Trent & Mersey

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Winter 2007

Harry Arnold

Harry Arnold looks at one of the earliest, longest and arguably most important canals in England

The plan for a canal linking the rivers Trent and Mersey came out of a number of earlier proposals. One, of 1758, was for a canal from Stoke-on-Trent to Wilden Ferry, near Shardlow, proposed by Earl Gower, Lord Anson and Thomas Broade and surveyed by James Brindley. In 1761 it was reviewed by John Smeaton who suggested that it could be continued to the River Weaver. Another idea was for a canal starting right by Lichfield Cathedral and running eastward to the Trent. A critical factor, however, was the involvement of the already famous potter Josiah Wedgwood who, with the support of fellow members of the Lunar Society, such as Thomas Bentley and Erasmus Darwin, plus other prominent landowners, began campaigning for such a waterway. The result was the publication, in 1765, of a plan for a 76mile canal from Wilden Ferry on the Trent to Frodsham Bridge on the Weaver, with a branch via Lichfield to Birmingham. This would eventually be revised to a main canal of 921/2 miles to join the Brid…

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