Lilleshall Inclined Plane: 123 yds long, 43 ft. This replaced an earlier vertical lift in a shaft and tunnel system. 
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.  
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. 
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.  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.” 
Maps and Illustrations of the Inclined Plane
The Trench Branch Canal left the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal at Wappenshall Junction.
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. 
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.
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.
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]
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.
The canal length covered by this article is shown on this plan based on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map of the area. The plan is from an article by Andy Tidy on his blog, Captain Ahab’s Watery Tales. His excellent blog is worth reading. 
There were two inclined planes on this length of the Shropshire Canal, both are shown on this plan. Two previous articles cover the Hay Inclined Plane at Coalport which took tub boats down to the wharves alongside the River Severn. These can be found by following these links:
The Windmill Inclined Plane is buried under modern development.
There is more about both these inclined planes below.
Immediately South of Stirchley Iron Works there was a loop in the line of the canal which meant that it was on a tighter curvature than the engineers for the later LNWR Coalport Branch were happy with. The 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1881 shows that length of the canal running alongside the railway.
A short distance South of Stirchley Lane, the Canal entered a 281 yard long tunnel – Stirchley Tunnel. When the railway was built, the tunnel was opened out into a cutting. At this location the Ordnance Survey mapping above shows a rock face to the West side of the railway which highlights the location of the erstwhile tunnel.
A short distance beyond the location of the bridge in the above photo the canal route to the River Severn branches away to the left (East), the arm of the canal running to the West towards Horsehay continues South for a short distance before turning West across the old Bridgnorth turnpike road. The OS Map below shows both of the two arms of the Canal.
It is worth emphasising that the lines drawn above are only approximate, particularly in the case of the old Shropshire Canal. A somewhat more accurate alignment for the Canal is shown, length-by-length in the side-by-side images below
The branch canal will be for another article. In this article we are following the route to the River Severn.
Aqueduct Village to the River Severn
Just South of the tunnel, the Canal to the Severn turned away to the East from the branch over the aqueduct. The 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1881 above shows the remains of the Canal, first heading East, then curving round to the South before turning East then South-southeast.
As it turned South-southeast it reached the head of the Windmill Inclined Plane which was 600yds long and had a 125 ft rise. 
Following the route of the Canal on the ground in the 21st century is difficult as the topography has changed significantly and the majority of the line is built over. Establishing the actual route is difficult, even with the aid of modern mapping tools available through the National Library of Scotland (NLS). The side-by-side option on the NLS website enables a line to be transferred with some accuracy. You will see that in producing the line on the ESRI image above I misjudged the alignment of the curves when transferring them from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1881 onto the ESRI imagery from the NLS. The side-by-side images permit the cursor to appear on both the map and the satellite image at the same time.
The four Streetview immediately below show the approximate points where the old canal alignment crosses modern roads. The first shows Aqueduct Lane just to the North of Chapmans Close and at the point where a modern access to the Silkin Way meets the lane.
As we noted above, I have not tried to accurately plot the line of the old canal where it does not show on th Ordnance Survey mapping. The next length shown on the mapping is covered on the next side-by-side image below and includes the top part of the Windmill Inclined plane. The route of the incline is defined by the field boundary shown on the OS map.
As we have already noted Windmill Inclined Plane was 6ooft long and saw a drop in levels towards the River Severn of 125ft. We have no pictures of the incline but we do have pictures of another incline on the Shropshire Canal which survived for a little longer and we have the Hay Incline to see in the 21st century. Photos have survived of Trench Incline while it was still operational.
Trench Inclined Plane was covered in another article on this site:
The original photos of Trench Incline were monochrome but modern technology now allows those images to be colourised. The images below hopefully give a good idea of what Windmill Inclined Plane might also have been like in operation. The images were colourised by Simon Alun Hark and shared by him on his Shropshire Nostalgia and Film Facebook Group. 
These Canal Inclined Planes were a much more effective method of lifting the tub boats over significant height gains than would have been a series of canal locks. While these were expedient with tub boats, they would have been impractical for narrow boats which were of a much greater length.
A history of the inclined planes on the Shropshire Canal is provided by P. Whitehead in an article online which is entitled ‘Shropshire Tub Boat Canals‘. 
Bradshaw and Jenkins tell us that “the canal was closed between Wrockwardine Wood and the bottom of the Windmill Hill inclined plane on 1st June 1858, although isolated sections of the waterway remained in use for many years thereafter.” [21: p169]
The canal curved round to the top of the Hay Inclined Plane. The next map extract shows the full extent of the Hay Inclined Plane.
The Incline is covered in two short articles which can be found here and here. A few pictures will suffice as part of this article. …
The Hay Inclined Plane in its original condition in the late 19th century when it was still in use.
The structures at the top of the incline are in good condition.
The rope on the track on the right shows that a tub boat has recently descended the inline on that track.
This picture was shared on the Memories of Shropshire Facebook Group by Stephen Williams on 25th January 2020.
R.F. Savage & L.D.W. Smith; The Waggon-ways and Plate-ways of East Shropshire, Birmingham School of Architecture, 1965. An original document is held by the Archive Office of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
The Coalport Branch of the Shropshire Canal appears on the schematic plan below. The tub boat canals were linked to the Shropshire Union Canal via the Newport Canal (the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal).
