1766: The idea is first mooted of a canal to link Manchester with the Calder and Hebble Navigation in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

1791: Two surveys by renowned engineer James Brindley were commissioned and rejected. A third by John Rennie assisted by William Crosley actually got things moving.

1794: Opposition from, among others, the Duke of Bridgewater and mill owners concerned about their water supplies overcome and an Act of Parliament allows the canal to be built under Chief Engineer William Jessop.

1798: Rochdale town branch opened, 0.5 miles from Halfpenny Bridge to Richard Street basin.

1799: Some lengths were opened to commercial traffic.

1800: The Ashton Canal opened using the final section of the Rochdale Canal (the Rochdale Nine) to reach Manchester and paying tolls for the privilege.

1804: The canal opens and is an instant success with cargoes of timber, salt, cement, wool, cotton, grain and coal dominating.

1834: A 1.5 mile branch from Castleton to Heywood is opened.

1839: The 0.5-mile long Manchester and Salford junction canal opened in the centre of Manchester allowing Rochdale Canal traffic to reach the River Irwell (and then the Mersey) without having to use the Bridgewater Canal. Its junction on the Irwell allowed traffic from the Manchester, Bury and Bolton canal to link with Rochdale. The link failed to capture trade and three years later was sold to the Mersey and Irwell company which in turn was bought by the Bridgewater Canal in 1845.

1855: Much of the canals success came from its use as a transhipment canal by the Liverpool-Manchester Railway, goods transferring from rail to canal at Sowerby Bridge. The canal was leased to a partnership of four different railways of which the Lancashire and Yorkshire was the biggest shareholder.

1880: Cargo transported was 686,000, an average of 50 boats per day.

1890: The railway lease ended and the Rochdale Canal Company began running its own carrying business with a fleet of 68 boats.

1921: Dwindling profits meant that the Company gave up its carrying business. Cargo was down to 12 boats a day and 180,000 tons a year.

1937: Narrowboat Alice, carrying 20 tons of wire from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester is the last commercial cargo to travel the whole canal.

1952: The Canal Company officially abandoned the through-route across the Pennines, selling off much of the property and leasing reservoirs to local authorities. The link between the Ashton and Bridgewater canals never closed although it was hardly used, especially after the Ashton's closure in 1962.

1972: A massive clean-up of the derelict Ashton and Lower Peak Forest canals leads to their re-opening two years later, bringing leisure traffic back to the Rochdale Nine.

1996: Tuel Lane lock at Sowerby Bridge is opened, re-connecting the Yorkshire end of the canal to the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the national network. As a result 18 miles and 20 locks - from Sowerby Bridge to Littleborough was made navigable.

2000: Ownership of the canal - never nationalised - was transferred to the British Waterways/The Waterways Trust.

2002: Reopening of the remaining 13 miles of canal from Littleborough to Manchester completed.