25 December 2014

Shrewsbury Canal - Wappenshall Junction

Opened in 1796, the Shrewsbury Canal, constructed by Josiah Clowes and, later, Thomas Telford, linked Shrewsbury and Trench. Here an inclined plane provided a link to the canals to and from the coal mines and iron works of east Shropshire. All these canals were designed to take tub-boats, rectangular in plan, 19' 9" long, just 6' 2" wide, and made of riveted wrought iron plates.

In 1835 the Shrewsbury Canal was finally linked to the rest of the national canal network, by means of the Newport Branch of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal. A three-way junction was formed at Wappenshall. The arm from there to Shrewsbury was widened to accommodate the narrowboats used on the Newport Branch, broader in the beam than tub-boats, but the arm to Trench was not.

The Duke of Sutherland had built the two transhipment warehouses that survive at Wappenshall Junction, designed to transfer loads between tub-boats and narrowboats. The largest (above) sat astride a basin that linked the canals, with cargo hoisted through trapdoors into the upper storeys of the building. There is some uncertainty as to whether the warehouses are by James Trubshaw or Telford.

The site also boasts a roving bridge, the curving ramps up to which enabled a towing horse to cross from a towpath on one side of the canal to that on the other without being unhitched. This example is thought to be Telford's work. The Trench incline closed in 1921, the basin in Shrewsbury in 1922, and the Shrewsbury Canal, and Wappenshall Junction, in 1944.

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