Manchester was a major centre of transport innovation in industrial Britain. Research has focused on the pioneer transport links with Liverpool, neglecting the town's extensive eastern canal network. This article analyses the commodities conveyed from 1800 to 1855 on the Rochdale Canal, the most heavily trafficked of the town's eastern waterways. It highlights the canal's importance in carrying corn to feed Lancashire's industrial work force as well as its role in transporting cotton textiles to east-coast ports and in supplying Manchester with building materials. The article also analyses the types of firm carrying goods on the canal and assesses the canal's importance in relation to Manchester's other major water routes.