and a welcomed fly tipping spot among other illegal activities for years now; not somewhere you'd go for a Sunday stroll unless you're into drains

The final stretch of the Cornbrook is not so surprisingly a 2.7m concrete box which runs a good 160m from a point beyond the Bridgewater Canal after the sump setup the other side to the Manchester Ship Canal

I guess the culvert renovation work was completed sometime in the 80's looking at it, at a point when they probably had purpose for the land, however it's been well and truly abandoned since the 1970's when it fell into disrepair until recently

Let's get down to business, starting with a couple of pics taken one spring evening many moons ago standing thigh deep as the water laps in at the point the Cornbrook outfalls into the Ship Canal

Heading upstream it's 80's concrete, implemented during extension/renovation works of the Cornbrook

A keen eye might wonder where the flow's at, I'll come back to that later on

The situation changes a little as the Cornbrook is culverted under the Bridgewater canal

Concrete quickly changes back to the original brick vaulted setup, below a pic looking upstream as it heads under said canal

You have to practically crawl up here for a closer look under the canal

You can't go any further here as the culvert utilises a drain sump which allows the Cornbrook to flow under the Bridgewater canal from the upstream

The Cornbrook was found too high to pass under the Bridgewater Canal during construction at it's natural level.

James Brindley devised a weir over which the stream fell into a large basin from whence it flowed into a smaller one open at the bottom.

From this point a culvert, constructed under the bed of the canal, carries the waters to a well on the further side, where they rose up again to their natural level and flowed away in their proper channel.

Next up is the original outfall before the Cornbrook was carried under the Bridgewater Canal in the mid 18th century via Brindley's basin and siphon

It's a muddy, slutch filled shit hole, the Cornbrook itself is a proper back breaker from the outset, I had to remind myself on numerous occasions why I was bothering with this place again

Even stung my arms on the nettles 'getting back in' and dropped my GoPro into the bubbling mire as well for my troubles, surely there's better things to be doing than poking about in old rivers

Once in it quickly heads under the old railway viaduct which serves the Metrolink and National Rail that runs above Cornbrook Road

More crawling ensued

Pic c/o Nick

Around 60m in it's a bent double affair as it heads towards the viaduct

It eventually curves underneath one of the railway arches (just not the one everyone claims, it's actually the R.H.S of the bridge)

Here is a pic looking back the other way, you can make out the arch as it passes below

From the other side, the culvert runs below the viaduct parallel to Cornbrook Road via a sizeable brick horseshoe

It's a good 30m+ before it reaches the other side of the viaduct and as you can see quickly begins to shrink in size

Gotta take advantage of a back stretch where you can with this lot

A 5ft brick arch now presents itself and as you can see from the following couple of pics, the next lot has been well and truly renovated

Obviously I've been here before, and let me tell you the next 50m or so is grimmer than grim..

The pic below makes it look like some kind of illusion, don't be deceived by the mirror like presence, below the surface is the most ridiculous fast sinking silted shitfest I have ever had the mis-fortune to encounter

You simply waste a lot of time going nowhere here, getting stuck with every move with a high concentration of methane bubbling around you

Silly fucking hobby!

Pic c/o Nick

I get a great deal of satisfaction researching this sort of stuff, some of the old pics we sometimes stumble on are priceless

Particularly I love this pic from 1961 at a point above ground here, poor old Rover's been pushing up daises almost 60 years

The next 120m comprises of a 4.5ft concrete box which was incorporated at the time they butchered Chester Road and stuck in the Bridgewater Way in the 80's

Eventually the plot thickens so to speak and you can almost walk on water as the deadly silt has become somewhat compacted over the years further upstream

Concrete quickly turns to a sizeable but short stone horseshoe section, the rest of it no doubt demolished with the 80's works

This is looking back downstream

And upstream as it runs below what now marks the end of Chester Road, a pic I took back in 2010 when it actually had some flow in it

*Note the permanent water course that runs in from the 300mm vitrified clay pipe here, it's the only thing contributing to the downstream flow these days

