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Our guide to the waterways of the UK in detail.

The Shropshire Union Canal.

The Shropshire Union canal as we now it is composed of parts of all three of the four companies which came together as the Shropshire Union. However other sections still exist but are now called the Llangollen canal and the Montgomery canal. What we now as the Shropshire Union is a canal reaching for sixty-six miles through forty-seven locks, some narrow some broad, from the outskirts of Wolverhampton past Nantwich and Chester to the Mersey estuary at Ellsemere Port opposite Liverpool.

The Shropshire Union canal leaves the Staff and Forces at Autherley junction passing through a shallow stop lock. Within a mile it has left the outskirts of Wolverhampton. It ducks under the M54 then over its predecessor the A5 on Stretton Aqueduct. It is straight and level, only one lock, take at Weaton Aston, in the fifteen miles to Norbury junction. It is rural with only the villages of Brewood, Wheaton Aston and Gnosall alongside the canal. There is a rock cutting at Cowley leading to a rock lined tunnel of just 81 yards. Finally there is the great embankment of Shellmore its height much obscured now by the great woods alongside it. At Norbury, where the Shropshire tub boat canal used to drop away to connect to the canals around the rich industrial centre of Coalbrookdale, Coalport and Shrewsbury, the junction can still be see, now it just leads to a dry dock although there is talk of restoring it.

The next twenty miles are more varied. In the next ten miles comes the great steep sided cutting of Grubstreet followed by the embankment at Shebdon with the former Cadbury's milk factory at it end. Finally comes the great rock sided deep cutting of Woodseaves. The canal then drops down to the Cheshire plain. First thirty-three feet through the five Tyrley locks cut out of the rock and going over an embankment at the bottom to Market Drayton wharf. After a couple of miles, passing through the haunted Bretton Wood the canal drops a further thirty-one foot in the five Adderley locks. After just one more mile the canal goes down the fifteen Audlem locks, lowering the canal another 93 feet past the village of Audlem by the Shropie Fly pub with its gift shop and old wharf crane. The last five miles to Nantwih basin have just two locks, those at Hack Green, and finish with the embankment and aqueduct at Nantwich itself.

The nature of the canal now changes since at Nantwich we join what was once the Chester canal. Up till now the canal has been narrow, now it is built to barge standards. It quickly passes Hurleston junction where the Llangollen starts to climb. Then Barbridge junction where a branch goes over to the Trent and Mersey at Middlwich. After five miles it reaches Bunbury where two wide staircase locks start the drop down to Chester. Another four individual locks, one of then a unique iron lock lower us to the Cheshire plain beneath Beeston castle high on its rugged outcrop of rock. It remains on the skyline for visible for many miles. The Cheshire plain is then crossed on an eight mile pound to bring us to the outskirts of Chester. Here five locks lower the canal through the outskirts of Chester. To where the medieval walls with the cathedral tower over you. Reaching the walls the canal follows the moat, and drops down the immense three lock broad staircase at Northgate and then swings into Tower wharf. Here the old Chester canal descends further onto the river Dee.

The Shropshire Union however continues for another eight miles across the Wiral on the level till at Ellesmere Port it meets the River Mersey. Here was one of the great canal ports. Today it is in use as The Boat Museum.


We will be on this canal in 2012 during cruise



Some pictures of this canal?

Autherly to Norbury / Norbury to Nantwich / Barbridge to Chester / Chester to Ellesmere Port / Middlewich branch.


The History of the canal

The Chester canal / The Liverpool & Birmingham Junction. / The Shropshire Union.


Find our information about other canals and rivers on the canal index page.


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