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Dig reveals canal basin under Telford garden

Telford | News | Published:

The long-lost terminus to the western branch of the Shropshire Canal has been dug up in someone's back garden.

The average back garden might contain plants, a vegetable patch and a shed but one Coalbrookdale resident's garden at the Old Wynd is being dug up to uncover the piece of local history.

Charlie Boyce, who has lived at the cottage for 28 years, said he had always known the canal – which had not been fully in use since about 1858 – was in the area but had found little evidence of it.

He said he had dug around during his first few years at the site but now the Ironbridge Archaeology Volunteer Group has spent this week digging at the site.

It was the basin for the western branch of the Shropshire Canal where boats and materials such as coal, limestone and ironstone were stored to be transported. It was originally planned that the canal would continue to end up at the River Severn but the last part was never completed. The branch connected to the rest of the Shropshire Canal near Little Dawley.

It is hoped a report will be compiled and lodged with heritage experts and an article about the find will be published in an archaeology magazine.

Shane Kelleher, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust archaeologist, said: "This exciting discovery has revealed the nature of the historic canal basin. Previously we had no idea about its exact location or how well it had been constructed. We have now also identified potential sites for next year's dig as we believe the location may have also have been the location for the canal cranes."

Allan Smith, of the volunteer group, said: "It is very exciting. It is all being done by people giving their time for free. For the people in this area there is a significant interest in local history and hopefully people will be interested to know about it.

"It has become decayed, overgrown and buried and now it is just at the bottom of someone's garden."

The canal uses a tunnel and shaft system which was devised because the canal ends at the top of a steep bank so needed an alternative way of transferring goods and materials from the boats on the canal down to Abraham Darby's works in the valley below.

Mr Boyce, who has extensively researched the canal's history said: "I have lived here for 28 years and we know the canal terminal was around here but there was no evidence on the ground of that. I found bits but never had a proper dig until this week."

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