Newcastle Under Lyme Canals

Newcastle Under Lyme Canals - History

Sir Nigel Gresley, who owned mines near Newcastle Under Lyme, obtained authority to build a canal from his collieries at Apedale on the north west side of Newcastleto the centre of the town, a distance of about 4 miles.

While Gresleys' canal was still being built a separate canal was authorised which would enter Newcastle on the south side.This was to be known as the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal and it would connect the town to the Trent & Mersey Canal in Stoke On Trent.

The Nigel Gresley Canal opened and Gresley secured exclusive rights to supply Newcastle with coal for 21 years on condition that the price was no higher than 25 pence per ton. The agreement forbid the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal from carrying coal other than for use in the pottery trade. At this stage, however, the Newcastle Canal was still only in the early stages of construction. The opening of the Gresley Canal and (in particular) the cheap and plentiful supply of coal greatly helped the rapid growth of Newcastle.

A third canal was proposed for the Newcastle area. This was to be known as the Newcastle Under Lyme Junction Canal, one of its main promoters was Nigel Gresleys' son.  The route was planned to be a link canal from the Nigel Gresley Canal to the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal.

At the southern end of the Junction Canal a railway inclined plane was planned because the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal was some 60 feet lower than the Nigel Gresley Canal. However, in the end the incline was not built due to lack of money, thus the Nigel Gresley Canal remained severed from the main inland network and the Junction Canal became no more than an extension of the Gresley Canal, bringing the route further into Newcastle.

The Newcastle Under Lyme Canal opened from the centre of the town to the centre of the Potteries where it joined the already thriving Trent & Mersey Canal. Because Gresley had exclusive rights to coal carrying, limestone became the main cargo on the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal.

Nigel Gresleys' original 21 year agreement allowing him exclusive rights to supply coal to Newcastle came to an end. A new agreement was settled giving him exclusive rights for a further 21 years and allowing him to raise prices to 27½p per ton.

During its life span the owners of the Junction Canal did very little to maintain it or look after its properties. As soon as the North Staffordshire Railway began to plan a line through Newcastle the canal's owners closed the waterway down and sold part of it to the railway. During the next few years the rest of the route was sold to individual buyers.

The Nigel Gresley Canal, by this time owned by R.E.Heathcote, became disused after a railway branch was built to serve Apedale Colliery.

The Newcastle Under Lyme Canal survived a good while longer than its near neighbours though it too eventually sold out to the North Staffordshire Railway. By this time the railway company also owned the Trent & Mersey Canal which the Newcastle Canal very much depended on. The canal's shareholders did very well out of the deal considering the route had only ever paid out occasional and very low dividends during their ownership. The railway company did not close down the Newcastle Canal and it continued in commercial use for another 58 years.

The northern most part of the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal was closed.

The remaining part of the Newcastle Canal was also closed and the whole route was abandoned. Over the following decades new buildings and roads virtually wiped out all three Newcastle canals.

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Newcastle Under Lyme Canals - Routes

Sir Nigel Gresley Canal Route Information

According to my reference book (written by Ronald Russell in 1971) the Apedale Mineral Company still exists about 3 miles north west of Newcastle between Alsagers Bank and Chesterton. Small bits of the canal could still be found in what was described as a muddy and desolate area surrounded by quarries. My 1996 map shows two tracks leading to Apedale, one heading north east from the B5367 at Alsagers Bank and the other heading west from the B5500 (formerly the A52) at Chesterton. However, these tracks are obviously the lanes used by the mineral company's lorries because Ronald Russell described them not as roads but as "a collection of pot holes"! The site of the canal bed was said to be well churned up and uninviting.

From Apedale the canal headed south east to Liverpool Road (now the A34) where there were basins and wharves. Apparently none of this has survived though I believe it was right alongside the west edge of the A34 close to the current site of Newcastle College.

