Contributed by Jim Worgan
The Newcastle under Lyme Junction Canal (Upper Canal) 1798
Following the completion of the lower canal both its directors and those of the Gresley Canal realised that a through route between the two canals was now a possibility. A report drawn up in 1797 recommended the construction of the upper canal and 3 railways but by the time that the act was passed in 1798 it related only to the canal. It was completed in 1799 and ran for one and one eighth miles from Gresleys canal near to the present derelict Hanging Gate pub through the West Brampton under Queen And King Streets, alongside the Borough Arms hotel and under Brunswick Street (Zanzibar) to terminate in Stubbs Walks close to Occupation Street.
The shareholders then met to consider how the upper canal could have been connected to the lower canal but no decision was reached. Trade on the upper canal was scant with most of the traffic terminating at the coal wharf(close to Johnson’s drive in dry cleaners) and the section from here to Stubbs Gate became disused in the early part of the 19th century. This clearly affected trade on the lower canal and in 1831 George Stevenson was invited to present a report on how to connect the upper and lower canals. He proposed a single track incline plane to transport boats between the canals at a cost of just in excess of two thousand pounds. Despite heroic efforts from the shareholders, the inclined plane, which was to run down occupation street was never built. This ultimately sounded the “death knell” for most of the upper canal. In 1846 the Stubbs Field section was abandoned when the NSR who had purchased the share capital of the Trent and Mersey canal was authorised to construct a railway from Stoke to Newcastle- under-Lyme. The track bed of the railway utilised the canal bed from the Borough Arms hotel to the sidings in West Brampton and the canal became a little used waterway and had completely closed by 1864.
In the 1970’s part of the canal was discernable to the west of Hempstalls Lane and Beattie Avenue but was filled in following the restoration of the “playing fields” and the construction of the housing estate of St Michaels Road. Within the housing estate a modern road bridge crosses the Lyme brook on the site of the original canal bridge. I think many times that I should have taken photographs in this area, but never did.
The hopes and aspirations of the proprietors of all three canals were high and although initial success was achieved by Gresleys Canal, with the coming of the NSR they sank into a decline from which they never recovered.