Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In search of an Arm…..

After my passing mention of the Whitchurch Arm in yesterday’s post, I decided to try and trace the route into the town, or at least as much of it as is accessible.

Ann, George and I set off on what was initially a pretty fruitless quest. The current limit of the Arm is just before what would have Bridge 1, although there’s no number on it.

End of the arm – restored bridge.SAM_0001 End of Whitchurch Arm
Looking back from under the modern concrete bridge a little further on, you can see that the line of the canal would have headed off to the left of the footpath…
SAM_0002 Looking back to Br 1 

All this area has been infilled for housing, in fact the canal is buried several yards deep under this car park.SAM_0004 Carpark above canal
The canal ran parallel to the road for a few hundred yards….

Under these houses…..SAM_0005 canal runs under houses along Chemistry
……before veering off to the north as the road rises. There were no locks on the arm, it stuck resolutely to the 192 foot contour, so had to swing around the rising ground.

A ¼ mile further on it swung back in towards and under the road, somewhere near these back gardens.SAM_0007 Under Smallbrook road through these back gardens
This would have been Sherryman’s Bridge, and the end of the line from 1808 till the terminus was established at Castle Well 3 years later.

The arm reappears from under the road into the open area of Jubilee Park, and from here it’s easy to follow although there is no surface evidence.

Ann is standing next to a group of manholes, presumably to access some sort of watercourse, and there’s a fenced-off boggy area just beyond.
SAM_0009 Canal bed in park
The level runs straight towards the right side of the tiered brick buildings in the distance.

Looking back from near the end of Park Avenue…..SAM_0010 Looking back from near Park Avenue

.....and forward towards the terminus basin, now being built upon.SAM_0011 Looking towards terminus
The route is under the footpath.

From Mill Street, the new development on top of the old terminal basin.SAM_0015 terminus was here

It’s obvious that restoration of the original line is unrealistic. There is, however, a limited project intending to build a new channel to a small mooring basin where the car park sits alongside Chemistry (picture above). Any further into town would involve considerable effort. A further proposal involves flooding the valley below the arm on the north side, creating a mooring lake and connected to the arm by an inclined plane. 

We had a walk up to the church at the top of the High Street, and was pleased to see it open.

St Alkmund’s, WhitchurchSAM_0017 St Alkmund's

Built in sandstone, it replaces a 14C building which collapsed in 1711. With tall broad windows, the interior is light and airy.SAM_0020

Fine altarSAM_0019

There’s a side chapel containing the tomb of Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who died at the Battle of Bordeaux in 1453. He’d fought for King and Country for 24 years, and asked that he be buried at Whitchurch.

Side ChapelSAM_0021

His embalmed heart was returned first, and is buried under a stone in the porch. His bones came later and are in the tomb on the right.

Tablet under the porch - Click to enlargeSAM_0018

Above the entrance to the chapel is a dedication to William Henry Egerton 1811-1910, rector here, following in his father’s footsteps. There’s an interesting canal connection. Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, is a relative. Known as the father of the modern canal system after building the Bridgewater Canal in 1761, he died childless and the Dukedom died with him.
A lesser title, that of the Earl of Bridgewater, was transferred to a cousin, John Egerton, Bishop of Durham, who became the 7th Earl. He was  William Henry’s uncle. John also died without an heir so the title went to his brother Philip, who became the 8th Earl. William, being Philip's 4th son, didn’t inherit the title and did what most younger sons did; joined the clergy. It was generally either that or the military.

We headed back down High Street and had a sandwich and a pint in the White Bear.

Looking down High StreetSAM_0022 High Street

Tucked away down an alley, this pub looks old from the outside but has unfortunately been “modernised” on the inside. Still, can’t fault the food or the pint of Greene King.

A quick visit to Tesco, then we headed back to the boats.

Moving on towards Ellesmere tomorrow.

Locks 0, miles 0.

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