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SHROPSHIRE CANALS 

  

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Donnington Wood Canal

 

History

 

Miles

Locks

Opened

Closed

Route

7

1767

1904

SJ705125 (Old Yard Junction)

SJ717122 (Lodge Furnaces Wharf)

SJ734163 (Lilleshall South Wharf)

SJ735162 (Lilleshall Central Wharf)

SJ736165 (Lilleshall North Wharf)

SJ739171 (Pitchcroft Wharf)

SJ759166 (Pave Lane Wharf)

 

 

The Donnington Wood Canal was also known as the Marquess of Stafford's Canal and the Duke of Sutherland's Canal.

 

In the 18th Century, Lord Gower owned a number of mines and limestone quarries in East Shropshire, as well as an ironworks.  His brother-in-law was the Duke of Bridgwater, who had constructed the Bridgewater Canal near Manchester in 1761 to bring coal from his mines at Worsley into Manchester.  Realising the benefits a canal would bring, Lord Gower set about creating the Donnington Wood Canal to transport materials between his mines and quarries.  In 1764, he formed the Earl Gower & Company in partnership with John and Thomas Gilbert.  John was land agent to the Duke of Bridgwater and Thomas land agent to Lord Gower.

 

1850

 

The plan was to build a canal between Lord Gower’s coal mines at Donnington Wood and his lime works at Lilleshall, Pitchcroft and Pave Lane. Thomas Telford writing in 1800 said “… This canal was made for the purpose of conveying coals from his Lordship's works at Donnington to his lime-works at Lilleshall and for public sale at the wharf at Pave-lane.”  There was also a brickworks at Pave Lane and no doubt they would need coal for the kilns. It would also be extended to Wrockwardine Wood where a wharf would be created to deliver limestone for the local ironworks, thus cutting out most of the expensive transport route by road.  Work started with just 30 men in February 1765 and was finished by the end of 1767.  When the Donnington Wood Furnaces were opened in 1785, limestone was transported directly there for use as a flux in iron making.  A glass works was opened in Donnington Wood in 1792 and this also used limestone delivered via the canal. When the Old Lodge Furnaces opened in 1825, a short connecting arm was made to the main canal. 

 

Old Lodge Furnaces

 

The main section of the canal was on the level and did not need any locks, being fed by water from small streams along the route and water pumped out of the mines.  Wikipedia claims that water for the canal was supplied by Steven's Water Engine Pit, which pumped water from the mines until its demise in 1928, but it is not known where this is.

 

 

On the branch canal to Pitchcroft, however, there was a descent of 35ft and there were 7 small locks on this section.  One other problem they faced was the difference in height of 43ft between the main canal and Lilleshall limeworks.  Rather than build a series of locks, a tunnel was driven from the lower level at Hugh's Bridge and two parallel connecting shafts sunk next to the main canal.  Material was raised and lowered in crates via the shafts, heavier crates of coal going down pulling up lighter crates of limestone in the other shaft.  This system was inefficient and slow, so in 1797 it was superseded by a twin rail incline plane. This was 123 yards long and powered by a steam engine.  Traffic was carried in small 3 ton wooden boats measuring 20ft long and 6ft 4 inches wide, with a draught of 1ft 6 inches. These were the predecessors of the iron tub boats subsequently used on the other canals.  The boats were hauled by horses walking along the towpath, controlled by a boy.  There was a canal boatyard by the side of a basin next to Abbey Farm.

 

Old Map showing Route of Canal

 

In 1788, the wharf at Donnington Wood was joined to the Wombridge Canal which provided a link with the coal and ironstone mines at Wombridge.  In 1791, the Shropshire Canal joined the Wombridge Canal  and provided a link with other areas to the south.  When the Shrewsbury Canal bought part of the Wombridge Canal in 1794, it meant that there was now a link through to Shrewsbury and Forton.  This wharf, now known as Old Yard Junction, thus became an important junction linking the main canals.  Lord Gower was created Marquess of Stafford in 1786 and in 1802 become the senior partner in what was to become the Lilleshall Company, a major industrial concern which leased most of the canal. 

