Canal Inclines in East Shropshire – the Trench Inclined Plane …

The featured image above was colourised by Simon Alun Hark. It makes the engine house and the mechanisms associated with the inclined plane so real. [14]

This schematic representation of the Shropshire Tub Boat Canals is helpful in clarifying the extent of the network. It shows the locations of all the inclined planes on the system. These are marked with a red arrowhead which in each case highlights the direction of the lift. The Trench Branch and Incline were in important link in the journey between the Shropshire Union Canal and the River Severn at Coalport, linking the Newport Canal to the Shropshire Canal. [10]

P. Whitehead [11] provides approximate statistics for the inclined planes on the Shropshire Canal as follows:

  • Trench Inclined Plane: 227yds long, 73ft 6in rise.
  • Wrockwardine Wood Inclined Plane: 350yds long, 120ft rise. Or 316yds long, 113ft 2in rise.
  • Windmill Inclined Plane: 600yds long, 125 ft rise.
  • Hay Inclined Plane: 300yards long, 213ft rise.
  • Ketley Inclined Plane: 59yds long, 73 ft rise. Or, 65 yds long, 73ft rise.
  • Lilleshall Inclined Plane: 123 yds long, 43 ft. This replaced an earlier vertical lift in a shaft and tunnel system. [11]

I first came across an example of these inclined planes before moving to East Shropshire. We drive past the Hay Incline when travelling by a circuitous route from Manchester to Ludlow. At the time I wrote a couple of short articles for my blog:

This article focuses on the Trench Inclined Plane which was built by the Shrewsbury Canal Company in 1792 after it took over the Wombridge Canal. The Wombridge Canal was a tub-boat canal in Shropshire, England, built to carry coal and iron ore from mines in the area to the furnaces where the iron was extracted. It opened in 1788. Trench Inclined Plane remained in operation until 1921, becoming the last operational canal inclined plane in the country. The canal had been little used since 1919, and closed with the closure of the plane. [15] [16]

The Inclined Plane consisted of twin railway tracks, each with a cradle in which a single tub-boat was carried. An engine and engine house were built at the top of the incline to provide power to the Incline. It was supplied by the Coalbrookdale Company and was replaced in 1842 by a new engine that lasted for 79 years, until the final demise of the incline on 31 August 1921. The remaining structural elements of the incline were remove in 1968 as part of the Telford New Town developments. [15][17]

The engine’s main function was to lift the tub boats I cradles out of the canal at the top of the incline over the end wall of the canal. The rails of the inclined plane ran up out of the canal and then down the main length of the Inclined Plane. Generally, the working traffic was in the downward direction of the incline, and was counterbalanced by empty tub-boats returning up to the top level. [17] This meant that little power was needed for the operation of the main length of the incline.

Incidentally, “a prominent feature near the top of the incline was the Wombridge Pumping Engine house. This was a Cornish type, with a tall chimney, and was erected in 1858, to pump water from the mines. The main cylinder was 60 inches (150 cm) in diameter, with a 10-foot (3.0 m) stroke, and it lifted water from a depth of around 600 feet (180 m). The engine developed 250 hp (190 kW) and normally ran slowly, raising 3,338 imperial gallons (15.17 m3) of water per minute, in three strokes. When running at maximum speed, it could achieve eleven strokes per minute.” [18]

Maps and Illustrations of the Inclined Plane

The Trench Branch Canal left the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal at Wappenshall Junction.

An extract from the 1901 6″ Ordnance Survey which shows the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal (Shropshire Union Canal) running East-West, albeit in something of a ‘V’-shape with the Trench Branch running to the Southeast, off the bottom edge of the extract. [21]
The same location on the ESRI satellite imagery provided by the National Library of Scotland. [21]
Wappenshall Junction seen from the Northwest.[Google Earth, 2022]
A much earlier view of Wappenshall Junction. The Trench Branch leaves this scene through the bridge on the far-right of the image which leads to Wappenshall Lock. [22]

The Trench Branch ran across open fields until it reached the industrial areas near Trench. The first length passed under Wappenshall Bridge, through Wappenshall and Britton Lock, Kinley Bridge, Wheat Leasows Bridge and Lock, Shucks and Peaty Locks, Hadleypark Bridge and Lock, Turnip Lock and Wittingham Bridge before reaching Baker’s Lock/Basin and Castle Iron Works, Hadley.

