- Trent and Mersey Canal
name = Trent and Mersey Canal
caption = The Trent and Mersey Canal near Branston Water Park
date_act = 1766
date_use = 1777
River Trent, Derwent Mouth
end_note = Connection via
status = Open
British WaterwaysThe Trent and Mersey Canal is a 93.5 miles (150 km) long canalin the East Midlands, West Midlands, and North West of England. It is mostly a "narrow canal" (locks and bridges big enough for a narrowboat72 feet long x 7 feet wide) but east of Burton upon Trent, it is a wide canal (locks and bridges can accommodate boats 14ft wide).
As its name implies, the Trent and Mersey canal was built (opened 1777) to link the
River Trentat Derwent Mouth (in Derbyshire) to the River Mersey. The second connection is made via the Bridgewater Canal, which it joins at Preston Brookin Cheshire. Note that although mileposts measure the distance to Preston Brook and Shardlow, Derwent mouth is a mile or so beyond Shardlow.
The idea of a canal connection from the Mersey to the Trent ("The Grand Trunk") came from canal
engineer James Brindley. It was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1766 and the first sodwas cut by Josiah Wedgwoodin July that year at Middleport. Less than eleven years later, the whole canal, including more than 70 locks and five tunnels, was open, with the company headquarters in Stone.
On January 15th 1847, the Trent & Mersey Canal was acquired by the
North Staffordshire RailwayCompany (NSR). This was done to stifle the opposition of the Canal Company to the creation of the Railway Company. In particular, the NSR had plans for a railway from Stoke-on-Trent to Liverpool however this line was abandoned due to opposition from other rail interests.
The Grand Trunk was a part of a larger scheme of Brindley's to link the four main rivers of England (Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames) in a project known as the "Grand Cross" [cite web|url=http://www.mike-stevens.co.uk/maps/1770/index1770.htm|title=Waterways Of England And Wales, 1760 to 1770|last=Stevens|first=Mike|accessdate=2007-09-13] .
The Trent and Mersey Canal provided the Northern Arm of the Cross (to the Mersey), and the Eastern Arm (to the Trent). It also provided the central "hub" of the cross, between Great Haywood, and Fradley Junctions.
Anderton Boat Lift
On the Cheshire stretch of the canal, between Middlewich and the Northern end of the canal in Preston Brook Tunnel, is the Victorian
Anderton Boat Lift, which lowers boats fifty feet from the T&M to the River Weaver. It was restored to full operation in 2002 after twenty years of disuse, and was then the only operational boat-lift in the United Kingdomuntil the construction of the Falkirk Wheelin Scotland.
Another major feature is the
Harecastle Tunnel, near Kidsgrovein the city of Stoke-on-Trent, north Staffordshire. There are actually two tunnels. The first tunnel, built by Brindley was 2880 yards (2633 m) long; barges were 'legged' through by men lying on their backs and pushing against the roof with their feet. This was a physically demanding and slow process and created major delays, so leading civil engineer Thomas Telfordwas commissioned to provide a second and wider, parallel tunnel, with a towpath. This 2926 yard (2676 m) long tunnel was opened in 1827. In the 1900s, the Brindley tunnel was closed due to severe subsidence, but the Telford Tunnel - although also prone to the same problems - remains in use, and is the fourth longest navigable canal tunnel in the UK.
Just North of Harecastle Tunnel, the T&M features, one of the only two "flyover" junctions on the English/Welsh network. The
Hall Green Branchleaves the T&M Mainline (which runs E/W here) on the south side, but then crosses over the main line and travels a short distance north to join the Macclesfield Canalat Hall Green Stop lock. (These days, some guides do not refer to the Hall Green branch, simply treating it as part of the Macclesfield Canal.)
The actual junction where the branch leaves the main line is a normal right angle junction called
Hardings Wood Junction. The branch leaves the main line on the South side, then immediately turns 90 degrees clockwise. It runs westwards alongside the main line, maintaining the original level while the main line drops through two locks. At Red Bull (the name of the pub and small settlement called "Red Cow" in Arnold Bennett's novels) the branch turns 90 degrees right, to head North and cross the main line on Poole Lock aqueduct. It then immediately crosses the A50 on Red Bull aqueduct, carrying boats North to join the Macclesfield Canal at Hall Green.
