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Shropshire Union Canal

Inland Waterways Feature

Narrowboat on Chirk Aqueduct

Background

The Shropshire Union Canal stretches 107 km from the English Midlands town of Wolverhampton to the River Mersey at Ellesmere.

The "Shroppie" is in fact a collection of canals built at different dates by various companies. The first, the Chester Canal was built from The River Dee in Chester to the Cheshire salt town of Nantwich and was completed in 1779.

Ellesmere Port locks

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

In 1796, the Ellesmere Canal joined the Chester Canal to Ellesmere Port, on the opposite side of the Mersey estuary to Liverpool. The port is now a thriving Boat Museum.

By 1806, this canal served Ellesmere and reached as far as Llantisilio near the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen in North Wales, passing over Thomas Telford's magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Derelict Frankton locks

A separate company built the Montgomery Canal from Newtown in mid-Wales to Frankton near Ellesmere in 1821.

Unfortunately this canal and locks were abandoned in 1936 and lay neglected for many years, slowly decaying and falling into ruin.

A branch to join the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich was finished in 1833. So far, there was no direct connection to the south, then in 1835, the Birmingham and Liverpool junction Canal (B&LJC) was completed from Autherley near Wolverhampton to Nantwich.

Opening lock gate paddles

Thomas Telford

The B&LJC was civil engineer Thomas Telford's last canal.

The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company took over the Ellesmere canal and the B&LJC in 1845 and ran it successful throughout the mid 19th century, particularly carrying cargo between the Midlands and the Mersey.

As the various railway companies merged or were taken over, the canal side of their businesses tended to be run down in favour of rail traffic, by the early 20th century many parts of the Shropshire Union Canal had become silted up or choked with weeds. Commercial traffic on the system was severely reduced and almost non-existant.

Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct

Today, the Shropshire Union is very popular for leisure cruising and the Montgomery canal which became derelict in 1936 is being restored for navigation.

The production Telford's Last Canal, produced in association with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust describes the building of the Canal.

It was I.A.Recordings third industrial archaeology project and the first production to be released.

 

The images on this page are taken from the video - Telford's Last Canal

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 Copyright © I.A.Recordings, Last modified: 19 June, 2017