Pontcysyllte to Chester

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Spring 2017

Richard Dean

Richard Dean details the Ellesmere Canal’s missing northerly link to the city of Chester. But why was it never built?

As was demonstrated in the waterway profile in the Summer 2006 issue of NB, the history of the Ellesmere Canal is complex. Originally conceived as a trunk route, of barge width, connecting the rivers Severn, Dee and Mersey, as the project developed, this ambition was largely replaced by the practical needs of local industry and agriculture, which were better accommodated by a narrow canal through the expanding industrial area of east Denbighshire. By 1792 the engineer John Duncombe had produced a survey, approved by William Jessop, which had a long summit level south of Wrexham, fed mainly by various streams in Shropshire. This was only possible with a 4,000yard tunnel under Ruabon and a 127ft-high crossing of the Dee Valley at Pontcysyllte to maintain the elevation. Although this survey was used to obtain the 1793 incorporating Act, the promoters had already decided on a more cautious approach by having locks down each side of the valley at Pontcysyllte, with the severed northern pa…

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