Exploring Telford

The Old Canal System

Site contents © Richard Foxcroft 1996-2002

Wappenshall Junction to Norbury

This length of the canal was built in 1835 to connect the Telford - Shrewsbury canal to the main Shropshire Union canal at Norbury Junction east of Newport. By the late 1930s it was becoming disused, and in 1944 it was abandoned. The whole is shown on my 1921 OS map.

Because, with the Wappenshall to Shrewsbury section, it is not strictly in Telford, I have not attempted the same level of detail, and have treated the whole sixteen-mile stretch as one section. Much of the canal has vanished altogether, destroyed as completely in sixty years as the Telford canals were in two hundred; and where it remains it is mostly not possible to walk along it. This, therefore, is a brief account of the route and of such remaining canalside structures as I have been able to find.

The junction lies behind the village of Wappenshall, north of Telford. A warehouse still stands, seen here from the wharf with the Trench arm on the left. A water-gate by which boats could enter the warehouse can be seen below the projecting section on the left. There is also a fine "roving" bridge, so constructed that a towing horse could cross the canal without needing to be unhitched, where the towpath changes sides. I have seen only two of these in this area, here and at Newport. This latter is the finer example, superior to the Newport one in having no corners on the stonework on which the rope might catch.

This branch of the canal has been levelled to form a yard for lorries, after which, although it is on private land and cannot be reached, its course can be discerned across the gardens, and up a lane at the east end of the village the ditch can be seen, although the bridge there is gone. The names of the older houses tell their own story - Wharf House, Bridge House, Old Mill Cottage; and where the road has been realigned, the old bridge (another pic) over the Trench arm stands in the garden of Wharf House. The house itself is modern, and stands on the wharf. The line of the canal has become its lawn, whilst the deep drain at the end of the garden is a realignment.

Apart from a remnant in use as a slurry pit on a farm, nothing much remains between Wappenshall and Polly's Lock, west of Newport. Some few traces remain down a farm lane on the northern boundary of Preston-upon-the-Weald-Moors (a name necessary to be given in full: there are several Prestons around, not to mention the big town in Lancashire). A mile further on, and reached by the straight lane leading from just south or Kinnersley, stood the junction with the Humber Arm, but only the presence of tracks and ditches, and the alignment on the map, reveals the spot now. Next, passing a little south of Adeney and Bridge Farm parallel to the Strine Brook, the canal reached Polly's Lock.

Newport is proud of its canal history, and over a mile of the canal has been restored as an amenity. There are two locks each side of the town, and a group of three close together in the centre. They have been filled in, except for a culvert, presumably for safety. Two lock cottages, at Polly's Lock and at the first lock west of the town, were built by Telford, the half-octagonal bays unmistakably brothers to some of the toll houses on his London - Holyhead road. A warehouse and the canal basin can also be seen. It is the property of the Council and there is an active Canal Society which preserves it as a refuge for wildlife.

The canal bridge here was rebuilt in 1891, and is the other "roving" bridge on this canal system. Was the Wappenshall bridge rebuilt at about the same time?

The restored section ends at the recent A41 Newport By-pass; but if you brave the crossing of the road and walk up the track opposite, you will find a bridge.

From here, the canal runs south of, and roughly parallel to, the A518 road towards Eccleshall. Below the village of Forton - very attractive once you leave the main road - the canal passes under Skew Bridge, where trees grow in the bridge approaches, and then there is an unusual aqueduct which carries both the canal and the road over the River Meese.

The canal beyond here is distinct, but dry, and the towpath is in use as a footpath, which I did not have time to follow through. Trees grow in the bridge entries.

At Sutton Bank Farm, south of Sutton village, there is water, and the canal is in good condition, and used for angling. The farmer told me that at one time, Gnosall Parish Council was demolishing the bridges - appalling vandalism - but the then tenant of Sutton Bank commendably refused to allow it to be done. (Although the farmer is not wholly in agreement, as the bridge is now a protected monument, and he finds himself liable for its upkeep!)

He told me, also, that this canal was always weedy and leaky. Apparently, an old boatman still living nearby used to bring bricks, four thousand at a time, from Stafford, but had to leave a thousand on the towpath at Norbury to lighten the boat. Every fourth trip, of course, he only had to go back that far for his next three thousand.

There were sixteen locks in the two miles between here and Norbury. The lock-keeper's cottage at the first of the sixteen locks was demolished, the garden apparently remaining. I might yet go back to look at it.

There are two bridges close together in the fields east of Sutton - you can see each from the other, although the far one is hard to discern in the photo, at the end of the hedge on the right - and there are some small traces of there having been a canal.

At Oulton Lock Cottage, a bridge can be seen across a field with no traces whatever on it; but beyond the bridge there are very derelict remains of the canal and of one of the locks. These seem to have been gated locks of the common type, not the guillotine locks found between Wappenshall and Trench.

At Parton's Bridge, another lock can be seen. Quite possibly there are several others, inaccessible amid the undergrowth (despite the presence of a path on my map) between here and Norbury.

The canal ends at Norbury Junction, where a boat house straddles it a hundred yards from the junction. What a pity that it was allowed to disappear: the busy waterway of the main Shropshire Union, where leisure has replaced commerce as the raison d'etre, shows what might have been.

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Trench to Wappenshall
Wappenshall to Shrewsbury
Humber Arm
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Exploring Telford