Bridging the gap

The Nantwich Aqueduct gets some TLC thanks to Trust supporters

It may not have the starry UNESCO world heritage status of its bigger relative, the jaw-dropping Pontcysyllte in Wales, but Nantwich Aqueduct is a jewel of the Shropshire Union Canal. It’s a jewel that needs some repairs, though, and after a successful fundraising campaign that saw the Canal & River Trust work with local communities to raise £200,000, significant repairs will begin on this venerable structure later this year.

Designed by the influential engineer Thomas Telford, the grade II-listed monument known as the Gateway to Nantwich was completed in 1826. It is one of three aqueducts he designed late in his life, its siblings being in Stretton, Staffordshire and the Canal Road aqueduct that carries the Macclesfield Canal through Congleton.

The chain that connects Liverpool to Birmingham

Built to avoid an uncooperative landowners' holdings, the aqueduct ensured the Shropshire Union brought growth to this historic market town especially in the development of its shoemaking and clothing industries. Nowadays the aqueduct ensures Nantwich benefits from the waterways' recreational and educational opportunities, not least the boaters who can head north, south, east or west from nearby junctions.

“People often fail to appreciate how important these canals were 200 years ago,” says Canal & River Trust principal engineer Lee Bradley. “Traders went from using horse and carts on rough tracks to carrying the equivalent load of 20 horses in one pull, almost into the heart of the town. The Nantwich aqueduct was the final link in a chain that connected Liverpool to Birmingham, and it was completed during Telford's lifetime – which isn’t the case for all his structures.”

Impact damage and decorative panels

While the structure is safe, the Trust has noted evidence of impact damage to the arch underside. Its brickwork and masonry needs repair, while one of the decorative panels needs replacing and it needs a complete new paint finish, all of which requires scaffolding and traffic management.

Local organisations have match-funded the contribution raised from Friends of the Trust, notably the Nantwich Partnership, which includes representatives from Cheshire East local authority, the town council and Acton, Edleston & Henhull Parish Council.

Bradley has been working with the Nantwich Partnership for five years to ensure sufficient funds were in place for  renovations to progress. “Their input has been absolutely essential. Without the support of local organisations, we would be five or maybe ten years away from beginning work.”

The Trust expects to start work in autumn 2015 and hopes to raise additional funds – alongside the Partnership – to clean and repoint brickwork and masonry and clear vegetation.

Words: Chris Mugan

Last date edited: 20 March 2015

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