Ellesmere Canal – Gwersyllt to Ffrwd Section

In 1800 the abandonment of the Ellesmere Canal main line from Trevor via Wrexham to Chester was already being mooted, mainly because Flintshire and Deeside collieries had already reached tidal water via short tramways or railroads, thus pre-empting markets at Chester and in the Wirral. If the company persisted with the main line they would still have to build tramways to link individual pits with the canal.

Getting the canal down from high ground around Esless to the bed of the Alyn river north of Wrexham would need many locks (a total of 25 on one canal map). Converting Pontcysyllte aqueduct into a railway viaduct would save the company £8,400 notwithstanding the cost (£500) of carrying water across in elm pipes. A railway viaduct would take 12 months less to build, implying an increase in revenue. Fortunately perhaps, Jessop approved Telford’s ideas for an iron trough construction and on November 21, 1805 the ceremonial opening of the aqueduct duly took place, but it was already almost redundant.

Twenty years later the Stockton & Darlington Railway was opened and canals as a means of communication were faced with extinction, although thankfully for today’s tourist industry, it would be a slow and lingering death. The value of railways was tacitly recognised when the company doubled its tramway from Pontcysyllte through Acrefair, Plas Madoc and Plas Bennion to Afon Eitha. Not all the main line was consigned to the dustbin. A three-mile stretch from Gwersyllt to the Ffrwd was actually built, filled with water and was used. Much of this still survives if you care to look for it!

Above: A cross-section of the once proposed Ellesmere Canal, seen at Bithells Lane, which led from Oak Alyn to Summerhill. This would have led to the yard where it was intended to have a basin for the barges to turn around and pass, and it was said that the Nant cottages (now gone) were originally built for the bargers.

After several aborted attempts due to bad weather, Scott Felton (Stonecatwales) finally got to go off and search for the route of the long lost ‘canal that went nowhere’ – the Ffrwd Canal in North East Wales on 23/August/2015.