Alterations to the line
Construction began with the Chester–Stanlow and Llanymynech–Froncyssyltte sections as these were relatively easy to engineer and would give immediate financial returns; next came the start of the Shrewsbury line (which eventually only reached Weston Lullingfields) and the great aqueduct over the Dee.
In 1795 John Duncombe resurveyed the Whitchurch branch to reduce the earthworks required. His proposal followed the present line of the canal from Frankton Junction to Whixall Moss, then curved south on what became the Prees branch, before going east to Quina Brook and ending at Prees Heath, on the Whitchurch–Newport road. This was not acceptable to the Whitchurch interests, so a branch was agreed from Whixall Moss to Sherryman’s Bridge, at the edge of the town. These changes were incorporated in a deviation Act of 1796.
This Act also deleted the Fens Hall to Tattenhall line, replacing it with a requirement for the Ellesmere and Chester Canal Companies to agree on the best route and for the Ellesmere Canal to apply for Parliamentary powers within three years. Their engineers agreed on the line through Wrenbury, substantially as subsequently built, though nothing further was done for several years because of pressures elsewhere. However, in 1800 the committee decided to abandon the ‘western line’, which had previously been intended as the main line, and for the outlet to be past Ellesmere and Whitchurch to Hurleston Junction, north of Nantwich.
The contract for the first part of the Whitchurch branch, from Frankton Junction to Ellesmere, was let in 1797 and work proceeded slowly. Hampton Bank was reached in 1800 and Tilstock Park (three miles short of Whitchurch) in 1804. The through route from Tilstock Park to the Chester Canal at Hurleston Junction opened on 25 March 1805.