Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal


Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is a narrow navigable canal in the Midlands of England, passing through the counties of Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

It runs for 46 miles (74 km) from the River Severn at Stourport in Worcestershire to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Haywood Junction by Great Haywood.

History

Creation

James BrindleyNicholson Waterways Guide, Volume 2 (2006), Harper Collins Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-00-721110-4] was the chief engineer of the canal, which was part of his "Grand Cross" plan for waterways connecting Hull, Liverpool and Bristol.

The canal was authorised by an Act of Parliament which was passed on 14 May 1766. This created "The Company of Proprietors of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Navigation", who were empowered to raise an initial £70,000, with an additional £30,000 if needed, to finance the construction of the canal. [http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/sdoc.php?wpage=PNRC0601#PNRC583 Joseph Priestley (1831), "Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals"] ]

The canal was competed in 1771 for a cost which exceeded the authorised capital, and opened to trade in 1772. It was a commercial success, with trade from the "Potteries" (the towns making up modern-day Stoke on Trent) travelling southwards to Gloucester and Bristol, and trade from the Black Country travelling northwards to the Potteries via the junction from the Birmingham Canal at Aldersley.

Development

The Company obtained a second act of parliament on 9 June 1790, which allowed it to raise another £12,000 to make improvements to the River Severn immediately below Stourport as far as Diglis, to improve navigation to and from the canal. At Stourport there were four basins, which were connected by broad locks, to allow broad-beamed Severn Trows to enter them from the river. Goods could then be transshipped from the canal narrow boats to the trows for onward shipment to Bristol.

Competition

Trade declined when the newer Worcester and Birmingham Canal opened in 1815. This canal provided a more direct route between Birmingham and Bristol. To remain competitive, the company extended the hours during which locks could be used, until they were available 24 hours a day by 1830. Another setback occurred when the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal opened its new route to Chester and Merseyside, connecting with the canal at Autherley Junction. This took much of the traffic from the section to Great Haywood. Faced with a high volume of trade using the half-mile stretch between Aldersley and Autherley Junctions, the company levied very high tolls.

In order to resolve the situation the Birmingham Canal Company and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Company jointly promoted an act of parliament to authorise a short canal which would have left the Birmingham Canal at a higher level than the junction, crossed the Staffordshire and Worcestershire by an aqueduct, and then dropped down by a series of locks to join the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal north of Autherley junction. The canal company decided to reduce its tolls rather than lose the trade altogether. Further concessions were obtained by the other two canal companies by threats to resurrect the plans on two subsequent occasions.

Decline

Despite the competition, and later competition from the railways, the canal company paid dividends to its shareholders until the turn of the 19th century, although profits fell steadily from the 1860s. It remained independent until the canals were nationalised in 1947. During its latter years, the major trade was in coal, which was carried from Cannock to a power station at Stourport. The power station closed in 1949, and after that, the only commercial traffic was on the stretch between Autherley and Aldersley Junctions. [http://www.swcs.org.uk/history.htm Staffs and Worcs Canal Society: History] ]

Restoration

In 1959 it was planned to close the canal, but was saved through the efforts of a volunteer group - the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society. The canal was re-classified as a cruiseway in 1968, and all of it was declared to be a Conservation Area the following year. This has resulted in historical buildings and structures being retained and improved sympathetically.

Linked canals

The canal is linked (in order, from the Severn) to:
*Stourbridge Canal at Stourton Junction
*BCN Main Line at Aldersley Junction
*Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction
*Hatherton Canal, (currently derelict but with proposals for restoration) at Hatherton Junction

The canal today forms part of the Stourport Ring, which is one of the popular cruising rings for leisure boating.

References

ee also

*Thomas Dadford

External links

* [http://www.swcs.org.uk/ The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society]


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