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Canal Buildings on the Audlem Lock Flight

At Audlem the old canal-side stable block at the bottom of the locks is still in good repair and is now surrounded by a garden.  Once the block had a sign saying it was ‘only for the use of Shropshire Union animals’.  This was presumably to discourage use by horses owned by other companies or by individual boat captains.  During the working boat carrying days these stables were often full and boatmen would then have to take their animals to the Bridge Inn or the Lord Combermere in the village to find stabling.  The Bridge Inn had stabling for six horses in its back yard.

The lockside keeper’s hut is still present at Lock 15 and the lock keeper’s cottage at lock 13 is unusual for the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction canal because it is a two-storey rather than the more common single storey cottage.  The company warehouse in the middle of the village is now the Shroppie Fly pub.  The right hand, higher side of this building was also once two cottages for the company’s agent and his assistant.  The crane outside the pub was originally a railway crane and was possibly rescued from the GWR goods yard when Audlem station closed on 9 September 1963, almost exactly 100 years after it opened on 20 October 1863.  An alternative theory is that the crane came from an old railway yard in the West Midlands in about 1973 when Audlem Wharf was refurbished and the buildings converted into the Shroppie Fly pub.  Could the crane possibly have been transported to Audlem in the joey boat that now forms the bar in the Shroppie Fly?  We may never know.

Audlem Mill, now a thriving craft shop business, was originally Kingbur Mill, built in 1916 and powered by an oil engine.  There was once a covered gangway leading from the mill to the canal wharfside, some traces of which remain if you look very carefully.

The brick built, barrel roofed building by Lock 10 on the Audlem flight was known as ‘the Shops’ by the old boatmen.  Built in 1914, this building housed a carpenter’s shop, a stone mason and a blacksmith.  There was also a lockside crane and a set of rails to transport stone along the lockside.

At Lock 8 there was once a lock keeper’s cottage but this was demolished in the early 1960s because it had no road access.  Another small lock keeper’s or lengthman’s hut is situated a bit further up the flight at Lock 4.

At Lock 3, the building immediately above the canal on Bagley Lane was once the local bakery.  The final lock cottage for the Audlem lock flight is at the top by Lock 1.  The lock cottages at Audlem were built to the same pattern as others on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, with a single storey and a bow window overlooking the canal.  This enabled the same design to be re-used in different locations.

In 1913, an agreement was reached with the landowner adjacent to the canal by lock 5.  The ground was very sandy at this point and the agreement allowed sand to be extracted from here for canal maintenance.

Originally all locks on the Shropshire Union Main Line were fitted with mitre gates top and bottom.  However these proved unsatisfactory for top gates and were replaced with single gates starting in 1843.  As this was just eight years after the canal opened and lock gates were expected to have a normal working life of around fifty years, the double top gate arrangement must have been very defective.  Close inspection of the stonework for the top gates on some of the Audlem locks reveals some evidence for the double gate arrangement.

Chris Owen-Roberts © 2015

Taken from an article that first appeared in the Nantwich Link magazines (including Village Link) in April 2015.  Reproduced by kind permission of the Nantwich Link and Chris Owen-Roberts.  Photographs by Chris Owen-Roberts

Old Stables

Former warehouse

and cottages

The Shops, by lock 10

Lock hut (“hovel”)

by lock 4