Sunday, 13 December 2009

Aberdulais Aqueduct, Neath and Tenant Cenal

Aberdulais Aqueduct
Neath and Tennant Canal
13th December 2009

Of the Neath and Tennant Canal's three aqueducts, the Aberbulais is the only one which stands in it's unreconstructed form.

Aberdulais Aqueduct (Photo: JimShead.Com)
Sadly, the structure is unstable and currently not fit for navigation and will therefore need to be replaced of repaired if boats are to cross the River Neath and enter the northern end of the Tennant canal en route to Swansea Docks.


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Railway Aqueduct at Anson Junction, Walsall Canal

Railway aqueduct at Anson Junction
Walsall canal BCN
5th December 2009

Just to the south of Anson Junction the little used Walsall Canal crosses the Wolverhampton to Walsall railway line.

Railway Aqueduct Walsall Canal BCN

This crossing is achieved by a very railway looking bridge / aqueduct. Gaining access to railway aqueducts is tricky and I have only been able to capture a view from the west.

Not much clearance for the power cables.

River Rea Aqueduct, Anson Branch BCN

River Rea Aqueduct
Anson Branch BCN
5th December 2009

The diminutive Anson Branch Canal (abandoned) contains not one aqueduct but two. In addition to the old railway aqueduct the Rive Rea runs through a brick tunnel, slightly to the south.

 Rea Aqueduct under Anson Branch BCN - Eastern portal

The River Rea is prone to flash flooding, hence the very visible high water mark, which was reached the day before our visit.

Rea Aqueduct Anson Branch - western portal

Anson Aqueduct

Anson Aqueduct
Anson Branch Canal (derelict) BCN

New photos taken by the Captain in November 2009.

East face of old railway aqueduct on Anson Arm (BCN) - plus Jeff

This structure remains in water and is located on the southern section of the 1.5 mile Anson Branch stub, which linked to the Walsall Canal and served collieries at Reedswood (now a park) and also limestone quarries near Bentley.

Western face of old railway aqueduct on Anson Arm near junction with Bentley Canal

The arched structure was built of Staffordshire blue bricks in 1830, and now carries the canal over Morarchs Way, a walking / cycle path which links to Halesowen.

The northern section of the Anson Branch was severed by the construction of Junction 10 of the M6 in the early 1960's but can still be identified, albeit in a very weeded up state.

My thanks for Mr Truth who spotted the remains of the arm in his wanderings around Walsall.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Brock Aqueduct - Lancaster Canal

Brock Aqueduct
Lancaster Canal

An unassuming stone aqueduct built by John Rennie in 1797, carrying the Lancaster Canal over the River Brock.

The waterfall in the background is present because the river level had to be lowered to provide clearance for the canal - without resorting to a sump aqueduct.

Hawkins Basin Aqueduct - Hatherton Canal

Hawkins Basin Aqueduct
Hatherton Canal

They don't come any more obscure than this.

Hawkins Basin Aqueduct was a structure built to carry an arm of the Hatherton Branch Canal over Wyrley Brook and into a substantial basin.

Whilst the aqueduct looks fairly unremarkable, the key feature is that it no longer exists, not even a little bit. This structure at Bridgtown was lost as part of the M6 Toll construction and all that remains is a photo of its channel during demolition, and a plan of it's site contained on the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust website.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Hill Top Aqueduct - Wednesbury Old Canal BCN

Hill Top Aqueduct
Wednesbury Old Canal

This aqueduct stood at the far end of the Wednesbury Old Canal, carrying the cut over the course of the GWR line into its terminus at a basin near Hill Top.

Whilst the canal was built in 1769 as part of Brindleys first phase, the aqueduct would not have been built until about 1858, when the railway and its associated tunnel were constructed across it's line.

Reference documents suggest that photographs exist of this structure, which was still in place as recently in the 1973, several years after the canal's closure in 1954. In the absence of a photo I include a drawing made by Eric Richardson as found in his highly informative booklet "In Search of the Lost Canals of the Black Country".

If you are interested in this long lost waterway, click here to access my companion blog which carries more information.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Dudley Port Railway Aqueduct

Dudley Port Railway Aqueduct
BCN New mainline

Sanwiched between the Ryland and Puppy Green Aqueduct lies a third aqueduct, the Dudley Port Railway Aqueduct.

A scramble down the overgrown embankment reveals just the west face of the aqueduct, the eastern side being incorporated into the adjoining railway bridge, which carries the Birmingham to Wolverhampton mainline railway.

