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The Restoration of the
Shrewsbury and Newport Canals
History of the Canals
In the area that is now Telford, a number of canals were built to serve the coalfields and ironworks of the area. In 1795 Thomas Telford took over as Engineer of the partially constructed Shrewsbury Canal, which opened two years later. It was 17 miles long and included 11locks, an inclined plane at Trench and tunnel 970 yards long at Berwick. He used this opportunity to erect the first iron aqueduct as a prototype for the much bigger aqueduct he later constructed at Pontcysyllte on the Ellesmere Canal.
The Newport Canal opened in 1835 when a branch of the Shropshire Union Canal was built from Norbury Junction through Newport to connect with the Shrewsbury Canal at Wappenshall. Thus, at the very end of the canal era, Shrewsbury was connected to the national canal network.
Trade eventually declined due to competition from rail and road transport. The last working boats reached Shrewsbury in 1936 and Longdo-upon-Tern in 1939. In 1944, along with many other of the Shropshire Union’s canals, the canal route from Norbury to Shrewsbury was officially abandoned. In the 1960s British Waterways began selling off the land, burying locks, destroying aqueducts and filling in these canals.
BACKGROUND TO THE SNCT
The Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust was formed in 2000 with the objective of re-opening the canals from Shrewsbury through to the Shropshire Union Canal at Norbury Junction.
Thanks to Telford & Wrekin Council’s assistance the Trust achieved a milestone in 2009 when it took over the old warehouses at Wappenshall, the meeting place of the two canals, as its headquarters – this gave the Trust one of its first opportunities to restore a section of canal and put it back into water.
THE BENEFITS OF RESTORATION
The benefits of restoring the Shrewsbury & Newport canals will be extensive and long lasting. They will make a significant contribution to the health, well-being and economy of the area. Independent studies confirm that the restoration will bring real, tangible and sustainable benefits. For example:
Restoration will create a long distance “green” corridor from the junction with the Shropshire Union Canal to Shrewsbury and will open the way for a wide range of leisure activities - boating, angling, walking, cycling, painting, photography, wildlife studies, etc., with all their associated health benefits.
The restoration will be a key focus for investment along the whole length of the canals. It will stimulate regeneration in the communities along its the route, provide favourable conditions for the improvement of brown field sites and give the impetus to new developments.
It is well proven that the re-opening of canals across the UK has resulted in significant local economic growth. The work to re-open the canals will result in major short term employment opportunities. In the longer term it will create a large number of direct and indirect jobs as the towns and villages along the length of the canals benefit from an influx of visitors and the growth of existing and new companies.
THE ROUTE OF THE CANALS
The route of the canals to Shrewsbury begins at Norbury Junction where the Newport Branch leaves the main line of the Shropshire Union Canal. It passes under the A41 Newport by-pass at Meretown and the following one and a half miles of the canal through Newport remains fully in water. By the time it reaches Edgmond the original line of the canals has descended 23 locks from Norbury. Near Lilleshall the Humber Arm ran to Lubstree Wharf, owned by the Duke of Sutherland and used to ship cargoes of pig iron, coal and limestone.
The Newport branch then meets the Shrewsbury Canal at Wappenshall Basin where the Grade 2 listed wharf side warehouses still stand, including a unique building for transferring cargo between the two canals.
At Longdon-upon-Tern is the oldest surviving iron aqueduct in the world which was built by Thomas Telford. Further west at Rodington the route crosses the River Roden and continues through Withington, Upton Magna, Berwick Wharf, Uffington and on to Ditherington, where it is now used as a public footpath. The route comes close to the River Severn at Pimley and terminates in Shrewsbury at the Buttermarket , close to the Flax Mill, the first iron-framed building in the world from which all today’s skyscraper technology was born.
BACKGROUND TO THE S & N CANALS TRUST
The Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust was formed in 2000 with the objective of re-opening the canals from Shrewsbury through to the Shropshire Union Canal at Norbury Junction. The Trust has grown steadily since then and now has a membership of over 1,400 people. Thanks to Telford and Wrekin Council’s assistance, the Trust achieved a milestone in 2009 when it took over the old warehouses at Wappenshall, the meeting place of the two canals, as its headquarters – this gave the Trust one of its first opportunities to restore a section of the canal and put it back into water.
AIMS OF THE TRUST
To protect, conserve and improve the route of the Shrewsbury and Newport canals, and branches, for the benefit of the community and the environment, with the ultimate goal of restoring a continuous navigable waterway linking Norbury Junction to Shrewsbury
OBJECTIVES OF THE TRUST
to convince local authorities, government departments and local organisations of the benefits and feasibility of the proposed restoration
to convince landowners, local commerce and the general public of the merits of restoration
to secure the route of the waterway and adequate water supplies
to develop partnerships with local authorities and other bodies that will facilitate restoration of the canals
to implement an agreed programme for full restoration of the canal and associated buildings
HOW YOU CAN HELP
By its nature the trust relies heavily on volunteers to help achieve its aims. Volunteers are needed for work parties, to man stands at local shows in villages and towns along the line of the canals, to produce our magazine and literature, for research, for fund raising, for lobbying, etc. If this sounds interesting to you, why not join us? Family membership costs only £10/year; individuals can join for just £8.50/year (under 18s £3.50) and Group/Corporate membership is £20/year. For more information and a membership form go to www.sncanal.org.uk or call the Membership Secretary on 01743 761447.
Membership of the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust is open to all. By increasing our membership we add to our authority and influence, which helps to get our voice heard.