Water-meter hut, Berwyn, Llangollen
Water for the Llangollen Canal emerges from beneath this building, which was erected to house a water meter. It’s a reminder that the main purpose of building the Llangollen Canal was to supply water from the river Dee to the canal network in Shropshire and beyond.
The nearby Horseshoe Falls weir was built to divert some of the river water to the canal. From here almost to Pentrefelin, the water runs in a channel which was always too narrow for boats.
The advent of railways reduced the canal’s use for freight transport. The London Midland & Scottish Railway, which had inherited the canal in the 1920s, formally closed the canal for goods in 1944. However, the canal had to be maintained because it supplied water to farmers, industries and households across a large area.
The amount of water removed from the river was contentious, especially among millers and anglers. When the Shropshire Union Canal Company proposed in 1868 to increase the amount of water it was authorised to abstract, anglers claimed the river’s salmon fisheries would be destroyed.
The water-meter house was built in 1947, ensuring that no excess water was removed from the Dee. The maximum was set by Parliament in 1944 at 12.5m gallons per day (c.57m litres).
The chemical works near Trevor Basin relied on the canal for its water supply. It was founded in 1867 and owned by Monsanto from 1928. In the small hours one morning in 1945, a Monsanto manager noticed a sudden drop in the incoming water – the first inkling of a canal breach at Sun Bank which caused a fatal train crash. The works closed in 2010.
Today the Llangollen Canal is looked after by the charity Glandwr Cymru the Canal & River Trust in Wales. It’s a popular leisure route but also remains an important means of distributing water, feeding Hurleston reservoir near Nantwich, Cheshire.