 

Lilleshall Limestone Quarries

 

Traffic on the Lilleshall branch declined after 1844, when the Humber branch of the Shrewsbury Canal with its network of tramways, provided the Lilleshall Company with a more direct connection to the canal network.  With the closing of the Lilleshall limeworks in 1873, the Lilleshall branch ceased to be used and the section to Pave Lane finally closed in 1882. The Old Lodge Furnaces branch ceased to be used in 1888 when the furnaces closed and soon afterwards part of the bed on the disused Pave Lane branch was used for a carriage drive to Lilleshall Hall, then owned by the Duke of Sutherland. The last section south of Muxton Bridge was leased to the Lilleshall Company in the 1880s and continued to be used until it was abandoned in 1904.

 

Route

 

1.    Old Yard Junction – Muxton Bridge

 

 

Old Yard Junction (SJ705125) was the major canal junction of the area and was where the Donnington Wood and Shrewsbury Canals met. Today it lies to the east of Smith Crescent and, although partly destroyed by foundation work for the adjacent industrial estate, most of it can still be seen as a large hollow, albeit without the water.  The canal headed north-east from here but has been infilled and the area is heavily wooded. It passed to the south of High Mount and crossed St George’s Road under a bridge (SJ707127) that was just north of the present roundabout.  After a short distance it passed under another bridge (SJ710127), that is now built over by Bradley Road, before bending south to cross Donnington Wood Way.  On the other side, the line of the canal is now a footpath and, as it starts to bend north, there was a junction (SJ716126) with a short arm that went to a wharf at Old Lodge Furnaces (SJ717122).  The main canal headed north-east and can be followed as a track, although the bridge (SJ718128) en route is now demolished.  At Muxton Bridge (SJ723133) the canal bent south and there is a section that still contains water (SJ724131).

 

 

2.   Muxton Bridge – Hugh’s Bridge

 

 

The canal now winds though a golf course as it heads north-east towards Abbey Farm.  The bridge (SJ734139) here still stands but the adjacent wharf has been built over. The canal now passed under a road bridge (SJ736140) and a footbridge south of Lilleshall Abbey (SJ738142).  To the east of the abbey, the canal bends north to Hugh’s Bridge (SJ739150) and the junction of branches to Lilleshall and Pave Lane (SJ740151).

 

 

3.   Hugh’s Bridge – Lilleshall & Pitchcroft Quarries

 

 

From the junction, the Lilleshall branch heads north down the Hugh’s Bridge Incline (SJ739152).  The incline itself is distinguishable but little else.  There is a short section of canal containing water, with a stoplock (SJ738154) inserted to keep it there. Willmoor Bridge (SJ736158) has been demolished and just past here there was a junction.  One branch went north to Lilleshall Quarry South Wharf (SJ734163) and the other headed north-east towards Pitchcroft Quarry. Just after the junction, heading north-east, there were two locks together (SJ736159) and another lock farther on (SJ737160), all of which have been infilled.  There was a junction (SJ737161) with a short arm leading to Lilleshall Quarry Central Wharf (SJ735163) but all of this has been infilled. Two more infilled locks were at SJ740163 and SJ740164, with an infilled winding hole (for turning boats) at SJ740165.  There was a junction (SJ740166) with a short arm leading to Lilleshall Quarry North Wharf (SJ736165) but all of this has been infilled. The canal then passed over a small demolished aqueduct (SJ740167) and bent west and split, one arm going north to Pitchcroft Quarry Wharf (SJ739171)and one to a wharf by the road.