The remote location with rusting rails emerging from the undergrowth, only to disappear into more of the same has more than a little 'Fried Green Tomatoes' about it.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Puppy Green Aqueduct - BCN

Puppy Green Aqueduct
BCN New Mainline

Just a stone's throw north of the Ryland Aqueduct a second, much smaller but older aqueduct burrows under the BCN New Main Line.

This aqueduct carries Park Lane East from Tipton to Dudley Port.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Ryland Aqueduct

Ryland Aqueduct
BCN New Mainline

The Ryland Aqueduct is a relatively new structure, carrying the New Mainline Canal over the Dudley Port Road at Dudley Port.

Ryland Aqueduct - West face

The aqueduct stands independent (just) from the parallel railway bridge, decked out in some splendid paintwork which makes it appear more than the simple contrete trough it really is.

Ryland Aqueduct - east face

Monday, 26 October 2009

Clifton Aqueduct

Clifton Aqueduct
Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

One of three aqueducts built on the Manchester Bolton and Bury canal by Charles Roberts and John Nightingale in 1796.

This stone structure with it's three brick arches represents a second crossing of the River Irwell for the canal, and is now a grade 2 listed monument. Like its counterpart, the Prestolee Aqueduct, this structure stand patiently waiting for the ongoing restoration project to reach it and return boats to it's navigation channel.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Congleton Aqueduct

Congleton Aqueduct

This Aqueduct represents the third of a trio which were designed by Thomas Telford and, on this occasion, constructed by William Crosley on or before the canal opened in 1831.

You will find the others at Nantwich and Stretton on the Shropshire Union and all feature extensive use of cast iron as a channel supported on cast iron rib arches, set onto some rather splendid curving butress walls.

Take a look at the others and you will see the family resemblance, with Nantwich being the first built  in 1826 and Stretton the last in 1832.

I can't take credit for this photo, that goes to Adam of nb Debdale, who kindly allowed my to use it. Cheers Adam.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Spring Coppice Aqueduct at Shelmore Embankment

Spring Coppice Aqueduct at Shelmore embankment
Shropshire Union

For those in doubt, the Shelmore Embankment is the long high embankment immediately to the south of Norbury Junction. It's not the embankment which breached in August 2009 - that one is the equally impressive Shebdon Embakment a few miles to the north. I mention this only  because I get the two muddled up!

Spring Coppice Aqueduct - west

The Shelmore Embankment has two aqueducts, one at each end. I have no idea what the southern one is called locally, but as it lies next to Spring Coppice I have assumed that the aqueduct bears the same name.

Spring Coppice Aqueduct - east

It's a quality structure, with a lofty barrel arch and dressed stone portals. The aqueduct carries a busy but narrow country lane and can be easily  found if you listen out for regular car horn tooting, as vehicles approach it's blind entrances. Mooring to take a look as this structure is problematic, given the incredibly shallow margins in the area. The only realistic way of stopping is to hover in the narrows which contains the flood control gate, and hope no other boats arrive.  I was lucky - I had the place to myself but was amused to see a narrowboat steam round the corner from Norbury just as I got underway again!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Prestolee Aqueduct

Prestolee Aqueduct
Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

This is one of two surviving aqueducts on the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal, built in the late 1790's to cross the River Irwell.

The structure is built of stone and its four spans extend for 185 ft, carrying a broad 16ft 6in wide water channel. This is now a listed monument (Grade 2) and is patiently awaiting reconnection to the main system.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Moat Brook Aqueduct at Pendeford Bridge

Moat Brook Aqueduct at Pendeford Bridge
Shropshire Union

Whilst the Moat Brook is technically a tributary of the Penk, at the point it crosses the line of the Shropshire Union Canal it is a much more significant watercourse, demanding a far more substantial aqueduct.

Pendeford Bridge Aqueduct

In contrast to it's disappointing southerly neighbour, this aqueduct is much more dramatic, with a well constructed archway and dressed stone portals.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Wheaton Aston Aqueduct

Wheaton Aston Aqueduct
Shropshire Union

Just below Wheaton Aston's solitary lock and just before the BW service block, the Whiston Brook makes its way under the Shropshire Union Canal via a substantial brick archway. This is a pretty normal aqueduct structure for the Shropshire Union.

Wheaton Aston Aqueduct

If you didn't know it was there you would never even notice it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ryehill Aqueduct

Ryehill Aqueduct
Shropshire Union

Aqueduct hunting sometimes throws up surprises, and this is one of them. The Ryehill Aqueduct (if that is what is is called) is a mystery structure, which is overlooked by both Pearson and GeoMaps - which is very strange given the latter's attention to detail.

Ryehill Aqueduct west portal

Sure, the both recognise the passage of Marston Brook further south under the Wheaton Aston Embankment, but neither feature this most illuminating structure.

