M.O.B. Gardening Club

Mines,Quarries and Canals in Church Aston and Lilleshall

Our speaker this month was David Adams who was a founder member of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club. He is a local historian and has written a book entitled “History of Limestone Mining in Church Aston and Lilleshall” and this is what he came to talk about.

David started by describing Lilleshall Hill as a volcanic mass of great age and with the Wrekin is amongst the oldest rocks in Europe. The area was covered by limestone deposits which have been faulted by earth movements and erosion. The limestone was used for building and it was used to build Lilleshall Abbey in the 12th century.

The abbey was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries and the estate was bought by the Leveson family. Small mines existed during this time but they were not very efficient. Lime was used as fertiliser to improve the land.

In 1746 Sir John Leveson became Earl Gower and later that century as new manufacturing processes were starting to be used,his son became the 2nd Earl. He realised the benefits of having the control of the extraction of limestone. He was introduced to the Gilbert brothers,Thomas and John. John Gilbert had experience of building the Bridgewater Canal. They formed the Lilleshall Partnership. The Earl also took over furnaces at Donnington.

The Partnership realised that the mine needed to be connected to the furnaces and the best way to do this was to build a canal. This is where John Gilbert’s experience was invaluable and a canal was constructed from Pave Lane to the Earl’s furnaces and was known as the Donnington Wood Canal. This canal was extended to Lilleshall,transporting limestone and lime and coal to fire the kilns. There is still a road today called “Limekiln Lane”.

The new canal branches were 13 metres below the main canal so they needed to be joined. The way they did this was by building an inclined plane to enable boats to be hauled up to and lowered from the higher canal. Hence the name of the road “The Incline”.

By the end of the 18th Century,the Lilleshall mines were worked out so the Pitchcroft Mine on Blackberry Bank near Church Aston became the main source. After serious flooding in this mine in 1860 the mine was no longer workable. The focus then moved to the Wilmoor area. At that time it was possible to travel from Church Aston all the way to the sea by water.

By 1882 the limestone mining had come to an end. The mines and canals were closed. Slowly everything was covered or dismantled. Even the main part of the Donnington canal was filled in to make the drive up to Lilleshall Hall when it was constructed in 1896.

Evidence of the area’s industrial past became difficult to identify apart from a few road names until the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club began exploring the mines in the 1950s. As a member of this club David was able to piece together the industrial history of the area.

The June meeting will be the club outing which is to be arranged.

There are no meetings in July and August so the first meeting of the new season will be Tuesday September 18th.

Mary Cowell (Gardening Club Secretary)

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