Rowan Taylor, Blacksmith
South Saxon Forge

Ellesmere Yard – Background

Ellesmere Yard is located on the Llangollen Canal, formerly the Ellesmere Canal, just outside the town of Ellesmere in north Shropshire. Much of the site is listed grade II* including the blacksmiths and joiners shop, dry dock and Beech House, the former head office of the Ellesmere Canal Company.

The Yard’s development dates from around 1806. Major alterations were carried out to the workshops between 1884 and 1901 when the site became a full scale canal engineering works. Ellesmere Yard, once typical, is now a rare example of an unspoilt and therefore cherished canal scene. Ellesmere Yard is an important part of our waterway heritage.

National context

Ellesmere Yard is an example of the type of maintenance depot which was common across the inland waterways of England. By the 19th century most canal companies had one as the routine upkeep of a canal and its equipment was essential.

The siting of the yard was dependent on the layout of the canal; they could be in towns, villages, at locks or, as in Ellesmere’s case, on a canal junction. They would normally comprise a group of buildings with a variety of functions from storing materials, servicing and repairing boats, making new bridges and timber lock gates to forging ironmongery.

Ellesmere Yard consists of a series of buildings and facilities including workshops and stores, a blacksmiths and joiners shop and dry dock, grouped around a central space which opens out onto the canal. The site is dominated by the joiner’s and blacksmiths shop at the south western end of the site.

The significance of Ellesmere Yard

The site illustrates the physical remains of a pattern of work that has been repeated every day at canal maintenance yards in England over the past two hundred years. Past methods of work, some still continuing today, are evidenced by sets of blacksmith’s tools timber patterns, notebooks with sketches of items to be made at the Yard and Shropshire Union Canal Company marks stamped on cupboards.

The blacksmith’s shop

The building dates from around 1806 with changes made since then to accommodate belt driven machinery and the interior is dominated by the forge and its chimney and the belt driven machinery overhead.

The floor is would have been brick originally but now covered with concrete and features a huge assortment of blacksmith’s tools remaining from when the forge was a working smithy.

The building is grade II* listed due to its historic and architectural importance. The last blacksmith at Ellesmere Yard was Jack Strange who was a well known local figure. The buildings at Ellesmere Yard are still being used today and an important part of the nation’s canal heritage.