(There is only one other such junction on the English canal network: on the
Caldon Canal, which itself joins the T&M in nearby Stoke-on-Trent. At Hazlehurst Junction, the Leek Branch leaves, and subsequently crosses, the Caldon Canal main line.)
The canal passes through the centre of the city of
Stoke-on-Trent, where it formed an integral part of the 1986 National Garden Festival, the Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival. The canal's towpath forms a vital part of the city's National Cycle Network, and Connolly Basnett Loop.
The route is conveniently divided into a northern and southern section by
Northern Trent and Mersey
The Northern end of the canal makes an end-on junction with the
Bridgewater Canalwithin Preston Brook Tunnel, from where one can access Runcorn (but no longer the Mersey or Ship Canal) in one direction and Manchester (with its many canal links) in the other.
From the junction with the Bridgewater Canal, the T&M travels south through Preston Brook Tunnel (one-way operation, alternating each half hour) and two smaller tunnels (Saltersford and Barnton) to the "junction" with the
River Weaverat Anderton Boat Liftnear Northwich.
After Anderton, the next major destination is
Middlewich, where a junction with the 50 yard long Wardle Canalleads to the Middlewich Branchof the Shropshire Union Canalwhich gives access to Chester, Llangollenand (south on the "Shroppie") a parallel route to Birmingham/ Wolverhampton.
South of Middlewich, having passed through
Wheelockthe T&M climbs out of the Cheshire Plain via the "Heartbreak Hill" locks (more traditionally the "Cheshire Locks") to the summit-level and the junction with the Hall Green Branch, leading to the Macclesfield Canalat Red Bull (Kidsgrove). The boater can use the Macclesfield Canal to head for Marple, and the junction with the Peak forest Canal (and hence, via the Ashton, Rochdale and Bridgewater canal) to complete the " Cheshire Ring".
outhern Trent and Mersey
After the long (40 minute)
Harecastle Tunnel(one way, alternating roughly every two hours), the canal emerges in the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent, and is soon in the middle of the city and then at Etruria, and the junction with the Caldon Canal.
Leaving Etruria, the T&M is soon back in open country. It is now in the valley of the infant
River Trent(which the T&M follows until the River becomes navigable and the canal is no longer needed).
The next sizeable place is the Market town of Stone.
After more countryside, the canal reaches
Great Haywood Junctionand the towpath bridge across the junction with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal(which heads south to skirt Wolverhamptonand join with the River Severnat Stourport-on-Severn- thus connecting the Mersey with the Severn).
The next event is a right angle bend, of no apparent significance from the boat - but a map shows that this is where the canal (and the Trent) changes its basic direction - from SW (heading away from Runcorn) to NE (heading towards Nottingham).
Very near is
Fradley Junction(with the Coventry Canal (detached portion). The Coventry soon leads to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and branches off to Birminghamor (via another stretch of Coventry Canal) to Coventryand a junction with the Oxford Canaland hence to all the "Southern Half" of the English canals.
The canal now heads directly to its terminus, passing through
Burton upon Trentand then (through wide locks, the first being at Stenson) to Shardlow(a canal village, formerly the home of the T&M company offices) and, finally, Derwent Mouth.
It is not far from Derwent Mouth, via the
River Trentto Trentlock, the four-way junction with the Erewash Canal(dead end at Great Northern Basin, formerly a link with the Cromford Canal), the Nottingham Canal(links back to the Trent in Nottingham) and the River SoarNavigation (links via Leicesterto the Grand Union Canal).
* [http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/guides/maps/canal.gif1777 map of the complete length of the Canal] .
* [http://www.search.exploringthepotteries.org.uk/engine/theme/default.asp?theme=247 Archive material relating to the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, from Stoke-on-Trent Museums] .
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