TRANSPORT AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Staffordshire is an inland county with no navigable rivers. In the later 18th century, however, as the Industrial Revolution gained pace, the county was to become the centre of the English canal system. Industrialists sought to develop a response to their need to transport raw materials and goods more cheaply and efficiently. This led to the building of canals throughout Staffordshire.
The Staffordshire section of the Grand Trunk Canal (later the Trent and Mersey Canal) was part of the link between the navigable river Trent to the south-west of Nottingham and the Bridgewater Canal near Runcorn and then into the river Mersey, providing a cross-country coast-to-coast link. Among the Company of Proprietors were many local landowners and manufacturers, including Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Anson. Construction began in 1766, completed in 1777.
At the same time, the planning of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was under way. This linked to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Great Haywood and ran down to join the navigable river Severn at Stourport. Completion was in 1772. By this means, the Severn, Humber and Mersey estuaries were all linked. The link to the Thames was achieved in 1790, when the Coventry Canal and Birmingham and Fazeley Canals were completed.
In addition to this broad network, other specialist feeder canals could fit well. For example, transport of coal was crucial to many industrial undertakings, so the Wyrley and Essington Canal, begun in 1792, served the mining areas around Bloxwich, Great Wyrley and Willenhall, linking them to the Birmingham Canal. Extensions to this enabled the development of the Cannock Chase coalfield.