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SHROPSHIRE CANALS 

  

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Further Information

 

Eardington Canal

 

 

History

 

Miles

Locks

Opened

Closed

Route

½

 

-

1781

 

1889

 

SO725897 (Upper Forge)

SO733896 (Lower Forge)

 

 

Eardington Upper Forge was built in 1778 by William and John Wheeler, on land leased from Thomas Otteley of Pitchford. The site was previously Eardington Corn Mill, which was adapted for the new works.  The adjacent Mor Brook powered its machinery but was unsuitable for navigation and it was half a mile from the River Severn. It was thus decided to drive a tunnel through the sandstone ridge to carry a canal that would connect the forge with the river.

 

The 750 yard canal was completed in 1782, at the same time as Eardington Lower Forge on the banks of the river.  As well as providing a link to the river from Upper Forge, the canal also provided a water supply to power machinery at Lower Forge.  The tunnel portal is in a cliff face 30ft above the River Severn, the opening is roughly triangular and was cut in solid rock, 9ft wide by 6ft high. 

 

In 1788, William Hallen purchased a share of the works but in the following year the forges were sold on a 100 year lease  to George Stokes, Benjamin Stokes, Thomas Stokes and Samuel Pemberton. The new firm was known as Pemberton & Stokes and they acquired shares in other furnaces at Coseley and Billingsley.  Pemberton & Stokes worked Eardington Forges for just over 15 years, making frequent purchases of iron from furnaces in East Shropshire.

 

In 1805 they sub-let the forges to Samuel Twanley but he unfortunately went bankrupt in 1808.  They then sub-let them to Joshua Nichols and John Bradley, in partnership with Thomas Stokes. Thomas withdrew from the partnership in 1810 and also from the partnership with his brothers.  George was now the sole representative of Pemberton and Stokes and he went bankrupt in 1812. Throughout this period it is likely that Bradley and his associates remained in occupation of the forges and worked them.

 

In 1814 the works were leased to John Bradley and his half-brother James Foster. Following Stokes bankruptcy, it was noted that “Bradley & Co” had paid £3,817-15s-7d for the purchase of “Yeardington works, land and house.  This was probably to buy out the remaining term of the 1789 lease. Bradley and Foster were important ironmasters in the Stourbridge area and the wrought iron that they produced was particularly popular. Foster became sole proprietor of Eardington Forges in 1832 and the Lower Forge reverted to the production of charcoal-made wrought iron. This was considered to be of especially high quality and was particularly used for wire, gun barrels and horseshoe nails, an important market in the 19th Century. In the 1850s it was considered to be one of the largest charcoal iron works in the country. Following Foster’s death in 1853, his nephew William Orme Foster took over. 

 

The opening of the Severn Valley Railway in 1863 allowed relatively easy railway access to the works, although goods still needed to be taken by horse and wagon for about ¼ mile from Eardington Halt to the Forges.  River transport was more convenient so the underground canal remained in use.  The works and canal eventually closed in 1889, when the original lease expired. It was considered impossible to find a new tenant since the market for charcoal iron had been partially undermined by the availability of cheap steel.  There was also a general decline in all aspects of the wrought iron industry at end of the 19th Century. Eardington was particularly vulnerable, being remote from the main centres of iron making in the Black Country and the East Shropshire coalfield.

 

Today there is little left at Upper Forge, except for the floor and water channels, this being 70ft x 40ft. The dam still survives, as well as hand operated sluices in the dam wall that controlled the flow of water. Lower Forge has more remains, there are underground flue chambers, tail races of waterwheels, part of a masonry waterwheel breast, topless 100ft chimney, numerous outbuildings, manager's house and two rows of workers’ cottages.

 

East Tunnel Portal

 

Lower Forge

 

Route

 

 

Western End

 

 

Eastern End

 

 

 

Table of Features

 

Click on links for Google map

(note that some of these sites have not yet been checked and only identified from the map)

 

Location

Feature

SO725897

Upper Forge

SO726896

Canal wharf

SO727896

Tunnel west portal

SO733896

Tunnel east portal

SO733896

Lower Forge