Waterways of Stoke-on-Trent


Trent & Mersey Canal | Burslem Branch Canal | Cauldon Canal | Newcastle Canal |

River Trent | Fowlea Brook | Lyme Brook




In the frantic rush to build canals to feed the Industrial Revolution, Staffordshire was at the heart of the action. There are more miles of canals within its boundaries than any other county in England.
At the centre of this county revolution was the pottery industry, for which a navigable system of transport brought huge benefits.
The foremost thinker was Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned the local engineer James Brindley to create the Trent and Mersey Canal which enabled kaolin (china clay) to be brought from Cornwall right to the door of his Etruria factory. Equally important, the finished products could be taken away smoothly, with the minimum of breakages.

Nowadays, Staffordshire's canal network serves the growing industry of leisure and tourism, providing superb opportunities to explore the countryside, either by boat or a gentle stroll along the towpath. Boating holidays are increasingly popular with many holidaymakers choosing Staffordshire as their base, exploring the waterways of the Midlands. A popular choice is the 'ring' formed by the Trent and Mersey, the Staffordshire and Worcester and and the Shropshire Union canals.

A compilation of locks and mills around Stoke-on-Trent
A compilation of locks and mills around Stoke-on-Trent
from the mural in The Potteries shopping centre, Hanley

Trent & Mersey Canal | Burslem Branch Canal | Cauldon Canal | Newcastle Canal |

River Trent | Fowlea Brook | Lyme Brook

Map of the rivers and brooks of Stoke-on-Trent


Short Summary of the Stoke-on-Trent Canals:

The Trent & Mersey and Cauldon canals both pass through Stoke-on-Trent

The Trent and Mersey Canal
links the River Trent near Derby with the Mersey at Runcorn. The Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is an amazing feat of engineering in the form of a tiny narrow hole through a hillside. In the first tunnel, 2880 yards long and built in 1766-77, barges had to be 'legged' through the tunnel by men lying on their backs and pushing against the roof with their feet to give the boat momentum. Thomas Telford modernised the tunnel in 1827 by building a new wider tunnel alongside it, complete with a towpath. Telford's tunnel is still used by pleasure boats, as is the whole canal. An attractive feature of the canal at Etruria is the marina, a popular mooring place for pleasure craft, with the China Gardens pub alongside.

The Caldon Canal
joins the Trent and Mersey at Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, and was built to carry minerals from the uplands of the Peak District to the Potteries. In recent years, the canal has been restored for pleasure craft, a magnificent section being through the Churnet Valley. Reminders of the Industrial Revolution along its banks include the remains of lime kilns, ironstone workings and ironworks. Perhaps the best is the Flint Mill at Cheddleton, now restored as a museum of industrial archaeology. A popular feature is horse-drawn boat trips along the canal, run from the restored canalside warehouse at Froghall Wharf.



questions/comments/contributions? email: Steve Birks