Commercial Canal

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Spring 2022

Richard Dean

Ricard Dean looks at a proposed scheme to link the Chester and Ashby canals

The Trent & Mersey Canal, as its instigators intended, was immediately central to the development of trade in the Staffordshire Potteries. But many potters became dissatisfied with the high freight costs that were charged, and during the Canal Mania of the 1790s, matters came to a head with the promotion in 1796 of a rival concern to link the area with other canals both east and west, potentially creating a barge-width route between London, Staffordshire and Merseyside. This ‘Commercial Canal’, engineered by Robert Whitworth, was to run from the Chester Canal at Nantwich to the Ashby Canal at Moira, incorporating both a widened Gresley’s Canal at Newcastle-under-Lyme and the Bond End Canal at Burton-on-Trent, and with branches serving all the pottery towns, the Cheadle & Dilhorne Collieries, and linking to the north end of the Coventry Canal. With heavy lockage, three tunnels and a summit over 600ft above sea level, it would have been an effective but costly…

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