Ryehill Aqueduct, central channel profile

The Ryehill Aqueduct carries a disused access track under the northerly end on the Wheaton Aston Embankment via ha high vaulted archway. The really interesting feature it that within the tunnel the profile of the canal bed is visible in inch thick cast iron. I had always attributed the shallow sloping margins of the Shropshire Union to recent leak control measures, but this cast iron section suggests that the saucer shaped profile is original, and was therefore part of Telford's design.

Ryehill Aqueduct, eastern portal

And the overhead channel isn't the only mystery the aqueduct presents. Pinned high along its sides are chunky electrical cables, now disconnected and sagging down. Why have such a substantial power supply in the middle of nowhere? The answer probably lies in the brick structures in the adjacent fields, the remains of a world war two airfield. I assume that the tunnel and aqueduct served to connect two parts of the aerodrome, which was also the likely target of the bombers which hit a narrowboat in Wheaton Aston lock carrying unsheeted aluminium at night.

The question is: Which came first, the aqueduct or the airfield?

Who says that local history is boring!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Damside Aqueduct

Damside Aqueduct
Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

The Damside Aqueduct is the missing structure on the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal, demolished in 1965 for a road and river crossing at Darcy Lever.

I can only find this arial shot of the aqueduct, which will have to be rebuilt if the full canal restoration is ever to take place.

Norbury Aqueduct

Norbury Aqueduct
Shropshire Union

I knew that there was an aqueduct at Norbury cos the good book told me so.... but for the life of me I couldnt see it!

I wandered round the junction, peering down the embankment behind the BW office but nothing, not a stream, a road not even a footpath. I was on the point of giving up wen I saw a display board near the entrance to the marina, tracing out a local walk and there it was, about half a mile off to the south.

Norbury Aqueduct west

Well, I had tied up and was in no hurry so I wandered off down the lanes and finally came across it, and a very fine structure it is too, with impressive portals and a high barrel vaulted roof. As it pierces the foot of a very high embankment the tunnel is surprisingly long and so narrow that you wouldn't want to try walking through at the same time as an oncoming tractor.

Norbury Aqueduct, east

Rather than retrace my steps I decided to scale the embankment and return via the towpath - easier said than done. The embankment is on the very edge of what is climbable without crampons, and even then it was only by using all fours from time to time, plus bits of ivy, low hanging branches and sundry weeds.

However, its a good aqueduct and well worth the effort.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

River Penk Aquecuct at Pendeford

River Penk Aqueduct at Pendeford
Shropshire Union

The Penk is a significant river, one of four the Staffs and Worcester canal follows along its east west route. You would therefore expect the Shropshire Union's crossing to be a significant event, but in reality the river is so near it's source at Wergs that the resulting aqueduct is exceedingly humble.

River Penk Aqueduct at Pendeford

The watercourse passes through two very modest box culverts immediately to the south of Wolverhampton Boat Club at Pendeford, and were it not for the detail available on the Shropshire Union GeoMap you could very easily overlook it's presence altogether.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Moat House Bridge Sump Aqueduct

Moat House Bridge Sump Aqueduct
Staffs and Worcester

I am developing quite an affection for the humble sump aqueduct.

It had never really occurred to me that crossing a watercourse which flows neither above nor below the level of a canal would cause a problem, but it does. What do you do if the surface level of the stream is below the surface level of the canal, but above the level of the canal bed?

Moat House Bridge sump aqueduct

The answer has to be to force the water down a submarine culvert which burrows under the canal track, and then pops up again on the far side. A solution which is similar to the humble U bend under your sink. The problem with this solution is that if something heavy falls down the sump it probably won't be washed out the other side and, over time, an accumulation of these 'somethings', say bricks, will block the sump and need clearing out, which is no mean feat when it is completely full of water.

There is an original sump aqueduct just below Deptmore Lock further along the Staffs and Worcester, but this one has clearly been renewed at some point and the original brick duct replaced with a series of strudy concrete pipes.

All in all not much to look at, but an ingenious solution to a very real problem.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Stretton Aqueduct

Stretton Aqueduct
Shropshire Union Canal over A5

This cast iron aqueduct carries what was the Birmingham Junction Canal (and embosed as such on the cast iron plaque) over the A5 at Stretton in an 11ft wide trough, resting on curved brick abutments topped off with some rather beautiful circular stone towers.

The aqueduct comprises five sections, each 6ft 6 inches long and supported by two curved cast iron ribs.

The road layout was adapted in 1961/2 by lowering the road surface by four feet, giving some much needed extra headroom beneath the arch. Additional supports were added to the abutments at the same time.