From here it quickly turns to stooping height as stone horseshoe transitions to 5ft brick arch which has since been spraycreted for the next 50m as it gently curves towards Cornbrook Park Road

The land and the entire street, has since been claimed by a new build and by the time you read this I expect it's vanished from the maps altogether

It then runs parallel to Virgil Street behind a once 80's built factory, more recently home to the Happy Clappers of a Sunday as seen on Google, before it was recently demolished

It's followed up in quick succession by a further stoopy corrugated section and a re-enforced segmented section for the next 130m ahead of playing fields located off City Road

Pic c/o Nick

Beyond the concrete, it opens up to a good 10ft brick horseshoe section; The original stone kerb lining before the Cornbrook was culverted can still be seen from the 1800's

A further 80m and you can see the transition from brick back down to 5ft spraycreted arch as it bears South below City Road

From here, it's approx 60m of spraycreted brick before this stone arch section presents itself which runs towards Stretford Road

Also note the lack of flow

Further up the stoopy spraycrete returns as it runs towards Cornbrook Grove, ahead a rare glimpse of a manhole as they really are few and far between for the majority of it's course

A back stretch was short lived and was quickly back to the now familiar less than 5ft spraycreted arch:banghead

Along the way we pass another manhole just before it runs under Fahey & Sons

Beyond which I managed to grab a phone pic looking up through a small drainage iron grid in the middle of their yard and confirm the location.. so far so good

By now we'd stooped a good 300m through boring concrete before anything of note presented itself

Here, the brook takes a significant change in direction at a point South of Hulme

If you look close enough you can just about see some of the original brickwork from when it was originally culverted

Around the corner it runs straight a good 230m as we ducked below Cornbrook Road and under a park of sorts which was once a continuation of the original road which has long been demolished

The culvert still follows the original course as seen as far back as the 1845 map

One things noticeable here and that's a distinct lack of water!

It's bone bloody dry, 2 years and no regular flow in here, what's going on ?

The next 150m or so get's a bit tough but seemed a lot easier than the first time around, maybe I'm just better accustomed to this shit these day's IDK

Crown height is reduced to 4ft through mainly a brick arch as it twists and turns with some more spraycrete and a flat top section thrown in as a back stretch bonus as it heads a painful journey towards Moss Side

I can easily justify why I didn't get many pics 9 years ago when I first tackled this lot, it didn't help matters with a reasonable flow back then either

I like knowing where I'm positioned below ground with these projects, it's difficult to work out at times despite walking the line above ground a good few times now over the years

It's fair to say this is somewhere around the edge of the park as it runs below Maher Gardens

The endless stooping continues for what seems like an age, I also chose to wear chesties just like a decade ago due to the varying conditions

On what was again one the hottest day's of the year I was proper melting by this point, my spine wasn't coping well and my quads were burning, forget PureGym get down Cornbrook!

Luckily a back stretch finally presented itself via a manhole that drops through the crown, looks a bit familiar this..

Apologies for the phone pic, if it's shite, black & white

That's right, I remember having to fetch Lidbuster 3000 out to shift the hefty iron bugger a good few years back, nobody in Moss Side bothers you with one of these ;)

From here, it's 4ft ankle and back breaking graft, why anyone would want to go down here is beyond me

It does occasionally redeem itself

..But not for long

It's a relentless slog for a further 160m by this point, at least it's brick not concrete

We're now over in Moss Side, unfortunately this is where a good chunk of the Cornbrook has been proper bastardised

It's worth noting we'd traversed over 2km by this point below ground and only completed around 1/3 of the Cornbrook

It's once again 'shoe-horned' into a 14ft rectangular concrete box

That's the good news, as you're only afforded 4.5ft standing height for the next 1.04km until well past the brewery

The concrete box runs approx 330m to a point near to Radnor Street which was the original course of the Cornbrook before it was culverted

I wasn't looking forward to being re-united with this lot, at least Nick's had a dose of bent double down here now :p

Here, the culvert is divided for a further 230m via twin 4ft arches as it curves below Princess Road and the goods yard of the brewery

Looking back downstream

The other side of the split and it's back to a 5.5ft concrete box

60m further upstream and it changes to rectangular brick flat top

A notable feature here, is the culverted "Rusholme Brook" (sic) as it enters on the R.H.S of the culvert, again no flow..