Newcastle Under Lyme Junction Canal Route

The Junction Canal began a hundred yards or so north of the Nigel Gresley Canal's southern terminus on Liverpool Road (A34). From the junction it headed south east and immediately passed under Liverpool Road, on the east side of the road the canal curved southwards.

In 1971 Ronald Russell located a stretch of the canal bed near the crossroads of the A34 and what was then the B5068. To the south of this crossroads (on the east side of Liverpool Road) is Mayer Avenue which leads to St. Michael's Infants School. A path beside the school leads/led about 100 yards to the former Junction Canal. All that remained in 1971 was a depression between two raised banks. This depression was once the canal line, it stretched for about 400 yards running through rough land surrounded by houses.

My current Newcastle Town Plan shows Brampton Industrial Estate in the area close to where the canal ran. Enderley Road probably passes over the route and somewhere close to here the canal curved south east again. Broad Street may have been close to the canal and possibly ran parallel to it. Streets running north/south (such as Florence Street and Cherry Orchard) probably crossed the canal.

After being crossed by Queen Street (A527) the route curved south again and was crossed by King Street (A53). Just south of here is Brunswick Street (A52), in 1971 Ronald Russell found "traces" of the canal close to this road. He also found traces of the route along Station Walks.

The canal continued south right into the town centre, presumably fairly close and parallel to North Street while Hassell Street crossed its path. What was once the southern end of the canal is now Stubbs Walks (close to Victoria Road) and the site of the proposed railway inclined plane is now Occupation Street, heading down south westwards towards London Road (A34).

Newcastle Under Lyme Canal Route

The terminus of the Newcastle Canal was close to Brook Lane. A pub named the Boat & Horses still stands near the former basin though the basin itself was converted into railway sidings many years ago.Although still extant in 1971 these sidings have also now been removed.

The canal left the town centre heading south east on the west side of London Road (A34). Where Occupation Street leaves London Road is the spot which would have been the bottom of the inclined plane (had it been built). Near here is the newly developed Lyme Valley Park - Lyme Brook runs to the west of the canal line.

A little further south there is/was a small cemetery and a bowling green. The canal ran behind these into a cutting surrounded by a small wood. Past here it emerges by the side of the busy A34 opposite the General Hospital. In 1971 the canal here was just a muddy ditch but even then it provided a useful service to the local community - they used it to dump their rubbish!!! Surprisingly this section has survived and today it is the only part of any of the Newcastle canals which holds water.

A couple of minor roads crossed the canal as it ran south close to the A34. One such minor road (apparently) still has a swing bridge crossing the cut. At Oak Hill the canal curved south west for a hundred yards or so and then curved back round to head east under the A34. The crossing point on the main road was about ½ way between the B5041 (heading north east towards Stoke) and the big A34/A500 roundabout. At Oak Hill the dry bed of the canal can be found behind The Cottage pub.

On the east side of the A34 the canal continued east till it reached the now minor road but former A5006 which runs north east from the afore mentioned roundabout. When the canal reached the old A5006 it turned again and headed north east into Boothen. The route pulled away from the A5006 until it came close to the B5041 - another London Road.In Boothen the line of the canal can still be seen where it is grassed over alongside this London Road.

Just before the B5041 and the former canal line meet the A52 in Stoke the canal used to disappear into a relatively short tunnel - I have no information on whether this has survived. On the far side of the tunnel is Spode Factory and museum,shortly after this the Newcastle Canal ran into the Trent & Mersey Canal near Glebe Street (somewhere opposite the railway station). Until the early 1970's there was a 100 yard stretch of navigable Newcastle Canal here which was used as moorings for Stoke Boat Club, this stretch was wiped out when the huge A500 by-pass was built. The one remaining item of the canal which can still be seen in Stoke is the site of a bridge in Cambridge Street where both parapets have survived.

There is a monument alongside the Newcastle Canal commemorating the bravery of a tram conductor who drowned in the canal when he jumped in to save a child. This monument is on London Road (B5041) opposite the junction with James Street, near the former West End pub (now called Corkys?).

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