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Woodseaves Cutting
Shropshire Union Canal, east of Woodseaves, Shropshire
associated engineer
Thomas Telford
date  1832
era  Georgian  |  category  Canal/Navigation works  |  reference  SJ690323
ICE reference number  HEW 2070
Telford's route for the then-named Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal takes a very direct line, necessitating deep cuttings such as this one at Woodseaves. Perhaps he was trying to compete with the railways, which were burgeoning at the time.
Taking a direct-line route is characteristic of Telford's canal work. On the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal, he managed a 12 mile saving in length. This canal is now part of the Shropshire Union Canal system.
Woodseaves Cutting is about 2.7km long and up to about 21.3m deep. It has steep sides, almost vertical in places. In the deepest part of the cutting, the waterway narrows to about half its normal width for a distance of 1.6km, presumably to economize on excavation work.
The cutting is crossed by four bridges. Two of these are of the type normally encountered on canals but the other two, High Bridge and Hollings Bridge, are unusual. They are constructed using relatively small-span semicircular arches situated at the top of very high vertical abutment walls. In the case of Hollings Bridge, the top of the bridge is 12.2m above water level. High Bridge is even higher.
A second cutting, of similar length, can be found further south east along the canal at the village of Grub Street. It isn't as deep but has three bridges with similarly high abutments.
Both cuttings were completed by about 1832 but the final opening of the canal was delayed by difficulties with the building of the great embankment at Shelmore. Boats were not able to use the entire canal length until March 1835.
The digging of the cuttings presented many problems because of the frequent slipping of the cutting sides which, with present-day knowledge of soil mechanics, should have been made much shallower, albeit at the cost of much additional excavation and land. Even today, slips continue to take place from time to time and evidence of this can clearly be seen from the towpath.
Main contractor: William Provis
Research: RJ
reference sources   CEH W&WBDCE
Location

Woodseaves Cutting