Saddleworth has always been considered a remote and inhospitable terrain and still seems relatively so today. Yet this small assortment of villages has also always been an important stop on routes linking major centres - the battle to find the best way to traverse it has been going on for over 2000 years.

The Roman settlement, still existing as a point of interest in Castleshaw, lay on the Roman military road from Chester to York.

The other early routes were the packhorse roads. These routes kept to the hillsides where possible and only went into the valleys when unavoidable. Many of these convoluted trails still in exist today as roads or tracks.

The turnpike roads, or toll roads, were mostly all in place by the beginning of the 19th century. These provided a network of significant local roads - many of which have remained as the major routes, eg. Uppermill High Street and Standedge pass.

The turnpike roads were also the heyday of the Stagecoach. Several stagecoaches a day would travel to Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, Wakefield and Harrogate. Coaching inns such as The Old Bell, The Junction Inn and the Commercial provided stabling for up to 40 horses, which indicates the vast number of stagecoaches constantly passing through.

Stagecoaches were succeeded by the era of the railways, before the coming of the motor car. Early cars had great difficulty in climbing Saddleworth hills - obviously not a problem nowadays, with sturdy 4x4's a common site around the local roads. Despite the prevalence of the car today, some say things have improved since the 1960s when, with no motorways and dirty fuels, Uppermill High Street would be heavy with polluting smoke.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, opened in 1811, was never a great commercial success despite the engineering feat of constructing the Standedge tunnel. It was expensive to build and rivalled by both other canals and then the railway.

Standedge canal tunnel is 3 ¼ miles long: it took 17 years to build, with gunpowder used for blasting the rock and men working relentlessly by candlelight. It took around an hour and a half to travel through, by means of pushing along the tunnel walls or ceiling with your feet whilst the boat horses were led over the Standedge pass. At its peak the canal was used by up to 30 boats a day.

Goods such as coal, bricks, limestone and corn passed through the tunnel on their way to London, Hull, Leeds and Liverpool and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal remained in use until the end of the 19th century. In recent years the local canal society have worked hard in restoring and re-opening it.

The arrival of the Huddersfield to Manchester railway in 1849 was a great fomenter for change, as were railways everywhere. It not only facilitated the progress of the Industrial Revolution by enabling efficient transportation of goods; but also opened Saddleworth up to the world as locals made trips to Blackpool and North Wales in the traditional August Wakes weeks.

The engineering skill of Saddleworth Viaduct, built in the 1840s, remains a dominant landmark today. By the beginning of the 20th century, Saddleworth had ten stations or halts, including Greenfield, Diggle, Uppermill and Delph, the meandering of the single line affectionately remembered as the ‘Delph Donkey'. By the end of the century all were closed except Greenfield. Most of the original station buildings have been demolished or converted and some of the original local railway line now acts as a bridlepath.

Transport policy is now encouraging use of the railways once more and plans are mooted at times to re-open stations at eg. Diggle, and to extend the new Manchester tram system to Oldham. It is curious to note that plans to build a tram system in Saddleworth first emerged over a hundred years ago in 1899, but still remain untouched to this very day.
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