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Company of Proprietors of the Shropshire Canal Navigation


Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Shropshire Canal Navigation: Act 1788, plan 1828, accounts 1831.



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Administrative /​ Biographical history

The Shropshire Canal was a tub boat canal built to carry goods, mainly coal and iron, from East Shropshire to the River Severn, serving the Donnington Wood, Wombridge and Ketley canals and connecting them to the river. It was promoted in the 1780s by William Reynolds and the Marquis of Stafford, both of whom also had interests in the other tub boat canals in the area. An Act was obtained in 1788 and construction began at Oakengates on the Ketley Canal in 1789. To the north, the canal met the Donnington Wood and Wombridge canals via the Wrockwardine Wood inclined plane, while southward it headed for Coalport via Stirchley and another incline at Windmill Farm. At Coalport the canal ended on a hillside above the river and here the Hay inclined plane was built to take boats down to the river. William Reynold had started to build a shaft and tunnel system here, as was in use on the Donnington Wood Canal, but whilst digging the tunnel a deposit of tar and pitch was found and the canal tunnel was then turned into a profitable venture while the inclined plane was built. By 1792 the completed canal ran from Wrockwardine Wood on the Donnington Wood Canal to the River Severn at Coalport, a distance of 7 ¾ miles, with a 2 ¾ mile long branch to Coalbrookdale that included an incline plane from 1794. It had two short tunnels at Snedshill and Stirchley on its main line, and a number of incline planes were used because locks were not feasible in the hilly country. The canal cost less than expected to build and was soon profitable. In 1800 the Coalbrookdale Horse Tramroad was extended when the canal above Brierly Hill was converted into a tramway, and a new incline plane was built down to Coalport. In 1795 the Shrewsbury Canal bought the Wombridge Canal as it connected to their main line at Tench. Tub boats could now travel from the Shropshire Canal onto the Shrewsbury Canal. In 1835 the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal connected its Newport Arm to the Shrewsbury Canal, which meant that via these newer canals the Shropshire Canal had a connection to the main network. As the Shropshire Canal and the other tub boat canals could only take boats up to 6 feet 4 inches wide, specially designed narrowboats were built which could reach Tench on the Shrewsbury Canal, where a transshipment area was built. In 1846 the Shropshire Canal was leased to the Shropshire Union Railway & Canal Company. The canal began to deteriorate, mainly due to mining subsidence in the area and the high costs of repairs and maintenance. The Shropshire Union company obtained the power to convert the canal into a railway but before anything was done the Shropshire Union company was leased to the London & North Western Railway Company (LNWR). The London & North Western Railway Company found that the Act allowing the construction of a railway was not transferable and the canal was kept open. In 1857 the London & North Western Railway Company obtained the necessary power to close the Shropshire Canal and build a railway in its place. They closed the main line of the canal from Donnington Wood to Windmill Farm and also closed the Coalbrookdale Branch. The only section of canal still in use was a short section from the foot of Windmill Farm to the riverbank in Coalport, including the Hay inclined plane. The tramway at Coalbrookdale was also still used. After closing the canal, the London & North Western Railway Company opened a railway branch line, which used much of the canal's route. For further information on the Shropshire Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.

Associated material

[See also: BW152 for records of the Shropshire Canal during other periods of ownership]