What is known today as the Llangollen Canal was originally planned to be part of the Ellesmere Canal, which was supposed to link the Rivers Mersey, Dee and Severn by running from Netherpool (now known as Ellesmere Port) to Shrewsbury. The idea was launched at a meeting in Ellesmere in 1791 and it was planned to serve the iron, coal and limestone industries around Wrexham, Ruabon and Llanymynech.
In the event, the canal never reached Shrewsbury and the main line via Wrexham was not built. Instead, the canal was extended to Horseshoe Falls, west of Llangollen and a section from Whitchurch linked it to the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal at Harleston Junction. Thus the separate parts of the planned Ellesmere Canal subsequently became known as :-
Llangollen Canal - from Horseshoe Falls to Harleston Junction, with various short arms
Montgomery Canal (part of) – from Frankton Junction to Llanymynech, with an arm to Weston Lullingfields
Shropshire Union Canal (part of) - from Ellesmere Port to the Chester Canal.
John Duncombe surveyed the route and the engineer William Jessop was called in to advise. There were major engineering obstacles with deep valleys and high ground, involving a climb of 303ft from Chester to Wrexham, a 4,607 yard tunnel at Ruabon, a high level crossing over the Dee at Pontcysyllte, a further tunnel and aqueduct near Chirk and a tunnel in Shropshire near Weston Lullingfields. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1793, Jessop being appointed as engineer and Thomas Telford as General Agent. Construction of the main line started from Ellesmere Port towards the Chester Canal and, at the same time, the part lying in Shropshire was driven north and south from Frankton. The section from the Mersey to the Dee near Chester, was opened in 1795, allowing the company to generate revenue from tolls in order to help finance construction of the rest of the canal. The Chirk Aqueduct was opened in 1801 and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805 but it was then decided to abandon the main route north as uneconomic, due to rising costs and resistance from property holders to sell their land to the canal company. The canal was thus terminated at Trevor Basin, 2 miles south-west of Ruabon. At the same time, it was decided to abandon the plan to reach the Severn, as the Shrewsbury Canal has already reached the town. By that time, the canal had reached Weston Lullingfields.
It had been planned to have a major feeder reservoir north-west of Wrexham but this was not now possible. As a result, a feeder canal was constructed along the Dee valley to the Horseshoe Falls, being made navigable as far as Llangollen. Thus the only part of the main line so far constructed only ran from Trevor Basin to Weston Lullingfields. This left the canal isolated, so the planned Whitchurch branch was extended to link the canal to the rest of the waterways network. This section was constructed from Frankton via Ellesmere to the Chester Canal at Hurleston Junction. It was finished in sections between 1797-1806 and became the new main line. As the new route by-passed Whitchurch, the extension included a short arm to reach the town. Another branch was originally intended to reach Prees but was abandoned at Quina Brook.
The Ellesmere Canal merged with the Chester Canal in 1813, forming the Ellesmere and Chester Canal Company. In 1845, the company merged with the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal and in 1846 became part of the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company. By 1939, traffic on the canal from Hurleston Junction to Llangollen had ceased and the whole of the Ellesmere Canal network, other than the line from Ellesmere Port to Chester, was closed to navigation by London Midland & Scottish Railway Company Act of 1944. On 6th September 1945, due to inadequate maintenance, the canal breached its banks east of Llangollen near Sun Bank Halt. The flow of hundreds of tons of water washed away the embankment of the railway further down the hill, tearing out a 40 yard crater 50ft deep. This caused a train to crash into the breach, killing one person and injuring two engine crew. Following repair, however, the line from Horseshoe Falls to Hurleston Junction was retained as a water feeder for the Shropshire Union Canal main line and, following an agreement in 1955 with the Mid & South East Cheshire Water Board, as a feeder for Hurleston Reservoir.
Despite the formal closure, the canal started to become popular with pleasure boats and it was rebranded as the Llangollen Canal. In 2009, an 11 mile section of the canal from Gledrid Bridge near Rhoswiel (in Shropshire) to the Horseshoe Falls via Chirk Aqueduct and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was declared by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site. In the latter half of the 20th century canal usage for leisure boating grew in popularity. The "Llangollen Branch of the Shropshire Union" became popular due to its aqueducts and scenery. The canal was later renamed the Llangollen Canal becoming one of the most popular canals for holidaymakers in Britain.
ROUTE THROUGH SHROPSHIRE
1) Grindleybrook Bridge – Whitchurch / Wrexham Road Bridge
2) Wrexham Road Bridge – Blackoe Bridge
3) Blackoe Bridge – Prees Arm Junction
4) Prees Arm Junction – Quina Brook
5) Prees Arm Junction – Hampton Bank Bridge
6) Hampton Bank Bridge – Little Mill Bridge
7) Little Mill Bridge – Ellesmere Wharf / Claypit Bridge
8) Claypit Bridge – Pollet’s Bridge
9) Pollet’s Bridge – St Martin’s Bridge
10) St Martin’s Bridge – Chirk Aqueduct
Table of Features
Only the locations in Shropshire have a link for Google map
Hurleston Junction – Monks’ Bridge
Whitchurch Arm to Whitchurch
Prees Arm to Quina Brook
Ellesmere Arm to Ellesmere
Ruabon Arm to Trevor Basin