In the first of these articles we mentioned the recent repositioning of Canal & River Trust to become a wellbeing charity and covered some of the North Staffordshire volunteer achievements. Learning and skills enhancement is another important aspect of well being, there is another group of volunteers providing education based activities to schools and after school groups. Canal & River Trust Explorers deliver workshops covering subjects such as Water Safety, Build a Canal, Building Bridges, Floating and Sinking, Boating families and Canal Habitat, aimed at Key Stage 2 Primary schools.
The Canal & River Trust encourage everyone to take a walk, enjoy the environment and see some of the 18th Century engineering which enabled the canal to reach Stone in1771. At the celebrations which followed cannons were repeatedly fired and as a result a lock and bridge collapsed costing £1000 to repair.
Originally know as the “Grand Trunk” later renamed the “Trent and Mersey”, the canal opened fully in 1777 bringing a much needed waterway link with the River Mersey and the River Trent. This enabled a transport revolution with materials such as Clay, Lime, Coal, Flint, Salt, Corn, Malt and Pottery to be moved more efficiently along the 93 mile route, with the added benefit of connecting to ports for exporting and importing goods.
The town of Stone was of major importance to the canal being approx half way along the route. In 1767 it was decided to locate the company’s head office on part of what is now Westbridge park. The Crown Hotel played a significant role in the early days of the canal, the first meeting of “The Grand Trunk Company” was held there in 1766. James Brindley was appointed Surveyor with John Sparrow and Josiah Wedgwood treasurer. Wedgwood recognised the benefits canals would bring to his developing business. He went on to build his factory alongside the canal at Etruria, now the site of BET365 offices.
There is evidence of early canal days in Stone, locks were installed to enable narrowboats to descend or climb the difference in land levels, from Star Lock 27 to Lime Kiln lock 30 there is a difference in level of 11.88 metres. A Canal Wharf for loading and unloading goods was located at Stafford street, in an area now developed as “The Moorings”. Evidence of warehousing on this site can be seen as sections have been included into the design. We have another historic wharf currently under development to become “Crown Wharf”. The 19th Century two story wharfingers office and blacksmiths workshop are being incorporated into the new canal side Joules development. On the same site is a Canal Boatyard, in use today as a hire boat centre and still carrying out repairs and maintenance, using a historic covered dry dock dating back to 1772. Joules Brewery warehouse is another example of a canal side building dating back to1881, its location providing easy access to the canal.
The horse tunnel under Newcastle road was used to get the pulling power under the road to and from Lock 29, you can see rubbing strips on walls where towropes rubbed away the surface.
Many of the old buildings, bridges, locks, tunnels and mileposts are listed structures, great care is taken to ensure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy. This is where the Explorers team of Education Volunteers play an important role, visiting schools to ensure children learn more of the role canals played in the developing industrial era.
We are presently recruiting Education Volunteers due to the increase in school requests. If you have a passion for the canals or heritage, wildlife, and keeping children safe, then why not join our team?
For more information on Canal & River Trust Explorers please visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/explorers