Richard Foxcroft provides a plan of the Shropshire Canals on ‘Exploring Telford’ a website which focusses on the industrial history of the area which is now Telford, particularly the canals and railways. An extract is shown below. [23]

The line of the northern end of Trench Branch of the Shropshire Canal as shown on ‘Exploring Telford’ [23]

I followed this length or the Trench Branch on the morning of 31st August 2022. Much of the route is on private land and where this is the case, the old canal has been reintegrated into its surroundings.

Access to the canal basin at Wappenshall Junction is at present restrict to site personnel only as the basin and associated structures are under going restoration.

Wappenhall Junction warehouses are undergoing restoration as is the canal basin. [My photograph, 31st August 2022] Grant funding has been provided and work is being undertaken predominantly by volunteers from the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust [24]
These new build properties front onto the line of the canal which is illustrated using a red line. The wall in the foreground is the wingwall of the arch-bridge which used to carry the village road over the canal. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
The village lane used to be carried on this structure. Closure of the branch-canal provided the opportunity to realign the road both horizontally and vertically. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]

South of Wappenshall was the Wappenshall Lock. Access to the lock was not possible. No access was possible to Britton Lock nor to Kinley Bridge. The location of Wheat Leasowes Bridge and Lock were easily found as they lie on the road between Preston upon the Weald Moors and Leegomery Round-about on the A442, ‘Queensway’.

The three images above were all taken on 31st August 2022. In sequence, they show: the view North along the line of the old canal which is marked by the field-ditch which remains alongside the hedge in this image; the view South across the road; and finally a view which shows a length of the old canal which is now in the garden of the property in the second image and which still retains water. [My photographs, 31st August 2022]

The length of canal visible in the garden of the property above was the length between the two locks, Wheat Leasowes Bridge Lock and Shucks Lock. The property concerned appears to be an extended lock-keeper’s cottage.

The 6″ OS Map of 1881, published in 1887 shows the bridge and the two locks. The road can clearly be seen to deviate to miss the lock on its alignment and it is unsurprising that once the canal became redundant, the road was realigned. [25]
21st century satellite image covering roughly the same area as the map extract above. The lock-keeper’s cottage appears to have been extended. The open area of the canal falls within the curtilage of that property. [26]
an extract from the 6″ 1901 OS Map published in 1902 which shows Peaty Lock and Hadleypark Bridge and Lock. [27]
A 21st century satellite image of the same area as above, with the locations of the key features marked. [27]
The alignment of the old canal at the point it crosses the modern A442, Queensway. Pety Lock was located just to the North of the new road. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
The overgrown route of the old canal to the South of the A442. It retains very little water but the channel is visible here for some distance. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
A picture of Hadleypark Lock taken from the location of the old bridge over the Canal at this point. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
Looking back to the North at the guillotine lock gate arrangement used on the Shropshire Canal.
This is the guillotine lock gate mechanism at Turnip Lock. [May photograph, 31st August 2022]

These three images also come from Turnip Lock. The first shows the recess in the locak wall down which the gate slides. The remaining two images show the lock walls, first looking South towards Trench and then looking North towards Wappenshall. [My photographs, 31st August 2022]