Rush Brook, sometimes confusingly called the Rushholme Brook, was an ancient feature which separated the old townships of Moss Side from Chorlton-upon-Medlock

'The low lying meadow of the Rush stream' It may even have given Rusholme it's name

In the City Engineer's Department, the Rush Brook is called Malkin Brook, but no further evidence for this name can be offered

As near as can be ascertained, the source of the Rush Brook was the lake at Belle Vue as per 1820 mappage

It's 4.5-5ft variable height rectangular flat top now for a good 300m as it runs up Greenhey's Lane

The ceiling of a more noticeable age for the first half of it as the concrete is crumbing and the metalwork rusting away and bent out of shape

Eventually it changes to a 4.5ft brick arch for approx 30m as it cuts across Boundary Road, you can see the transition below

In turn, it opens up briefly to a 6ft arch, another welcome back stretch for around 10m

Looking upstream a noticeable curve as it continues up Boundary Road and heads under Coupland Street

Beyond the curve, it's back to rectangular brick for a further 15m, it's full of some pretty grim standing water here despite appearances

Ahead, another shape changer in the form of a 6ft arch, again you can see the transition in the below pic

It now heads up to and under the existing Trinity complex through a mixture of low (4ft) brick arch and some concreted components for around 230m

With no respite in sight, the culvert takes a significant change in direction as a noticeable dog leg comes into view as it passes the East elevation of the new sixth form college

Not only did I manage to get a decent GPS fix here to confirm the line as Nick's Android toy couldn't find it's arse with both hands, he did manage a pic of the signage through the split lid though :p

It's a bit easier on the spine as it continues upstream via a 5ft arch for 80m before the invert changes, affording us 6ft

There's a bit of a dip and and some standing water with a muddy bank for about 20m and then it's fairly spotless and bone dry for the next 100m

We're now below the University of Manchester and just over half way, we've travelled a good 3.5km upstream

From this point, the Cornbrook has been further bastardised and once again 'shoe-horned' into a rectangular concrete box with a neck busting height of 4ft

I've been here before and know only too well what being bent double for the next 1.5km in a back breaking concrete box looks and feels like, it's not happening again!

Out of the nearest lift-able lid it was, not a chance I was enduring that lot again, EVER! I said it a decade ago and nothings changed

It continues to wind it's way under the University of Manchester, before eventually passing below Upper Brook Street and heading towards Ardwick on a course parallel to, and crossing Brunswick Street

Here's what you can look forward to for a very very long and arduous journey before it changes back to something a bit more forgiving

Dat "never again" 4ft concrete box that runs to Ardwick :banghead

We first noticed the lack of flow here in 2017 when I stuck my beak back in below Brunswick Street

Pic c/o Nick

It was decided in 2010 we'd never traverse this 1.5km of 4ft spine killer ever again

Eventually the Cornbrook reaches Stockport Road, the concrete ends with a bit of a brick/spraycrete/stone mashup

Looking back downstream

The stone arch continues for around 25m, once again it's bone dry as there's still no sign of any flow at around 4.8km upstream

Here, another construction change from stone back to brickwork as it curves below the streets

The standing water was fairly grim here, a knee deep concoction of toil and trouble bubbling around us, surprisingly the meter didn't bat an eye lid

Now then, throughout this documentary I've mentioned a good few times about the distinct lack of flow down here, we'd had numerous discussions about probable causes

The further we walked there was just no sign of the regular flow of the Cornbrook, despite it still running freely at the infall

We surmised some kind of collapse or sinkhole would be the most likely outcome, turns out we were right!

Another soft curve and the Cornbrook runs through a 5ft brick arch for the next 200m or so past the Apollo

Further up I could hear the sound of running water, not unusual for a culvert as a rule, but see below..

