Montgomery Canal (Llanymynech Branch)
What is known today as the Llanymynech Branch of the Montgomery 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 an arm to Prees Heath
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.
In 1794, an Act of Parliament was obtained to construct the separate Montgomery Canal from the end of the Llanymynech Branch to Newport. In 1796, the Llanymynech Branch was opened, linking the main line at Frankton Junction with Llanymynech. The following year, the canal company built a wharf, four lime kilns, public house, stables, clerk's house and weighing machine at Weston Lullingfields, which at that time was the southernmost end of the route to Shrewsbury. In 1805, it was decided to abandon the main route of the Ellesmere Canal north as uneconomic, and 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 only reached Weston Lullingfields and the section from there to Frankton Junction was then called the Weston Branch.
Meanwhile, the Montgomery Canal had reached the Llanymynech Branch at Carreghofa Locks in 1797 but had only progressed 16 miles south to Garthmyl. Lack of funding meant that it was not extended beyond that point for a further 16 years. The funding was eventually obtained and allowed the remaining section to be opened in 1821. The original part was known as the Eastern Section and the new part as the Western Section. The Ellesmere Canal had 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. That company then bought the Eastern Section of the Montgomery Canal in 1847 and the Western Section in 1850.
Traffic on the canal was mainly local and mostly from on the limestone quarries and limekilns at Pant and Llanymynech plus coal from local pits around Oswestry. A significant traffic was the carriage of imported grain in to Maesbury Mill from Ellesmere Port. The canal company operated “fly” boats, which operated as a regular timed next-day delivery service until 1920. Some of the small warehouses for this traffic still remain in existence, whilst a tiny half-timbered building at Rednal still has pull-out stop and go boards that told the fly boat captain whether there was a collection to be made that day.
In 1917, the Weston Branch was closed following a breach near Hordley Wharf and there was a further breach of the Llanymynech Branch near Lockgate Bridge in 1936. Traffic declined drastically and the canal was closed to navigation by London Midland & Scottish Railway Company Act of 1944. . With the revival of canal use in the late 20th century, the canal between Frankton Junction and Llanymynech became known as the Llanymynech Branch of the Montgomery Canal. For historic reasons, the bridge numbering continues down the Montgomery Canal and a second bridge numbering series for the Llangollen Canal begins with Rowson's Bridge (which is numbered both 1W and 70). The "W" addition is a recent act by British Waterways, to avoid possible confusion, especially for emergency services, of having different bridges on the same canal with the same number.
Much of it is still closed to navigation but since 1969 the canal has been partially restored for use by pleasure boats. At present only 7 miles of the northern section, from Frankton Junction to Gronwen Wharf, is navigable plus a short stretch at Llanymynech, ie
1987 - the locks at Frankton Junction were restored and officially reopened
1996 - the 4 mile section from Frankton Junction to Queen's Head was reopened.
2006 - restoration of Newhouse Lock,
2003 - the 3 mile section from Queen's Head to Gronwen Wharf was reopened.
2007 - the 875 yard section from Gronwen Wharf to Redwith Bridge was filled with water but is not open to navigation by motorised vessels. Restoration was started on the 437 yard section from Redwith Bridge to Pryce's Bridge and restoration of Crickheath Wharf was started.
In the years following closure, wildlife flourished on the canal route and the whole of the Welsh section and parts of the English section (notably the section from the Aston Locks to Keeper's Bridge) were designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. In order to preserve the wildlife, nature reserves have been created at points along the canal, including Rednal Basin, most of the Weston Branch and a specially constructed reserve alongside the Aston Locks. Some winding holes have been given over to nature, with the one adjacent to Crofts Mill Lift Bridge having had boat barriers installed and the one adjacent to Park Mill Bridge allowed to be partially overgrown. There is a maximum of 1,250 boats per year allowed on the navigable section of the Llanymynech Branch of the Montgomery Canal and there are stricter speed restrictions than normally found on British canals, with speed limits of 2-3 mph for example on the navigable and connected part.
(only the part lying in Shropshire is included)
1) Frankton Junction – Perry Aqueduct
From Frankton Junction (SJ370319), the canal heads south through Frankton Top Lock (SJ370317), Frankton Middle Lock (SJ369316) and Frankton Bottom Lock (SJ369315). A lockkeeper looks after Frankton Locks, as the canal pound between the locks is small and water levels vary greatly as the locks are worked. A short distance further on is the Weston Arm Junction (SJ369311) but only a short section of that remains in water and is used for mooring, with a British Waterways amenity block alongside. The main route heads west under Lockgate Bridge (SJ368311) and then south through a peat bog, which has been drained since the construction of the canal. This lowering of the water level has meant that during restoration the canal had to be lined to prevent leakage and a new lock was required to lower the water level. This lock was named Graham Palmer Lock (SJ367309), after the founder of the Waterway Recovery Group. Further south, it passes a Winding Hole (SJ364300) and the Perry Aqueduct (SJ360298) over the River Perry. The aqueduct was replaced during restoration, since the old aqueduct had 3 arches but, due to the lowered water level, a single span was needed to avoid impeding the river's flow.
