By Charles Cavill - 23rd February 2020 6:08am
Audlem History Society Report
The speaker at Thursday's meeting was Robert Ginder with a talk entitled Chalk and Cheese.
Robert looked at the period between 1790 and 1840, a time of great change, the industrial revolution, and advances in agriculture and transport each boosting the other. He contrasted the way that the Ellesmere Canal affected developments in Shropshire with the absence of such developments in the area served by the Chester Canal, which ran from Chester to Nantwich basin.
From contemporary records it is seen that at the start of the period Nantwich was a leading town with fine buildings, regular market days, and coach and wagon services to London and other places, whilst Whitchurch was significantly smaller. In the coming years Whitchurch, Wem and Ellesmere lying close to the Ellesmere Canal grew in population as did the number of trades carried on there, whilst Nantwich saw little growth.
The Ellesmere Canal carried Welsh coal and slate, limestone and agricultural produce, and boosted the region's economy in the process. Shropshire embraced agricultural innovation and the area of arable cultivation increased, in particular barley production increased and maltsters set up businesses to make malted grain for the brewing industry, whilst the soil was improved by the application of lime produced at lime kilns using the imported limestone and coal.
In Cheshire in 1836 a survey showed that less than 30% of agricultural land was arable, the main landowners requiring their tenants to do what they had always done- producing milk and making cheese. Whilst the Chester Canal came to Nantwich, at nearly a mile from the town centre and at about 50 feet above road level it would have been expensive to bring a branch to the town centre. Platt's History of Nantwich of 1818 advocated extending the canal into the town, and urged local landowners to co-operate to do this. In contrast Whitchurch and Ellesmere both had branches, and benefitted accordingly.
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