Shropshire Union Canal, Chester
|Date||1 October 2011|
|Location||Chester||SJ 41069 66639; 53.19354°N, 2.88350°W|
The main line of the Shropshire Union Canal runs from Ellesmere Port on the River Mersey to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at Wolverhampton. Now in the hands of British Waterways, the canal resulted from the mergers of various smaller canal companies.
Permission was granted in 1772 for a canal from Chester eastwards to Nantwich and Middlewich. A short section in Chester was opened in 1774 and the extension to Nantwich was completed in 1779. This was, however, a dead end, as competing interests had managed to prevent it from joining the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich. It consequently met with little commercial success until a route north opened up in 1797 with the construction of the Ellesmere Canal. This ushered in a period of prosperity which saw the canal-side areas of Chester becoming increasingly industrialised. The leadworks’ shot tower and the Steam Mill are two notable surviving examples of developments from that era.
The Chester and Ellesmere Canal companies merged in 1813 and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal was also incorporated into the business in 1845. The next year the enterprise changed its name to the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company and took over the Shrewsbury Canal and others in east Shropshire. The company was, in turn, acquired in 1922 by the London and North Western Railway Company.
Competition from the railways led to the decline of the commercial use of the canals and the canal-side areas, once thriving centres of industrial activity, fell into a period of decay. Nowadays such areas are the subject of urban regeneration projects, with the land, and in some cases existing buildings, being reused for residential and business developments.
The Steam Mill
The Steam Mill building dates back to around 1785 and was built in three phases, with additions in the early and mid 19th century. It originally served as a canal-side warehouse and in 1864 was converted into a steam-powered flour mill. More recently, Miln’s Seeds used it as a warehouse in the 1970s and 80s, during which time it featured a seed-transport system based on blown air and gravity. It received a Grade II listing in 1985 and is now a business centre with a bar/club on its ground floor.