Shropshire Union Canal, Chester

Renovated Steam Mill, close to the Shot Tower


1 October 2011


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.

Shropshire Union Canal (Wikipedia);
The Chester Canal (Chester: A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls);
Former Steam Flour Mill (British Listed Buildings)

Steam Mill business centre on the canal side

Below the bridge between Egerton Street and Seller Street

Grooves worn into the bridge ironwork by barge tow ropes pulled by horses

5 thoughts on “Shropshire Union Canal, Chester

  1. Pingback: Chester Shot Tower « GeoTopoi

  2. This mill has often fascinated is wonderful. It somehow manages to live with it’s brash neighbours over the canal…I don’t mind them, just that the materials aren’t as honest as those of the mill. Love the shots from under the bridge…the tell-tale echoes of the past.


    • Yes, there is a certain incongruity between the old and the new. Makes me wonder what the Shot Tower would have looked like with a modern four-storey extension stuck on the side if Property Regeneration’s plans had come to fruition.


Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.