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28 October 2014
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Whixhall and Fenn Moss
Whixhall and Fenn Moss

© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW
The Whixall Moss Gang

Britain’s Canal Age dates from the construction of the first canal by the Duke of Bridgewater in 1761, until the 1840s, the decade when railways overtook canals as the most efficient form of transport. During this period, canals were the latest and most reliable means of moving raw materials and manufactured goods across the UK. By the 1840s, rail travel had reached a position from which it could challenge the canal’s hegemony, replacing them as the fastest and cheapest for of transportation for the country’s growing number of industrialists.

The builders of these canals, the “navvies”, moved on from excavating cuttings for waterways, to laying train tracks. However, in the case of one waterway, the Langollen Canal which ran through Shropshire, time stood still for one group of navvies. From the canal’s opening in 1804 until the 1960s, a group of between four and eight men were continuously employed to maintain the stretch of canal which spanned Whixall Moss. The Whixall Moss Gang operated as if in a time warp, continuing to do a job which had otherwise disappeared more than a century ago. Jack Strange, once a foreman of the Llangollen Canal who worked alongside the Whixall Moss Gang, described the work they did. What was it like to be a navvy in the 20th Century? More...

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