In the early days of industrial activity in Apedale and throughout Britain, transport of coal and minerals was by pack horse or wagon. This was both slow and also expensive, as road tolls often had to be paid. An answer to the problem came along with the industrial revolution in the middle of the 18th century; the canal.
Apedale canal was built in 1776, after Sir Nigel Gresley (the then owner of the Apedale Estate) and his son Nigel Bowyer-Gresley obtained permission to build it through an Act of Parliament in 1775. Unlike many Canals this was privately owned. The 1775 act also set maximum prices that coal could be sold for, since the canal would give the Gresley’s almost total control over the supply to Newcastle-under-Lyme. For the first 21 years the price could be no greater than 5 shillings per tonne, and for a further 21 years the price was restricted to 5 shilling and 6 pence.
It ran from Sladderhilll colliery in Apedale, past the Iron works, across what is now the Holditch Industrial Estate, and then onto Newcastle. The Newcastle end of the canal terminated at Liverpool Road, North of Newcastle, close to where the college now stands.
Later, in 1795, the Newcastle Canal was opened on the opposite side of Newcastle. This canal connected to the Trent and Mersey Canal and therefore to the entire canal network. Although this was a big step forward in transportation for Newcastle, goods from the Apedale canal destined for further afield still had to be transported between the canals by wagon. So two years after the opening of the Newcastle Canal, a branch off the Apedale Canal was built by local businessmen including Nigel Bowyer Gresley; the Newcastle Junction Canal.
The Newcastle Junction Canal connected to the Apedale Canal near to Cross Heath and took a route around the Northern and Eastern side of Newcastle. However the connection to the Newcastle Canal was never achieved due to the cost and technical difficulty of overcoming the height difference between the two canals. Although successful for a while, the canal was eventually abandoned and some of the the land reused for the railways.
The coming of rail also spelt the end for the Apedale Canal which closed to traffic in the 1850. Very little remains other than a few traces in Apedale, notably an embankment which carried the canal across the stream at the bottom of Apedale Valley can still be seen.
The map shows the approximate path of the canals around Newcastle. Use the controls to change the map type and to zoom in, move around by simply dragging any where on the map. The Apedale Canal is shown in red, Newcastle Junction Canal in Blue and Newcastle Canal in Green (just off the bottom of the map).