2) Perry Aqueduct – Aston Top Lock
The canal continues under Keeper’s Bridge (SJ351287) to Rednal Basin (SJ350278), which was originally used for transhipment between the canal and the Great Western Railway. Although the link to the basin still exists, the basin itself is unnavigable. The canal continues past a Railway Bridge (SJ352277), Heath House Bridge (SJ351276) and Corbett’s Bridge (SJ343271) to a Winding Hole (SJ340269). It then continues past Queen’s Head Bridge (SJ339268) and the new A5 Bridge (SJ339268) to Aston Top Lock (SJ336264), which has a nature reserve alongside that was constructed during restoration.
3) Aston Top Lock – Spiggot’s Bridge
After Aston Middle Lock (SJ332260) and Aston Bottom Lock (SJ329257), the canal passes Red Bridge (SJ327252) to a Winding Hole (SJ322249). Just past this is Park Mill Bridge (SJ322249) and then Maesbury Marsh Bridge (SJ314250) and Spiggot’s Bridge (SJ310249). Maesbury Marsh village was built alongside the canal and an environmentally friendly building, incorporating a Post Office, shop, tearoom and accommodation, was built just to the west of Spiggot's Bridge in 2006. Mooring is available along sections of the canal at Maesbury Marsh.
4) Spiggot’s Bridge – Crickheath Bridge
A little further on the canal bends south via Croft’s Mill Lift Bridge (SJ305249), which requires a windlass to operate it, to the Croft’s Mill Arm Junction (SJ304249). This has been restored for much of its length, giving access to a boatyard and private moorings. Further on is Gronwen Wharf Winding Hole (SJ304247), which is the current limit of navigation as at 2011. The section from Gronwen Bridge (SJ304246) to Redwith Bridge (SJ301241) was re-opened in October 2007 but is not yet navigable by powered craft, as there is no winding hole on this section of the canal. Redwith Bridge had been lowered since the canal's closure but was rebuilt as part of the restoration and is now capable of taking narrowboats underneath once again. The rest of the canal from Redwith Bridge to Llanymynech is dry and partially infilled. Restoration is gradually taking place from Redwith Bridge via Pryce’s Bridge (SJ298239) to Crickheath Wharf (SJ292236), which will be the next winding hole to be available when this section of canal is restored. This is next to Crickheath Bridge (SJ292235).
5) Crickheath Bridge – Llanymynech Bridge
A little further on, the route passes Schoolhouse Bridge (SJ287231) and Waen Wen Bridge (SJ284229), before bending south to Pant Bridge (SJ277223). The canal ran through Pant alongside the Oswestry & Newtown Railway, which later became part of the Cambrian Railways network. The Cambrian Railways Trust has restored a short section of the line between Llynclys and Pant and has plans to open a halt at Penygarreg Lane adjacent to the canal. The two original railway bridges at SJ276219 and SJ271213 have been demolished but Greenfield Bridge (SJ274218) still remains. The route passes a Winding Hole (SJ270213) and bends west to Llanymynech Wharf (SJ267211). Llanymynech Bridge (SJ266210) is the border with Wales but the original junction with Montgomery Canal is a little further on at Carreghofa Locks (SJ255203).
1) Junction with Montgomery Canal - Hordley
From the Montgomery Canal Junction (SJ369311), there is only a short section with water to a stoplock (SJ371311). This is used for mooring, with a British Waterways amenity block alongside. The rest of the route to Weston Lullingfields has been infilled with features at :-
SJ381311 - Hordley Bridge and Wharf (infilled)
SJ384310 - Hordley Aqueduct (demolished)
SJ389307 Winding Hole (infilled)
2) Hordley – Shade Oak
SJ395293 - Lower Hordley Bridge (infilled)
SJ395289 - Red House Bridge (infilled)
SJ397286 - Hadley Grove Bridge (infilled)
SJ400285 - Park House Bridge (demolished)
SJ402283 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ406279 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ412278 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ413276 - Shade Oak Bridge (infilled)
3) Shade Oak – Weston Lullingfields
SJ414271 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ416270 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ418268 - Nillgreen Bridge (demolished)
SJ421263 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ420257 - Westonwharf Bridge (infilled)
SJ421257 - Weston Wharf (infilled)
SJ422254 - Bridge (demolished)
SJ421254 - End of Canal
Table of Features
Only features in Shropshire have links for Google map
Frankton Junction - Llanymynech
Weston Arm to Weston Lullingfields
Guilsfield Arm to Tyddyn Wharf