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!


  1. Love a good history mystery chap! Thanks for the blog, every post is a revelation.

  2. Martin
    I have to confess that my interest in aqueducts isnt shared by many, but the few that do reach this blog seem to end up scrolling an incredible number of entries! I had a bit of a field day on my trip up the Shroppie, so you can expect quite a few posts over the next couple of weeks. I post them on this site to avoid cluttering up my main Captain Ahab pages.