Repairs in 1958

The same scene in October 2009

Presumably the 13' 6" headroom sign displayed in the 1958 photo above would now read 17' 6".

I revisited this aqueduct on a glorious October morning in 2009, capturing the following side on shots:

Stretton Aqueduct east

Stretton Aqueduct west

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Lune Aqueduct

Lune Aqueduct

This aqueduct, constructed by John Rennie Snr, is considered to be the finest in the North west.

NB - Please see the comment below. This rather beautiful photo of the Lune aqueduct is from NRT whose Flickr pages are something to behold. His (or her) photography is simply beautiful.

The aqueduct, with its five classical stone arches, carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune using a rusticated form of masonry. The piers were built in a hurry using special form of concrete incorporating Italian pozzolana powder, which allowed them to be finished before the 1794 /5 winter floods arrived.

The structure was, as ever, over budget at £48,000 - an overrun which played a large part in the plans to connect the canal to Preston being abandoned.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Bollington Aqueduct

Bollington Aqueduct
I spotted a very nice photo of the Bollington Aqueduct on Debdale's recent trip in the area and, with Adam's kind permission, have added it to my collection.
This 60 foot high structure is one of two Telford build in the town, the other one carrying the Maccie over a river.

If you look closely you will see someone peeping over the parapet photographing the photographer! Don't you just love the excessively tall streetlight.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Dorset and Somerset Canal aqueducts

Dorset and Somerset Canal Aqueducts

The thing about collecting aqueducts is the way that, one attuned to the word, they seem to crop up all over the place. I indulged myself by buying a copy of Waterways World (September 09) last weekend and was fascinated by Michael Coward's article on the above canal.

This ill fated waterway was as hopelessly over optimistic in its aspirations as it was underfunded. What was supposed to be a 45 mile waterway between Bradford on Avon to Poole on the south coast, with an 11 mile branch from Frome actually became an isolated 8 mile length, built around 1800, suspended in 1803 and given up for dead in 1825.

This waterway was therefore a spectacular failure, but it did leave some interesting remains in the form of two aqueducts :

Coleford Aqueduct - photo courtesy of Martin Bodham

The Coleford Aqueduct, a double arched effort which continues to stands tall and proud above Lover Coleford High Street.

The second aqueduct is further east, at Hapsford, is a much lower crossing over the River Mells known as Murtry Aqueduct. The canal may have been an economic failure but its legacy is a testimony to the enthusiasm and vision of the local business community.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Brewood Aqueducts
Shropshire Union Canal

An outing on the boat wouldn’t be complete without adding at least one new aqueduct to the collection. The southern end of the Shropshire union strikes off across the top end of the River Penk catchment basin, crossing numerous small tributaries, which trickle under the embankments via an assortment of tunnels and culverts. It’s this sort of terrain that causes trouble for ardent aqueduct hunters. Which of these passageways does one class as an aqueduct and which are mere culverts and therefore to be disregarded? My rule of thumb is that of the passageway is too small to be theoretically shuffled or canoed through, it isn’t a real aqueduct.

Horses Brook Aqueduct, north Brewood
The passage of Horses Brook under the embankment just north of Countrywide Cruisers is right on the cusp of acceptability onto this site, with its diminutive archway being a mere 4 ft high. I think that this tunnel could be negotiated if one had a will to do so, a point to which generations of Brewood youth could probably attest. However, with its sagging centre section and the sonorous drip, drip, drip of water leaking from the canal above ensured that my investigation remained completely external.

Not that an external investigation was easy. First there were the stinging nettles and then a very slippery bank with my descent only slowed by desperate grabs at the overhanging trees. Getting back up wasn’t a whole lot better! The archway is therefore included as proof of my perseverance, even if it could be argued that “it is only a culvert”.

South Brewood Aqueduct, tributory of the Penk

Not content with the northerly aqueduct we also took a walk past the more southerly stream, an unnamed but more substantial watercourse. This stream is accommodated by a substantial brick arch, similar in proportions to a typical canal bridge and probably created around the same former. The growth of seasonal vegetation prevented a descent photograph, with its outline more apparent to the naked eye. I will try and get a better shot of this structure during the winter months.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Gorton and Openshaw Station Aqueduct

Gorton and Openshaw Station Aqueduct
Stockport Branch Canal (disused arm of Aston Canal)

This short, lock free 4.5 mile branch canal is a side arm of the Ashton Canal in Manchester, making it's exit from the mainline at Clayton Junction and included two aqueducts. Only the aqueduct at Gorton remains, now carrying a footpath over the railway line.

