The Society was formed in 2003 by a small group of local enthusiasts with the sole purpose of organising a celebration of the building of the Marple Flight of locks in 2004. The Bicentennary Locks festival in July 2004 was a great success with Samuel Oldknow visiting to travel down to the Memorial Park on the horse drawn boat, Maria, which fittingly was built at Jinks Boatyard at Top Lock, Marple. The purpose of the festival, as well as commemorating the building of the locks, was to showcase what Marple had to offer and what a great place it was to live in. Around 40 societies set up their gazebos in the park, guided walks took people down the flight for a history trip, there were boat trips and canoeing taster sessions at the top lock, hundreds of people attended and the whole day was regarded as a great success – so much so by public demand, another 6 festivals were held, the last one in 2015.
Samuel Oldknow and his workers at the first Marple Locks Festival in 2004
As well as organising the festivals, a small band of members worked on maintaining the locks, working closely with British Waterways who provided all the necessary materials. The Society was one of the first volunteer groups to attain self-supervision status and eventually ‘adopted’ the lock flight. Twice a year open meetings were held with speakers on relevant topics such as canal restoration in other areas.
The society also created a Locks Trail guide and local primary schools benefited from one of the member’s experience who produced an education pack on the local canals. These continue to be available today through The Marple Website's canals and waterways pages.
Sue Day and horse boat Maria arrive for the last Festival in 2015
Sadly, it became more and more difficult to organise the festivals and to find people to run the Society so Marple Locks Heritage Society was disbanded in 2016, leaving a core of people working on Task Days with Canal & River Trust, (ex British Waterways) maintaining the lock flight. This new group is called Marple Locks Group and they have a Community Page here too.