Caldon Canal

The route

From the Trent & Mersey main line at Etruria Junction, up to Hazelhurst Junction. 

The main line then descends to Cheddleton, down the River Churnet valley to Froghall. 

The branch line from Hazelhurst approaches Leek and stops at the Churnet aqueduct just short of the original terminus.



Facts & Figures

From: Etruria junction with the Trent & Mersey canal.
To: Frogall (used to be to Uttoxeter but now derelict/built over by railway)
Distance  17 miles
Junctions: Branch to Leek (2 Miles)
Locks : 17 inc Staircase Lock
Tunnels : Froghall
Aquaducts:  Hazelhurst
Water Supply: Three reservoirs feed this canal which was built as much for its value as a water supply route for the Trent and Mersey canal as for its trade. 

Rudyard is the main source located 4 miles north of the Leek Branch terminus and drawing supplies from the surrounding hills as well as from the River Dane. 
Knypersley reservoir is unusual in that it supplies the canal below the summit level.
Stanley reservoir provides a small supply on the south side of the canal near Stockton Brook.


The famous potter Josiah Wedgwood was the driving force behind the construction of the TRENT & MERSEY Canal and its branch, the CALDON. Both these waterways revolutionised the transport of fragile porcelain, at a time when the normal mode of carriage was by mule and cart over rough tracks!

Linking the POTTERIES to the MERSEY ESTUARY by water also allowed the cheaper importation of China clay from the West Country mines, thus bringing the ownership of fine china within the means of the average Victorian family.
The boom in business which resulted caused a rapid growth in the number of pottery manufacturers, many of whom sited their potteries along the Canal banks.

Loading limestone from Caldon Low
onto the Caldon Canal at Froghall in the late 19thC.


Once you get out of Stoke-on-Trent, the Caldon becomes one of the most charming stretches of canal in the country. The Canal splits into two arms at the end of the main summit. The main arm goes down through three locks, seen here, and then on to Consall Forge and Frogall. Just past this point, the main arm passes underneath the other arm, which crosses it on an imposing aqueduct and then winds its way to Leek.

The main arm goes through a lovely stretch once the River Churnett joins it above Consall Forge and it winds through a heavily wooded valley. Worth a visit and a walk even in the absence of a boat.


Cheddleton Flint Mill

 At Cheddleton there is a well-preserved flint mill, now a museum, which has not one but two working water wheels driven by the River Churnett, which later joins the Canal for its lower section until Consall Forge.


The Caldon Canal is really a branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal at Stoke-on-Trent, but is little-known & much underrated for its beauty and dramatic views at it winds its way into the countryside above the Potteries and through to the Derbyshire hills. At one point the canal splits into two arms, one of which crosses over the other shortly afterwards on a massive aqueduct. The lower of those arms is joined by the River Churnet and drops down to the Canal's terminus at Frogall, not all that far from Alton Towers, through a beautifully peaceful wooded valley. The other takes the high road to Leek, where it ends beside the now disused aquaduct short of the town.

The Caldon has much of interest, including a well-preserved flint mill and pair of working water wheels at Cheddleton, a pub completely isolated from the roads at Consall Forge, and a very small tunnel at Frogall navigable only by the narrowest and lowest of narrowboats. Since we used to have RR moored at Stoke-on-Trent we got to know the Caldon very well.



A number of these venerable old buildings remain, still producing fine china, although the strangely shaped 'Bottle Kilns' which once fired the clay are no longer used, but thankfully preserved. The restored canals still pass their door, now allowing us a privileged insight into Victorian working life so graphically illustrated with the pages of Arnold Bennett’s classic book ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS.

It's not all potteries and towns though, far from it! The Caldon Canal leaves the Potteries and, taking a north easterly course, climbs into the STAFFORDSHIRE PEAKS to descend the CHURNET VALLEY through an area so remote and peaceful that it has earned the title 'Staffordshire's Little Switzerland.' One pub, at CONSALL FORGE, is so cut off, that the only means of access is by water or four wheel drive vehicle


Restored flint mill with two water wheels. Museum collection includes 100hp steam engine and horse drawn canal boat on Caldon Canal.

Daily (usually) all year, 10.00am - 5.00pm

Leek Road

TEL: 01538 392561



Mills and other Industrial Buildings
Canals were created to serve the needs of the rapidly developing industrial revolution, and industry continued to develop alongside the canal system. So industrial buildings were very common alongside canals, although recent redevelopment has has often removed many traces, as in the Birmingham area. In the Potteries alongside the Trent and Mersey Canal you can still see old bottle kilns, used for firing pottery, as on the left. Mills, like the one at Cheddleton on the Caldon Canal on the right, were often using river water for power well before the canal came to use the river's route.
Swing and lift bridges
Movable bridges were usually cheaper to build than fixed bridges because they didn't require the same heavy foundations and structure. Canals which were short of construction money often used lift bridges, as on the Oxford Canal and on the Llangollen Canal on the right. Lift bridges were counter-weighted and usually operated manually or by using a windlass. Swing bridges are common on a number of canals


The Council of the City of Stoke-on-Trent (hereinafter referred to as "the Council") acting under an agreement with Staffordshire County Council pursuant to Section 101 of the Local Government Act, 1972 hereby make this Scheme in exercise of their powers under Section 106(3) of the Highways Act, 1980 and all other powers enabling them in that behalf - 

     1. The Council are authorised to construct over the navigable waters of the Caldon Canal the bridge specified in the Schedule to this Scheme as part of the improvements to pedestrian facilities in the vicinity of the Birches Head Canal Bridge, Birches Head in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in the County of Stafford.

     1. Plan and Elevation of the Bridge known as Birches Head Road Canal Footbridge over the Caldon Canal in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in the County of Stafford
The site and general design of Bridge are shown on the plan numbered 6180/18/01 annexed hereto.

     2. Points of Commencement and Termination
From a point 3.0 metres east of the eastern bank of the Caldon Canal to a point 4.0 metres west of the western bank of the Caldon Canal, Map Ref. SJ 3900 3490, all on Ordnance Sheet SJ 9049 SW.

     3. Overall Dimensions
The footbridge will be 2.2 metres wide overall and will carry a 2.0 metres wide footway. The footbridge will have an overall length of 11.00 metres.

     4. Navigation Span and Waterway
The minimum navigation span and minimum width of waterway will be 4.0 metres.

     5. Headway
There will be a minimum headway of 2.65 metres over the waterway.


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  [ Comments / Questions? email: Steven Birks ]