Photo courtesy of Martin Ludgate

The Gorton aqueduct was originally constructed in stone in 1797 but was later replaced in 1906 with a steel structure spanning a newly widened railway, and
remains in situ today. The second aqueduct also crossed a railway and was located mid way along the arm, a structure which has been demolished.

Photo courtesy of

The line of the canal remains remarkably intact and whilst meaningful trade ceased in the 1930's, it was dredged in the 1950's before finally being abandoned in 1962, and infilled over the following decade. Given it's lack of scenic beauty it is remarkable that an active restoration society is hard at work seeking to reinstate this waterway. Maybe the gentrification of the Ashton Canal has reached a point where this side arm would be an attractive option, providing a safe mooring can be found at the far end.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Wolverton Aqueduct

Wolverton (or Cosgrove) Aqueduct
Grand Union Canal
21st August 2009

The Wolverton Aqueduct is something of a late entrant to the world of canal aqueducts, hence its iron construction rather than the more common stone / brick. The aqueduct carries the Grand Union Canal (or the Grand Junction Canal as it was then known) over the Great Ouse.

Photo courtesy of Jay Tilston
Know locally as the "Iron Trunk" this structure was built between 1809 and 1811 by Benjamin Bevin to replace an earlier William Jessop aqueduct, which consisted of a wooden trough supported on brick piers. This older aqueduct collapsed in 1808 and its base piers can still be seen.

This replacement trough was cast at Ketley Ironworks in 18 sections ,with side plates bolted on at varying angles. The towpath is cantilevered out from the trough riding 35"' 6" above the river.

I seem to remember reading that a tremporary flight of locks was built down to the Ouse whilst the new aqueduct was built - but I may be wrong?

This area could soon be the scene of further change, as and when the long awaited Fens Link to is built along the course of the Ouse, expanding the cruising scope for widebeamed craft.

Teme and Rea Aueducts, Leominster Canal

Teme and Rea Aqueducts
Stourport and Leominster Canal
21st August 2009
A walk along the line of the long abandoned Leominster Canal will yield two substantial brick aqueducts which are all the more glorious for their delicious state of disrepair.

Strictly speaking this is the Stourport and Leominster Canal but in reality its waters never came close to merging with those of the River Servern at Stourport, its planned terminus. This underfunded and ill conceived waterway was started in 1791 and, after much stopping and starting, struggled west from Leominster for 18.5 miles, falling 12.5 miles short of its target. The channel was dewatered in 1851, its limited traffic poached by the newfangled railway network.

Along it's route the canal crossed the rivers Rea and Teme which was achieved on a couple of rather fine brick span arches.

At first glance the Rea aqueduct looks OK, but its 150 years of abandonment have not treated it kindly with much of one face now collapsed into the river below. The structure is now so unstable that even the footpath over it has been closed - not that that stops determined explorers.

The Teme aqueduct has suffered an even more brutal fate, with one arch deliberately destroyed as part of an army training exercise in the second world war.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey

Royal Gunpowder Factory, Walthan Abbey
Lee and Stort Navigation

The trouble with this interest in aqueducts is that I end up finding out about some really interesting stuff, but which isn't actually about the subject in hand. Luckily my main blog, Captain Ahab's Watery Tales provides scope for elaboration, so if you want to know a bit more about this strange site I would suggest that you click across and take a look.

The Royal Gunpowder factory site extended to 10 miles of navigable canal used to transport explosives either in the form of raw materials or as finished product. Locks mean bumps and bumps could mean bangs - very big bangs. The site was therefore constructed on only two levels and spanned the River Lee on four occasions.
The first two aqueducts were very fine affairs, built in the early stages of the development on the site in 1878/9. These sturdy aqueducts were prefabricated off site as three huge slabs of cast iron, floated into place and then riveted into a single trough in situ. Only one of these aqueduct remains, but it stands in remarkably good condition, complete with a very impressive embossed royal insignia.

A third less elaborate aqueduct was added in 1904, near Newtons Pool. Much of this aqueduct remains save one end of where its base place was smashed out when two huge nitro glycerine explosions occurred in 1940.

The in house canal network operated until the 1940's when a last, and very utilitarian aqueduct was built to link up to a new mixing house. Newer is not always better and this structure, a simple concrete channel sat atop a row of concrete pipes has long since vanished.

Whilst the aqueducts are not cutting edge technology, their location is very interesting and the fact that the site contains three of only 26 cast iron aqueduct built on the UK makes this holy ground for ardent aqueduct hunters!

26, hmm. Thats quite a big number. I wonder where all the rest are? More hunting needed.

The photos are courtesy of