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SHROPSHIRE CANALS 

  

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Further Information

 

Wombridge Canal

 

 

History

 

Miles

Locks

Opened

Closed

Route

-

1788

1921

SJ705125 (Old Yard Junction)

SJ691115 (Wombridge Tunnel)

 

In 1781, Richard Reynolds began to mine coal and ironstone from under Wombridge and, in 1785, his son William built a new ironworks at Donnington Wood.  In 1787, his son William proposed to build a short tub-boat canal from the Wombridge mines to join the Donnington Wood Canal at Old Yard Junction.  This would provide an easier route for coal to the ironworks.  The canal was only 1 mile 660yds (3 km) long and was completed in 1788, costing £1,640. M At Teague's Bridge, a sectional iron bridge was erected where Wombridge Road crossed the canal.   In 1792, they opened the Donnington Wood Glassworks and this used alkaline soda ash from Wombridge Sulphuric Acid works.  Again, the canal was a useful means of transporting this.

 

1840

 

 

1850

 

There are several mysteries over the south-western section of this canal.

 

Firstly, it does not seem to perform any function. The canal appears to have ended just beyond the tunnel but there is no sign of a wharf so this section was probably never used.   Old maps show that the canal extension went near to Wombridge Pool, with a short connection between, so possibly the idea was to use this as a reservoir to keep the water topped up.  But why continue the canal beyond this point? One possibility is that Reynolds originally planned to extend it to his Ketley Ironworks and thus supply his coal to both concerns.  The Ketley Canal, which eventually connected the Ketley Works to mines at Oakengates, was built in the same year so maybe they encountered problems and abandoned the Wombridge Canal at this point. 

 

 

Secondly, the canal apparently had a 60 yard brick-lined tunnel near to Wombridge Priory and it is a mystery as to why this was built. One possibility is that the tunnel went under land where the landowner would not give permission for it on surface - this is the reason for the Berwick Tunnel on the Shrewsbury Canal.  Maybe it was church land as the route lay between the church, vicarage and old priory.

 

Finally, the section next to Wombridge Pool has two points where there is a short side arm.  There is no indication that these were wharves.  The one to the west can still be seen today and water emerges.  It is likely that this one at least was a mine drainage level that was used to keep the water level in Wombridge Pool and the canal topped up.  This ties in with the fact that William Reynolds was operating the “Bank Water Engine” (SJ692110) at Ketley Bank in the 1780s. A water engine was a mine pumping engine and the shaft was just to the south. Mine pumping engines rarely raised water to surface but instead a drainage level was driven from part way down the shaft to surface nearby.  The water would have kept Wombridge Pool topped up and thus the canal as well – the perfect solution.

 

The short side arm to the east may have been a similar feature but it has been covered over and graded as part of the playing field.  Interestingly enough, in the field today there are a lot of manhole covers at this point so maybe the water is still flowing from it but being culverted below surface.  From the angle of the arm, the flow of water is probably coming from the east so may have originated from a shaft on Wrockwardine Wood. 

 

In 1792, Reynolds sold the north-eastern section, measuring 1 mile and 88 yards, to the Shrewsbury Canal Company for £840. This then allowed them to continue their route from the top of the Trench Incline to Old Yard Junction. Reynolds was a director and shareholder of the new company and part of the deal was that Reynold's internal traffic on the Wombridge Canal could pass free of toll on that section.

 

New furnaces were built at Wombridge in 1819 and it is likely that the short remaining section of canal went out of use soon after. It was officially abandoned in 1921 when the Trench Incline closed.

 

Route

 

See also the Trail

 

 

There are remains of Old Yard Junction (SJ705125) that can be seen to the east of Smith Crescent in Wrockwardine Wood.  Here also is Old Yard Bridge No.1 (SJ704125) that brought the Shrewsbury Canal into the Junction. The other side has been infilled but you can look through the grille.  To the left is some broken brickwork that is the remains of a building, probably a warehouse. The area has suffered badly from work to create the adjacent industrial estate.  The ground level just south of the bridge has been lowered (hence the ruined building) and the continuation of the Donnington Wood Canal has been buried.  The junction with the Shropshire Canal (SJ703124) is slightly to the west and has been infilled, lying in rough ground behind Smith Crescent.  A short arm connected the junction to the bottom of the Wrockwardine Wood Inclined Plane but the route of this was buried under spoil tips and then the modern houses.  There may have been other tramways leading to Old Yard Junction and the footpath nearby has what appears to be a narrow gauge railway line crossing it.