 

Abbey Farm Bridge

(Secret Shropshire 2003)

Hugh’s Bridge

(Secret Shropshire 2003)

Hugh’s Bridge Inclined Plane

(Secret Shropshire 2003)

Hugh’s Bridge Inclined Plane

(Secret Shropshire 2003)

 

 

4.   Hugh’s Bridge- Pave Lane

 

 

From Hugh’s Bridge Junction, the canal headed north-east to Little Hales Bridge (SJ748155) but this has all been infilled.  There is a short open section sometimes containing water between the bridge and the drive to Lilleshall Hall, which has been built over the next section of canal heading north.  Cotes Pool (SJ752159) was a feeder for the canal and the bridge from Little Hales Manor Farm (SJ752160) still exists.  The canal then bent east and can be followed under Pitchcroft Lane Bridge (SJ756163) to Pave Lane Wharf (SJ759166), which has been infilled.

 

Table of Features

 

Click on links for Google map (significant remains highlighted)

 

 

Old Yard Junction - Hugh’s Bridge

Location

Feature

SJ705125

Old Yard Junction

SJ704125

Donnington Wood Furnaces (demolished)

SJ707127

Bridge (demolished)

SJ707128

Wharf (infilled)

SJ710127

Bridge (demolished)

SJ715125

Bridge (demolished)

SJ715126

Meadow Colliery (demolished)

SJ716126

Junction with Old Lodge branch(infilled)

SJ716122

Old Lodge Furnaces

SJ717122

Old Lodge Wharf

SJ718125

Barn Colliery (demolished)

SJ720127

Barnyard Colliery (demolished)

SJ718128

Bridge (demolished)

SJ718129

Waxhill Barracks Colliery (demolished)

SJ719130

Bridge (demolished)

SJ717134

Freehold Colliery (demolished)

SJ721133

Muxtonbridge Colliery (demolished)

SJ723133

Muxton Bridge

SJ724131

Canal bend (containing water)

SJ734139

Abbey Farm Bridge

SJ735140

Abbey Farm Wharf and Boatyard

SJ736140

Abbey Road Bridge

SJ738142

Abbey Bridge

SJ739150

Hugh’s Bridge and Canal Cottages

SJ740151

Stable for canal horses

SJ740151

Junction of Lilleshall and Pave Lane Branches (infilled)

 

 

Hugh’s Bridge - Willmoor Bridge

SJ740151

Junction of Lilleshall and Pave Lane Branches (infilled)

SJ739152

Hugh’s Bridge Incline

SJ738154

Stoplock and plug outlet

SJ737157

Willmoor Mine Wharf (infilled)

SJ736158

Willmoor Bridge (demolished)

SJ736158

Junction of Lilleshall South and Pitchcroft Branches (infilled)

 

 

Willmoor Bridge - Lilleshall South

SJ736158

Junction of Lilleshall South and Pitchcroft Branches (infilled)

SJ734163

Lilleshall Quarry South Wharf

 

 

Willmoor Bridge - Pitchcroft

SJ736158

Junction of Lilleshall South and Pitchcroft Branches (infilled)

SJ736159

2 Locks (infilled)

SJ737160

Lock (infilled)

SJ737161

Junction with Lilleshall Central Branch (infilled)

SJ735163

Lilleshall Quarry Central Wharf (infilled)

SJ740163

Lock (infilled)

SJ740164

Lock (infilled)

SJ740165

Winding Hole (infilled)

SJ740166

Junction with Lilleshall North Branch (infilled)

SJ736165

Lilleshall Quarry North Wharf (infilled)

SJ740167

Aqueduct (demolished)

SJ739170

Pitchcroft Bridge and Canal Cottage

SJ739171

Pitchcroft Quarry Wharf (infilled)

SJ739172

Limeworks (demolished)

 

 

Hugh’s Bridge - Pave Lane

SJ740151

Junction of Lilleshall and Pave Lane Branches (infilled)

SJ748155

Little Hales Bridge (demolished)

SJ752159

Cotes Feeder Pool

SJ752160

Little Hales Manor Farm Bridge

SJ756163

Pitchcroft Lane Bridge

SJ759166

Pave Lane Wharf and buildings (infilled)