This stretch of canal is getting very familiar. I know every shallow bit, every awkward bridge approach, every exposed section between Ellesmere and Frankton Junction.
We moved up to the junction on Thursday, mooring above the locks ready to meet Brian with coal, diesel and a gas cylinder to replace the one that ran out on Thursday evening. Good timing or what!
He and Ann-Marie work hard supplying boaters on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals from NB Alton, and Brian delivers way out here once a month by road. A lovely couple, their schedule for deliveries can be found on their website.
Bosley Locks, April 2013
Brian was running a little behind so it wasn’t until about 4 o’clock that he arrived, but he did have time for a brew before he continued on his deliveries.
The weather outlook was grim, we’d had some rain through the day but it had cleared by 5 o’clock so we decided to make a start on the trip back to Ellesmere.
We pulled up near Bridge 63, nicely sheltered from the blustery wind by high banks and hedges.
With rain predicted all day today we made an early start while it was dry this morning, although, as it turned out, we could have left at any time and stayed dry.
Blue sky to the east, but to the west the clouds are heavy with rain.
No rain yet as we turn into the arm
We were back in Ellesmere, tied up in the arm, by half-ten.
We’d had a stowaway, a reptile of some description had joined us for a ride on the gunnel.
I think it’s a common newt, just emerged from his winter hibernation. He didn’t stay long, dropping back into the water and swimming off towards the bank.
I say he, of course it could have been a she. Sexing newts is not something I’m familiar with…
For lunch I decided to try that Nana’s Magic Soup that Tesco have been advertising recently.
It looked all right, but I’m afraid it’s rather bland and insipid. A tablespoon of chilli powder gave it a bit more pizzazz! I don’t think I’ll bother making it again.
At the entrance to the arm there’s a silted up and reed-choked spur, and I’ve wondered what it was for. A little research took me back the the National Library of Scotland’s map archives, and I found this one from 1902…
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland – http://maps.nls.uk/index.html
The spur is labelled “Boat House”, and further digging unearthed that John, and later Richard Tilston who had wharfs further up the arm for timber and building materials, also had a boatbuilding business here, and this was the site.
Looking up the arm from the entrance bridge, the site of the boatbuilder on the right…
…and from across the arm
The canal here was completed at the turn of the 19th century, Beech House opposite the junction, built for the Ellesmere Canal offices was finished in 1805 and the maintenance workshops next door a year later.
Although I can’t find anything to confirm this, it’s likely that the arm was also opened at around this time, bringing trade and prosperity to the town.
On the east side of the arm were several wharfs, that of the Tilston’s I’ve already mentioned, a coal wharf and also a timber wharf belonging to the Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton. The same guy who is arguably hailed as the father of the English canal system, having opened the Bridgewater Canal between Worsley and Manchester in 1761. Although not involved in the construction of the Ellesmere Canal, he later became a shareholder and chair of the management committee.
His influence in the town came from the extensive landholdings in the area that came with the title, hence the name of the foundry at the top of the arm, on the west side.
The Bridgewater Foundry was established in the early 1850’s by William Clay.
From Graces Guide to British Industrial History - “General Engineers and Ironfounders and manufacturers of First Class Prize Portable Steam Engines and Thrashing Machines.”
The Foundry closed soon after WWI and the site was taken over by the Great Western and Metropolitan Dairies.
The dairy in 1986.
From the BBCs Domesday Reloaded website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday
The same view today, the site at the head of the arm now occupied by Tesco.
The crane, now preserved, still sits in it’s original position.
Further back down the arm on the west side was the gas works, built in 1832, and using canal transport to supply coal for conversion to town gas. All that area is now cleared, and is up for sale as part of an extensive development.
Behind the old warehouse on the opposite side of the arm is a derelict area that used to be occupied by several buildings, among them a cottage and stables for boat horses. All have been demolished now.
In the season it’s often difficult to find space to moor on the arm, imagine what it must have been like in the middle of the 19th century!
We’ll be here for the weekend, then, depending on the weather, we’ll start heading back to the main network early next week. So this should be our last visit to Ellesmere this trip – maybe!
Locks 0, miles 6