Here, a pic looking back downstream, you can see the first of not ONE, but TWO collapses

2 sinkholes have appeared approx 15m apart, as the sandstone has eroded away and the brickwork lining the culvert wall has collapsed allowing the watercourse to drain away

*EDIT we've since been back for some better pics and to work out what's gone wrong here

The entire section here is a bit ropey

I've duly reported this lot as it's an accident waiting to happen during a major storm event and needs immediate attention

As we continued upstream, crown height is reduced to under 5ft, largely due to the amount of rubble that's washed down here over the years

Thankfully it’s 6ft further up as my back needed a break

A once brick horseshoe has since been spraycreted here

The first 100m is fairly straight

A significant curve further up as it heads towards Hyde Road

It crosses below Hyde Road as it winds it's way to the bus depot

Eventually the spraycrete ends, revealing the much older brick horseshoe beyond

It reverts back to stooping as it changes into a much lower brick horseshoe for a considerable distance between 4.5ft- 5ft in height

Parts of the invert appear to have collapsed in places, leaving thigh deep pits to catch you out

Much further upstream is a festering deep silted section, with the 'bunker' style side entry

I decided to take the wrong route through it and ended up soaked and filthy!

After this lot, another significant curve, with quite a cool shape change including a paved floor and low stone roof as some cast iron pipes cross overhead

It's quite slippery for around 40m as we ducked under the pipes and out the other side

Here it opens up to a sizable brick arch as it twists and turns around the bus depot and beyond for an unknown distance

A good few hundred meters upstream, the familiar 8ft changes to at least a 7ft red brick arch section with some pretty rad calcite formations

Once again the water quality is questionable here as we traverse a straight line for a good 200m before any further changes

Ahead, a rectangular brick section as the Cornbrook splits and passes below the railway lines

We had to negotiate another deep shitty bit before reaching said split though

Here, a pic looking back downstream from where we'd come from

Beyond the railway lines, we headed down the right split as I always found it to be less silted than the other side as there is little flow coming from the L.H.S which I never queried until recently

Part way in, there's a cut away within the dividing wall, here you can see 2 distinct watercourses join

The R.H.S is the Cornbrook, the L.H.S, after some research is indeed the Black Brook

Before the bus depot is reached, it is joined by the Black Brook from the North, which comprises two main streams

Black Brook goes under the railway sidings to join the Cornbrook

Black Brook

Beyond the railway it runs under a shipping yard and then some new houses, before it's back to 4ft brick with some re-enforcement thrown in,

It used to be collapsed here and @siologen can probably better describe the crawl through it all better than I can..

From here it heads an Easterly course below West Gorton, somewhere where @siologen dropped in all those years ago and first reported how much of a bitch this thing was

There was an odd smell and the quality of the water upstream was questionable for a brook, the meter wasn't happy either

It's 4ft here just for a change :rolleyes: and littered with debris, as is a good chunk of it's upstream course, it sure does punish the ankles

A bit further up and it's around 5ft, the original invert is swamped with rubble for a good 200m, I'd really had enough by this point!

“Where’s all these f*****g bricks come from” - @Nickindroy

Eventually the situation changes for the better, relief comes in the shape of this 9ft rectangular brick flat top section, if only it had been this height all the way through

Height is soon reduced to 5.5ft re-enforced brick arch by means of spraycrete for around 20m, as it runs under an industrial yard (you can see evidence of where the repair took place on Google maps)

One can only assume the constant traffic from the heavy industry above had somehow stressed the existing brickwork to warrant strengthening works

Here a pic from the other side, looking back downstream

From here it's back to the 9ft rectangular brick box for around 60m, ahead of another shape change

I could also hear some noise in the distance, it sounded like a cascade of water, however we were still a good distance from the infall at this point

Turns out the source of all the racket was a small weir, I was that knackered and we'd been underground that long almost a decade ago, I have no memory of it at all

Eventually it's back to 5.5ft brick arch for approx 15m as it curves around on a final heading towards the infall which is still a few hundred meters upstream from here

The 3ft RBP on the right leads to a CSO

Looking back downstream

Beyond which, a 5ft brick arch continues upstream

Approx 80m further up and it's yet another shape changer, this time in the form of a tall vaulted brick box

