the Whitchurch Arm

The effect of the canal on Whitchurch

No doubt coal from the north Shropshire coalfield became much cheaper and agricultural and other produce became more freely traded, though the author has no direct evidence of this. The surviving warehouse at the basin shows the date 1828.

New industries came to be established by the canal.

A four-storey steam-powered corn mill was constructed at the canal terminus in 1826. Also in the 1820s, at Sherryman’s Hill, Whitfield & Sergeant built a canalside silk mill,144 feet long and 35 feet wide, providing working space for 200 people. It was two storeys high, but designed so that three further storeys could be added. Power was provided by a 10hp steam engine by Galloway of Manchester for four 104-bobbin doubling frames, a hard silk engine with 100 swifts, and four 100-bobbin drawing frames. It was offered for sale in 1831, and by 1851 had been converted to a warehouse by Thomas Burgess, a cheese factor and corn merchant. The gas works was established at Sherryman’s Bridge, as was another corn mill.

The canal was never important for the carriage of people. In 1808 Samuel Turner and his copartners were given permission to put on a boat to convey passengers from Whitchurch to Chester and from Whitchurch to Ellesmere and Oswestry, but it is not known whether the experiment was tried — and if it was, it was certainly not successful.

The increase in population during the ‘canal era’ indicates the significance of the canal. The total population of Whitchurch and Dodington townships increased from 3,251 in 1811 to 4,413 in 1841, an increase of 36%. The increase at Dodington, where the terminus of the canal was situated, was 52%, perhaps indicating a shift in the ‘centre of gravity’ of the town towards the canal. These figures may be compared with an increase of only 17% at Drayton, where the canal did not open until 1835.