Contributed by Jim Worgan
Part Two- The Newcastle under Lyme Canal (Lower Canal) 1795
A Company was formed in 1794 to promote the construction of a canal from the grand junction canal (Trent & Mersey) in Stoke to the ancient market town of Newcastle under Lyme following the initial success of Sir Nigel Gresleys canal from Apedale (1775). The canal was to be four miles long with no locks and a towing path which ran by the canal for its own length. When the bill was presented to parliament in February 1795 several objections were made principally by pottery manufacturers in Stoke. The bill was approved on 2nd June 1795 and they had succeeded in getting the junction with the Trent and Mersey in the centre of Stoke. They were also excused payment of tolls on the canal for the transport of coal to, and goods from their factories. (by virtue of the Gresley canal act of 1775 any coal transported from Apedale could not be sold for less than 8 shillings a ton in Newcastle). The proposed canal left the Trent & Mersey on the northern side of Leek road in Stoke, passed under Copeland Street and Campbell Place in a tunnel and onwards to Trent Vale(along side the present London road) before turning north, crossing the Clayton road and then ran on the west of the A34 to terminate at Pool dam.
The company appears to have been in financial difficulty from the start and problems in raising the required capital lead to a large loan from Newcastle corporation. In addition the canal was cut back from Pool dam and terminated at a wharf in Brook Lane close to the present Homebase store.
The main interest of the canal was the transport of coal, limestone, building materials and furnace cinders at a rate of 4 shillings per ton. The most important was limestone which arrived via the Cauldon and Trent and Mersey canals. It was used as a flux in the smelting process at Silverdale and Apedale iron works. Limestone was also burned in kilns at the Brooke Street basin and although they were in use in 1847 they were demolished in 1861.
In 1831 George Stevenson (of railway fame) drew up a report for the construction of an inclined railway connecting the lower canal at Brooke Street with the Newcastle under Lyme junction canal (Upper Canal) at Stubbs gate (see part 3) but this came to nothing.
The canal was not profitable and shareholders did not receive a dividend until 1840. It remained an independent company, but in 1863 it was leased to the North Staffordshire Railway who undertook to keep the canal in “good repair”. In 1921 an act was obtained which allowed the canal to be filled in and abandoned between Trent Vale and Newcastle and by the outbreak of the second world war it had been filled in and abandoned back to Aqueduct Street in Stoke. The last remnant of the canal in Stoke, used as mooring by Stoke Boat Club, was obliterated by the construction of the D road in 1976.
Initial hopes were high but the canal never reached its potential. Today the only traces of the canal are “the Boat and Horses public house” and a water filled stretch opposite the city general hospital to the west of the A34. In West End, Stoke, a granite obelisk still stands to the memory of Timothy Trow, a tram conductor age 21 who lost his life by drowning in an heroic attempt to save a child who fell into the canal on April 13th 1894. I believe that the child survived