Turnip Lock and then Whittingham Bridge appear on the 6″ OS Map of 1901 before the canal them bends towards the East aand passes Baker’s Lock and Basin and the site of Castle Iron Works. [28]
The same area on the ESRI satellite imagery. The ochre line shows the approximate limit of public access. The canal runs through the Hadley Castle Business Park. Moveero (part of GKN) occupies the large buildings which sit over the site of the Castle Iron Works. [28][29] The Shropshire Star announced in April 2022, that GKN would be investing a further £20million in the site. [30]
The 6″ OS Map shows the canal turning first to the East and then back towards the Southeast as it approached Trench Pool. [31]
The line of the canal is highlighted through the industrial areas. Remnants can be seen in the top-left of this image and the alignment is, apart for where under modern structures or roads, still highlighted by a ribbon of deciduous trees. The A442 appears again in the form of the gyratory towards the right-side of this extract from the satellite imagery. Trench Pool appears on the extreme right [31]
Trench Inclined Plane as it appears on the 1874 6″ OS Map. Trench Pool was used to store water for the canal system. The Shropshire Union Canal connects to the incline from the West via the Shrewsbury & Newport Canal. At the top of the incline there was a short stub branch to Wombridge Ironworks and a longer ‘Trench Branch’ or ‘Wombridge Canal’ which connected to the Donnington Wood and Coalport branches of the Shropshire Canal. [9]
Trench Inclined Plane in 1901 as shown on the 25″ OS Map. Note the location of the bridge over the canal just to the South of Trench Pool, West of the Shropshire Arms. A photograph of that bridge appears below. [8]
This extract from satellite imagery 9ESRI) shows the approximate location of the Inclined Plane and it engine house. [32]
The bridge over the old canal at the bottom of Trench Inclined Plane. It linked the site of the Shropshire Ironworks with Trench Pool. This colourised photograph was shared by Simon Alan Hark on the Telford Memories Facebook Group on 9th August 2021. [12]

The following colourised photographs give an excellent idea of what the Inclined Plane was like and how it worked. They have been colourised by Simon Alun Hark.

Trench Incline Plane, a colourised monochrome image which looks West down the Incline. This photograph was colourised by Simon Alun Hark and shared by him on the Shropshire Nostalgia and Film Facebook Group. [1]
Trench Inclined Plane, another colourised monochrome image which, this time, looks East up the Incline. This shows very clearly how the tub boats were carried up and down the incline. This photograph was colourised by Simon Alun Hark and shared by him on the Shropshire Nostalgia and Film Facebook Group. [2]
Another view up the Inclined Plane towards the Engine House. This photograph was colourised by Simon Alun Hark and shared by him on the Shropshire Past and Present Facebook Group. [13]
Trench Incline (before and after) shared by Daniel Johnston on the Disused Railways Facebook group. [3]
Trench Incline (after and before) shared by Daniel Johnston on the Disused Railways Facebook group. The Blue Pig Inn (also known as the Shropshire Arms) to the left has survived. The cottages next to it were known as ‘Trench Pool Bank’. The Incline engine house is at the top, to the right of this is the Wombridge Pumping Engine house. [3][4]
The image above showing the Blue Pig in the 21st century is just a little misleading as the fence line conceals the presence of the A442, Queensway, this image gives a slightly clearer indication of what has happened to the site at the base of the Incline! This is a Google Streetview image which was shared by Gwyn Thunderwing Hartley on the Oakengates History Group on Facebook. The road curves away leaving a grassed area as shown on the first ‘before and after’ image from Daniel Johnston above. [5]
The Shropshire Arms and the site of the Trench Incline in 1966. The photographer comments: “Seen behind the pub are cottages known as Trench Pool Bank, already unoccupied. All around here is now much changed: the pub is now the ‘Blue Pig’ … The cottages have been demolished, and a dual-carriageway road now runs where the incline once was.”
©Copyright Dr. Neil Clifton authorised for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-DA 2.0).[6]
The Shropshire Arms and the site of the Trench Incline in 1967. The photographer comments: “This was taken in 1967, and comparing it with my 1966 photograph shows that the empty cottages have now been demolished and the site cleared. Although today in 2007 a dual carriageway occupies the site of the inclined plane, the pub. has survived almost unchanged, as the ‘Blue Pig’.” ©Copyright Dr. Neil Clifton authorised for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-DA 2.0). [7]
A further image of the Shropshire Arms and the site of Trench Inclined Plane. A 1960s monochrome image which has been colourised © Simon Alun Hark. [19]
The Blue Pig and its surroundings in the 21st century. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
A view past towards the location of the incline from just outside the Blue Pig. [My photograph, 31st August 2022]
We finish this post in the same way as it started, with a colourised monochrome image shared by Simon Alun Hark the on the Shropshire Past and Present Facebook Group on 28th August 2022. [14]

