Rudyard Lake is a Staffordshire beauty spot with an amazing past as one of the early examples of mass tourism in the UK. Known as “the Blackpool of the Potteries” the two and a half mile long lake is situated near Leek on the Staffordshire-Cheshire border. Designed by engineer John Rennie, work started in 1797 with completion 3 years later to supply water for the expanding canal system, a vital artery for the industrial revolution. It still supplies this water today under the management of The Canal & River Trust. The arrival of the North Staffordshire Railway in 1849 and excursion trains from Manchester and the Potteries led to it becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations of the time.
Up to 20, 000 people a day would visit to watch cutting edge spectacles and incredible feats including Captain Webb who hosted a “Grand Aquatic Fete” in 1877 to demonstrate his prowess in being the first person to swim the channel and Carlos Trower, “The African Blondin” a celebrated tightrope walker who walked across the lake a hundred feet above the water in 1864 and 1878, drawing huge crowds 30 years after the abolition of slavery in the UK. Visitors to the lake included John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Macdonald who named their son Rudyard Kipling after the beauty spot where they first met.
In the months leading up to a Day at the Lake, we’ll be telling some of these incredible stories in more details, so watch this space.