The Montgomery Canal ((ウェールズ語:Camlas Trefaldwyn)), known colloquially as "The Monty",〔()〕 is a partially restored canal in Powys, in eastern Wales, and in northwest Shropshire, in western England. The canal runs from the Llangollen Canal (at Frankton Junction) to Newtown, via Llanymynech and Welshpool.
Originally the canal from Llanymynech to Newtown was known as the Montgomeryshire Canal, named after the county of Montgomeryshire it ran through, itself divided into Western and Eastern branches. At Carreghofa Locks near Llanymynech the Montgomeryshire Canal connected to the Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal. These elements of the present-day Montgomery Canal were unified by becoming part of the Shropshire Union system; the Ellesmere Canal in 1846, the Eastern Branch in 1847 and the Western Branch in 1850.
The canal fell into disuse following a breach in 1936, and was officially abandoned in 1944. With the revival of canal use in the late 20th century, the two canals became known as the Montgomery Canal, although the canal does not, and never did, go to the town of Montgomery.
At present only from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf is navigable and connected to the rest of the national Canal & River Trust network; separately, a short stretch at Llanymynech and a central section of the canal around Welshpool are also navigable, though 'isolated' from the national canal network. On-going restoration work continues to expand the navigable sections.
The Montgomeryshire Canal was devised with a different purpose from most other canals of the time. Whereas other canals could generate sufficient revenue from cargo carrying to be financially viable, the Montgomeryshire was planned to serve a more rural area, which would not offer such opportunities. Instead the primary purpose of the canal was to transport lime for agricultural purposes, which would allow the Upper Severn Valley to become better agricultural land. As a result, the promoters of the canal included local landowners who hoped to achieve a return on their investment through greater crop yields, rather than relying upon share dividends.
The proposal of a canal from Llanymynech to Welshpool was made in 1792, to extend the Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal, which was itself still then only a proposal. By 1793 it had been decided that the canal should continue through to Newtown. The canal was authorised in 1794 by an Act of Parliament entitled "An act for making a navigable Canal from or near Porthywain Lime Rocks in the parish of Llanyblodwell, in the county of Salop, to or near Newtown, in the county of Montgomery, and also certain collateral Cuts from the said Canal." The company was authorised to raise £72,000 from shares, and a further £20,000 if required. John Dadford was appointed Engineer, while his brother Thomas Dadford Junior was appointed his assistant.
By 1797, had been built from Llanymynech to Garthmyl, stopping short of Newtown. During construction, both the Vyrnwy Aqueduct and the Berriew Aqueduct had difficulties. John Dadford had resigned, and William Jessop was called in to advise. John Dadford was later replaced with Thomas Dadford senior.
A lack of capital and income prevented completion of the canal, and it remained with Garthmyl as its terminus for 20 years. With an estimated cost for the canal between Garthmyl and Newtown of £28,268,〔 shareholders feared they might lose their investment if the canal were completed, so a separate company was set up to build the remainder of the canal through to Newtown. In reality, this second company had many shareholders in common with the original company. To limit the risk to shareholders' dividends, it was required that the new section of canal be generating profit at least equal to that of the existing section before any merger of the two companies could take place. In 1815 an Act of Parliament was passed, to authorise the raising £40,000 in new shares to complete the canal. The new section of canal was known as the Western Branch of the Montgomeryshire Canal, the original section being known as the Eastern Branch.
The Western Branch was planned by Josias Jessop, to include six locks of eight feet each, with the cut being 4 feet 6 inches deep, and 15 feet wide at the bottom. John Williams was appointed as resident engineer. The Western branch was completed in 1821.
As a result of the Western Branch needing to be profitable to allow the branches to merge, a higher tonnage charge was imposed on the Western Branch.〔
In 1821 a further Act of Parliament was obtained, to alter the line of the Tanat feeder, and to make a navigable cut from the Guildfield Branch. This act also allowed the consolidation of the Eastern and Western branches with the consent of the proprietors of each, and clarified that the commencement of the Eastern branch was to be taken as the distance of thirty five yards from the sill of the upper gate of the higher of the two Carreghofa locks.〔
This alteration to the line of the Tanat feeder resulted in the feeder now supplying the pound above the Carreghofa locks, whereas it previously fed the canal below the locks.
In 1847 the Eastern Branch was purchased by the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company, and became part of the Shropshire Union network. In 1850 the Western Branch was also purchased by the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company. Bridge numbers on the Montgomery sections of the canal continue on from the Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal to reflect this. Today, bridge numbers on the Montgomery Canal continue on from Llangollen Canal bridge numbers at Frankton Junction, with the first bridge on the Montgomery Canal (Lockgate Bridge) being therefore bridge number 71 and not number 1; the numbering begins at distant Hurleston Junction. The Llangollen Canal has, because of this, two separate series of bridge numbering, with one ending and the other beginning at Frankton Junction.
Partly due to the late arrival of railways in the area, traffic gradually increased and the Montgomery Canal became profitable. It remained so until after the First World War, after which it began making heavy losses. The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company was bought out by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1922 and the canal became increasingly run-down.
In 1936 a breach occurred near Frankton Junction, below Lockgate Bridge, effectively cutting off the entire Montgomeryshire Canal and Llanymynech Branch from the national canal network. Despite a statutory duty to maintain the canal, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway decided to abandon it. In 1944 an Act of Abandonment was passed by Parliament, stating that the waterway had not been used for some years.
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