References

  1. https://www.facebook.com/groups/626088212102853/permalink/626338268744514, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  2. https://m.facebook.com/groups/794448773917764/permalink/5752898211406104, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  3. https://m.facebook.com/groups/disusedrailways/permalink/2449041828583682, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  4. https://m.facebook.com/groups/261490703946559/permalink/1602948176467465, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  5. https://m.facebook.com/groups/261490703946559/permalink/2590798741015732 accessed on 1st July 2022.
  6. https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/250148, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  7. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%27Shropshire_Arms%27_and_Trench_Inclined_Plane_-geograph.org.uk-_343711.jpg, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  8. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.869946463025816&lat=52.70720&lon=-2.46138&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 1st July 2022.
  9. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594308ps://maps.nls.uk/view/101594308, accessed on 10th July 2022.
  10. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Wombridge_Canal#/google_vignette, accessed on 26th July 2022.
  11. http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/shropshire-tbc/shropshire-tbc.htm, accessed on 28th August 2022.
  12. https://m.facebook.com/groups/674238619260811/permalink/6197574766927141, accessed on 29th August 2022.
  13. https://www.facebook.com/groups/964857310243999/permalink/5490412487688436, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  14. https://www.facebook.com/groups/964857310243999/permalink/5487407237988961, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  15. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wombridge_Canal, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  16. Michael E Ware; Britain’s Lost Waterways. Moorland Publishing, 1989.
  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20170927203722/http://search.shropshirehistory.org.uk/collections/getrecord/CCS_MSA2197/, accessed on 39th August 2022.
  18. Ivor Brown; Some Notes on the Mines of the Lilleshall Company No. 5; in the Autumn Issue No. 2010.3). Journal of the Shropshire Caving & Mining Club Autumn Issue No. 2010.3, 2010; https://web.archive.org/web/20170927160003/http://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2010_3w.pdf, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  19. https://www.facebook.com/groups/964857310243999/permalink/5490384047691280, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  20. Both images can be found by following the discussion on this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/964857310243999/permalink/5487407237988961, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  21. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16&lat=52.72775&lon=-2.49957&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  22. https://www.wellingtonla21.org.uk/along-the-moors-wappenshall, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  23. http://www.telford.org.uk/index.html, accessed on 30th August 2022.
  24. https://sncanal.org.uk, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  25. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594272, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  26. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=52.72173&lon=-2.49288&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  27. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17&lat=52.71727&lon=-2.48896&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  28. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17&lat=52.71339&lon=-2.48241&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  29. https://www.moveero.com, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  30. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/business/2022/04/29/business-leader-welcomes-20million-gkn-telford-deal, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  31. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17&lat=52.70921&lon=-2.47492&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 31st August 2022.
  32. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17&lat=52.70822&lon=-2.46198&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 31st August 2022.

3 thoughts on “Canal Inclines in East Shropshire – the Trench Inclined Plane …

  1. Stuart Yearsley

    My, you have been busy today. A fantastic piece of work.

    Just a couple of things: Any section of canal between two locks is called ‘a pound,’ not a length, as I’m sure you know. Also, the guillotine mechanism was to operate a ‘Stop Lock’ used to isolate any pound and not to raise or lower boats.

    Keep up the good work,

    Stuart.

    Reply
      1. MMichael Ward

        Roger you are correct. The guillotine locks were used extensively on the Trench Branch and the Shrewsbury Canal to raise/lower the tub boats.

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