An Act of Parliament dated 11th June 1788 enabled the construction of the Shropshire Canal. It was opened along nearly its full length by 1791 and served the major ironworks and collieries in its immediate vicinity. These included “the Snedshill and Priors Lee Furnaces, the Lilleshall Company’s early mines, the Madeley Court Ironworks, Blists Hill Furnaces and the Coalbrookedale Company.” [24: p 167]
The Shropshire Canal was blighted by subsidence throughout its life. Many of the mines in the area were shallow workings only had short working lives and, once the reserves that they exploited were exhausted, were abandoned. Their demise often resulted in water loss from the canal, a problem which could not be addressed quickly. Of more substantial difficulty were the occasions when subsidence led to more significant structural damage to the waterways and their associated inclined planes.
Initially, the majority of the loads carried by the canal were transported only short distances between industrial sites in the immediate area. Over time, first coal and pig iron and later other products were dispatched to a variety of destinations outside the area. An inclined plane (the Hay Inclined Plane) linked the Canal to the River Severn. See:
Coalport grew significantly as a result of this trade and “within a few years two potteries, a rope works and a chain works opened there.” [24: p167]
A length of the canal from Trench to Shrewsbury was open by 1797, but it remained isolated from the rest of the canal network until 1835, when the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal built the Newport Branch from Norbury Junction to a new junction with the Shrewsbury Canal at Wappenshall. 
The Trench Branch brought the Canal to the top of Trench Inclined Plane, that length of canal and the Inclined Plane are covered in an article which can be found here:
At the top of the incline a junction was made with the Wombridge Canal which is marked as a continuation of the Trench Branch on OS Maps.
The Wombridge Canal opened in 1788, and parts of it were taken over by the Shrewsbury Canal Company in 1792, who built the inclined plane at Trench. It lowered tub-boats 75 feet (23 m), and 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. 
As the schematic plan of the Shropshire Canal network above shows, from the top of Trench Inclined Plane (Wombridge Wharf) tub-boats could be taken in two different directions. Turn to the South and it was only a short journey to Wombridge Iron Works. This short length of the canal is shown on an extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1881 below. …
Northeast of Trench Inclined Plane the Wombridge Canal linked across to Old Yard Junction. Here the Donnington Wood Canal continued Northeast and the Coalport Branch ran to the South.
Travelling South on the Coalport Branch Canal, tub-boats would have immediately encountered Wrockwardine Wood Inclined Plane.
Construction of the Wrockwardine Wood Inclined Plane took place in 1791 after the Ironmaster, John Wilkinson petitioned Parliament to extend the Shropshire Canal from Snedshill to form a junction with the Donnington Wood Canal. 
P. Whitehead  provides approximate figures for the inclined planes on the Shropshire Canal as follows:
Wrockwardine Wood Inclined Plane: 350yds long, 120ft rise. Or 316yds long, 113ft 2in rise. (But note the information provided by British History Online below and reference  which gives different dimensions again.
Windmill Inclined Plane: 600yds long, 125 ft rise.
Lilleshall Inclined Plane: 123 yds long, 43 ft. This replaced an earlier vertical lift in a shaft and tunnel system. 
The Coalport Branch continued South. The majority of its route is picked up on John Rennie’s plan showing the proposed route of his Shrewsbury & Wolverhampton Railway which predated the construction of the LNWR’s Coalport Branch.
The route of the Canal can be picked out in greater detail on the 6″ Ordnance Survey which was completed in 1881 and published in 1888. By this time the LNWR’s Coalport Branch had been built and the canal can only been where it had not been replaced by the railway. There are, however, some very short sections of the canal still visible alongside the railway route even into the 21st century.
Wrockwardine Wood, north-east of Oakengates town centre, was originally a detached piece of woodland, later a township, belonging to the manor and parish of Wrockwardine, the rest of which lay 7 km. to the west. British History Online provides a history and a plan of the area. The plan (reproduced below) clearly shows the Inclined Plane. “An inclined plane on the Shropshire Canal rose 122 ft. in 320 yd. from the junction to a summit level on Cockshutt Piece. The Shropshire Canal closed in 1857, the Shrewsbury c. 1921.  An underground level, perhaps navigable, ran between Donnington Wood furnaces and the area north-west of the Nabb by c. 1800. ” 
The Loop adjacent to, and South of, Malinslee Railway Station
The Loop near Stirchley Ironworks
Andy Tidy surveyed the route of the Coalport Branch of the Shropshire Canal in March 2012. He highlighted two areas worthy of note. The first adjacent to Hinkshay/Stirchley Pools and the second to the South of Dawley and Stirchley Railway Station where the Canal was in tunnel during its working life. 
Adjacent to the Hinkshay Pools, the Canal alignment deviated from the formation of the later Railway. Andy Tidy provided a plan (below) of the location which I have annotated with the key features he refers to. His pictures of the canal deviation can be seen here. 
The remaining length of the canal to the South of Stirchley Iron Works is covered in a second article which can be found on this link:
A P Baggs, D C Cox, Jessie McFall, P A Stamper and A J L Winchester; Wrockwardine Wood, in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, ed. G C Baugh and C R Elrington (London, 1985), pp. 323-326. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp323-326, accessed on 29th August 2022.
A P Baggs, D C Cox, Jessie McFall, P A Stamper and A J L Winchester; Wombridge: Growth of settlement, in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, ed. G C Baugh and C R Elrington (London, 1985), pp. 285-289. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp285-289; accessed on 2nd September 2022.
A P Baggs, D C Cox, Jessie McFall, P A Stamper and A J L Winchester; Wombridge: Communications, in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, ed. G C Baugh and C R Elrington (London, 1985), pp. 284-285. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp284-285; accessed on 2nd September 2022.
Bob Yate; The Shropshire Union Railway – Stafford to Shrewsbury including the Coalport Branch (OL129); Oakwood Press, Usk, Monmouthshire, 2003.