This was one of the last sections to be culverted

Looking back downstream

Re-development work has taken place since we originally walked under here all them years ago, and now Panavision own much of the land above

Hence the subsequent modifications and bracing that can be seen here ^

The 'box' section is quite cool within it's own right as it's a bit less molested looking for the next 100m or so heading upstream

Looking back downstream

Construction changes once again to a much more modern brick affair as it twists & turns for approx 120m below G D Yarns, heading a course South East of Gorton Road

This is the final straight before another direction change as it heads from underneath the factory towards Pottery Lane

The brick abruptly switches to concrete now as it curves towards the infall which isn’t too far away

It's absolutely minging in here, as there is little fall on the downstream line, it's like they just ignored the poor surveyors' drawings and chucked a concrete box in regardless!

Talk about banging your head against a brick wall, except it being concrete ffs!, jesus I really hate this stuff with a passion :banghead

Just when the end is almost within touching distance the Cornbrook has one last ball ache of a trick up it’s sleeve.. a 3ft soaker!!

Here, a low arch conveys the Cornbrook underneath a Cash & Carry of all places ahead of Pottery Lane

It's pack the shit away o'clock and conkers deep time in festering Manchester waters for one last time, except you have to double back through for you're troubles as there's no through trip where Cornbrook is concerned

The next pic is from the other side and looking back downstream reflecting on whence we'd just emerged

Without anything for scale here, it's difficult to depict the degree of awkwardness this bloody drain presents at times

As mentioned much earlier in the thread, it averages about 4ft for the most part and this dilapidated brick section with the 'low arch' beyond is around 3ft including the rubble that has since filled the original invert

Water quality is also notably poor here too, the aroma is consistent with some chemical leak mixed with fresh however in the absence of any nearby factories that once dominated the area I suspect a leaky sewer somewhere beyond the infall

Looking back downstream

Finally a back stretch, albeit 5ft of concrete

As you can see this entire stretch has since been modified when Pottery Lane (a major North-South arterial route) was constructed in the 80's

The original course of the Cornbrook has once again been shoe-horned into a concrete box for approx 70m and shifted ever so slightly to accommodate the new highway

Last but not least, 6.8km from the outfall down at Pomona Docks is this clogged up impassable debris screened infall over in Gorton

Pic c/o Nick

Once dominated by the textile industry here, so much has changed over the past Century, I'd love to be able to wind the clock back with this lot..

Now get me outta here!

I purchased some celebratory cans from the local carry out upon completion
..Unfortunately they decided to piss themselves all over the back of Nick's van as he treated the journey out of Moss Side where we exited like some kind of Grand Theft Auto shizzle :brew


A Porky Prime Cut
Regular User
You do know my two herniated disks are your fault. ;) Wouldn't have missed it!


subterranean explorer
Regular User
excellent thread & photographs, :thumb
if I was doing this lot i'd bring an osteopath with me.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
If I've seen a better and more comprehensive draining report than that I can't remember. Superbly lit pictures.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Great report mate. Absolute belter. Brilliant pics too. My back hurts looking at some of that though.

mockney reject

Chief Goon
Staff member

Really interesting and some great pics there Ojay

Seems there’s a lot going on under Manchester


Loyal to the Drain
Regular User
Thanks for such a thorough and detailed report, both in terms of history and photographs to accompany it. :thumb
The Cornbrook is what got me interested in Drains 12 years ago when I stumbled upon pictures of it from @siologen I believe!
Ironically, having explored lots of drains, culverts and bits of Manchester's sewers, I have never set foot in the Medlock apart from that concrete box section on Pomona Island.
There's no way in hell my back would tolerate doing a quarter of the Cornbrook, so sitting here looking at all those nice pictures without having to visit the chiropractor suits me nicely :)

I bought this book all those years back and the front cover shows a section of the Cornbrook close to the University in the region of Oxford Road.



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
I remember Siolo giving this one the title "Only the penitent man shall pass!" or something similar, Indiana Jones (?) movie reference aside, that bolted together section makes it look very stoopy, fair play to you and any other blokes who are willing to stoop through this lengthy one!

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