Waterways of Stoke-on-Trent - Newcastle Branch Canal


Dates in the history of the three Newcastle Canals

1793 Sir Nigel Gresley, who owned mines near Newcastle Under Lyme, obtained authority to build a canal from his collieries at Apedale on the north west side of Newcastle to the centre of the town, a distance of about 4 miles. (Newcastle Upper Canal)
1795 While Gresleys' canal was still being built a separate canal was authorised which would enter Newcastle on the south side. This was to be known as the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal and it would connect the town to the Trent & Mersey Canal in Stoke On Trent.


The Nigel Gresley Canal opened and Gresley secured exclusive rights to supply Newcastle with coal for 21 years on condition that the price was no higher than 25 pence per ton. The agreement forbid the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal from carrying coal other than for use in the pottery trade. At this stage, however, the Newcastle Canal was still only in the early stages of construction.

The opening of the Gresley Canal and (in particular) the cheap and plentiful supply of coal greatly helped the rapid growth of Newcastle.

1798 A third canal was proposed for the Newcastle area. This was to be known as the Newcastle Under Lyme Junction Canal, one of its main promoters was Nigel Gresleys' son. The route was planned to be a link canal from the Nigel Gresley Canal to the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal. At the southern end of the Junction Canal a railway inclined plane was planned because the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal was some 60 feet lower than the Nigel Gresley Canal. However, in the end the incline was not built due to lack of money, thus the Nigel Gresley Canal remained severed from the main inland network and the Junction Canal became no more than an extension of the Gresley Canal, bringing the route further into Newcastle.
1800 The Newcastle Under Lyme Canal opened from the centre of the town to the centre of the Potteries where it joined the already thriving Trent & Mersey Canal. Because Gresley had exclusive rights to coal carrying, limestone became the main cargo on the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal.
1817 Nigel Gresleys' original 21 year agreement allowing him exclusive rights to supply coal to Newcastle came to an end. A new agreement was settled giving him exclusive rights for a further 21 years and allowing him to raise prices to 27p per ton.
1851 During its life span the owners of the Junction Canal did very little to maintain it or look after its properties. As soon as the North Staffordshire Railway began to plan a line through Newcastle the canal's owners closed the waterway down and sold part of it to the railway. During the next few years the rest of the route was sold to individual buyers.
1856 The Nigel Gresley Canal, by this time owned by R.E.Heathcote, became disused after a railway branch was built to serve Apedale Colliery.
1863 The Newcastle Under Lyme Canal survived a good while longer than its near neighbours though it too eventually sold out to the North Staffordshire Railway. By this time the railway company also owned the Trent & Mersey Canal which the Newcastle Canal very much depended on. The canal's shareholders did very well out of the deal considering the route had only ever paid out occasional and very low dividends during their ownership. The railway company did not close down the Newcastle Canal and it continued in commercial use for another 58 years.
1921 The northern most part of the Newcastle Under Lyme Canal was closed.
1935 The remaining part of the Newcastle Canal was also closed and the whole route was abandoned. Over the following decades new buildings and roads virtually wiped out all three Newcastle canals.