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Llangollen Canal history

Trevor Basin, by Master47
Trevor Basin - at the head of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and part of Llangollen Canal

By Nick Bourne
How the canal came to Wrexham, why it stopped at Llangollen, Thomas Telford's involvement and the old tramways around nearby Ceiriog Valley, Cefn and Rhos

Llangollen Canal - formerly called Ellesmere Canal - was first mooted in 1791 at a public meeting in Ellesmere on the Wrexham-Shropshire border to plan a canal linking three rivers: the Mersey, the Dee and the Severn - helping industry and linking into the Denbighshire coalfields.

A year later work started on its meandering route starting west from Nantwich, Cheshire, to Whitchurch and Ellesmere in Shropshire, and ending in Cefn Mawr and Llangollen, on the Wrexham-Denbighshire border.

It made it no further. The planned route through the Denbighshire coalfield, past Wrexham and on to Chester, was too expensive.

In 1801 William Jessop the canal engineer recommended abandoning the canal. Chester and Shrewsbury had found cheaper, closer supplies than Denbighshire coal. Jessop, instead, focused on developing a tramway system to connect local industry to the canal basin at Trevor, Wrexham.

Despite the failure to build the canal to Chester, the completion of the now famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by Thomas Telford, an agent to the canal company, proved to be a major success for the local economy. Industries in the Ceiriog Valley used the Glyn Valley Tramway to carry freight to the canal.

Ironmaster & engineer William Hazeldine, whose Plas Kynaston foundry, Cefn Mawr, made the troughs for the aqueduct, was one of many businessmen to thrive during the 19th century in the villages north of the aqueduct.

A tramway system running from the Trevor basin, Froncysyllte, to north of Rhos encouraged more industrial development.

According to the history books, it took the boatmen and craftsmen - who worked the waterway and lived on the canals with their families - up to a week to make a return journey.

Today, British Waterways says Llangollen Canal is the most popular part of its network with 15,000 boat users each year.

Your comments

Sarah, Chester: "A canal (The Ellesmere Canal) was planned to run from a place on the River Mersey near Whitby, to near Shrewsbury on the River Severn. This canal would pass through Chester, pass very near to Wrexham (at Poolmouth), and pass by the industrial areas around Ruabon on its way south. A branch was to run from Poolmouth to a large reservoir at Coed Talon, via a flight of locks at Ffrwd. This canal was not built as planned, largely due to the inflation in the economy after the Napolionic wars causing construction costs to increase substantially. What was built is now known as the Llangollen Canal, and part of the Shropshire Union Canal. (The place near Whitby is now known as Ellesmere Port.) A part of the branch (over 2 miles) was also built from the Gwersyllt Road to Ffrwd, and remains can be found, despite part of the canal being built over by a railway, which is now also derelict and lifted. (The Great Central Railway Westminster Colliery Branch, which also served Ffrwd Ironworks.)"

Ewan, Ffrith: "I'm not an expert but I believe that a start was made in digging some of the canal to Wrexham and beyond. There is a minor road in Cefn-y-Bedd where you can see clear traces of canal bed having been dug along the contour,(perhaps it was heading for the Ffrwd Coal and Iron Works) and there may be other places where remains can be seen. I also have read (can't remember where) that the plans included building a dam in the Ffrith area and flooding the Ffrith-Llanfynydd valley to provide a reservoir for canal water supplies. I'd be fascinated if anyone has any more information about these plans or remains."




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