        

Old Yard Junction bridge

(A Pearce)

Old Yard Junction bridge

(A Pearce)

Old Yard Junction bridge

(A Pearce)

Old Yard Junction building

(A Pearce)

Rails across path

(A Pearce)

 

The route of the canal headed west under Furnace Lane Bridge No.2 (SJ703125), now demolished, and can be followed along Canal Side and across Wade Road to a footpath that leads to Church Road. Before tarmac was laid on this path, you could apparently see the top of one of the sides of the canal.  The canal crossed Church Road at the demolished Mill Bridge No.3 (SJ699126) and passed in front of Donnington Wood Corn Mill (SJ698125), now converted into flats.  Wheat was brought here along the Shrewsbury Canal and in fact the traffic to this mill was the only thing that kept the canal open towards the end.  The last journey on the canal before it closed in 1921 was 18 tons of wheat carried in 4 tub-boats.

 

 

Canal Side

(A Pearce)

Side of canal

(Matthew O’Neill)

Donnington Mill 1890

(SNCT)

Donnington Corn Mill

(A Pearce)

 

Between the mill and the school is a footpath that follows the original route of the canal as it looped around the contours.  It went along the back of the school, past the demolished Bridge No.4 (SJ698125) and, where the path turns right, the canal continued straight on to loop around what is now the running track of the leisure centre.  Where the path turns right again, it picks up the route of the canal to emerge at Teague’s Crescent opposite the Bridge Inn, where Teague’s Bridge No.5 (SJ693124) used to be. The Bridge Inn is modern and had no connection with the canal but there is a line of conifers on the right of the car park that marks the route it took.  Beyond this, the route passes behind the houses in Trenleigh Gardens, crosses Teagues Crescent where it bends and emerges onto Capewell Road.  This was the top of the Trench Lock Inclined Plane (SJ690122) and the junction with the Shrewsbury Canal.  The section just traversed from Old Yard Junction was the part of the canal sold to the Shrewsbury Canal. 

 

Trench Inclined Pane

(A Pearce)

Route by Laburnum Road

(A Pearce)

Route by Laburnum Road

(A Pearce)

 

The route then passes to the west of Juniper Drive and has been cut off by the creation of Wrockwardine Wood Way. It can be picked up again along a path to the west of Laburnum Road.  At the end of Laburnum Road, the path turns west under the A442 via a bridge (SJ694116).  The canal went this way too and a bridge (not the current one) was constructed to take the Coalport Branch of the London & North Western Railway over it in 1861.   Beyond the bridge, the canal followed the contours in a loop along what is now a big field.  If you look carefully, you can see uneven ground marking the route where it bends.  There are also many inspection covers here for some reason, possibly the location of a culvert taking the flow of water from a mine drainage level (SJ6954115). 

 

The route now heads west between the houses and a small wood.  A drainage ditch follows the line of the canal until it reaches a line of rough ground crossing it at right angles.  This was a channel from Wombridge Pool, which has now been drained and lies under the wood.  At the left end of the channel, where it meets the fence, is a feature (SJ693115) that has been heavily sandbagged to keep the fence up.  Water emerges from a pipe here and I believe that this is the dammed up portal of a drainage level from William Reynolds’ “water engine” in his mine at Ketley Bank. The canal route crosses the line of rough ground and disappears under the houses, following the line of Bollingale Avenue towards Priory Road.  Where these two roads meet, there used to be the portal of a 60 yard tunnel (SJ691115) under Wombridge Road.

 

Location of Channel

(A Pearce)

Traces of canal loop

(A Pearce)

Drainage Level Portal

(A Pearce)

End of canal

(A Pearce)

 

There is a park opposite and, on the left of the footpath from the car park, a line of rough ground with trees can be seen.  This is where the canal emerged from the tunnel (SJ690115) but the portal has been infilled and only traces of the canal bed remain.  There are no further traces of the canal and old maps do not show it continuing so it probably stopped here.

 

Table of Features

 

Click on links for Google map (significant remains highlighted)

Location

Feature

SJ705125

Old Yard Junction

SJ704125

Old Yard Bridge No.1

SJ703124

Junction with Shropshire Canal

SJ701126

Donnington Wood Glassworks (demolished)

SJ703125

Furnace Lane Bridge No.2 (demolished)

SJ699126

Mill Bridge No.3 (demolished)

SJ698126

Donnington Wood Mill (converted to flats)

SJ698125

Bridge No.4 (demolished)

SJ693124

Teague's Bridge No.5 (demolished)

SJ690122

Trench Incline Top (demolished)

SJ692119

Wombridge Ironworks (demolished)

SJ694116

Modern Road – A442

SJ694115

Mine Drainage Level (infilled)

SJ693115

Mine Drainage Level

SJ691115

Tunnel south-east portal (infilled)

SJ690115

Tunnel north-west portal (infilled)