on the Shropshire Union Canal in south Cheshire

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Historic Boats

 the widest selection of canal books, maps and guides


needlework kits and crafts

Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday)
10.00 to 4.00

April to late October
Seven days a week,
9.00 to 5.00

Late October to Christmas
Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday)
10.00 to 4.00

Site updated
15 June 2020
Mill History
Audlem Mill

The Mill, known locally as Kingbur Mill, was built in 1915-1916 (rather later than most early industrial buildings served by canal) for the miller H Kingsley Burton.  It was always a corn and animal feed mill, and was operated by him and then his son John Burton until the mid 1960s, when Raymond Walker and his son Stephen took over.  It closed a few years later.

In 1974, the top floor was converted into living accommodation, and the lower floors became the canal shop.  This work was all done by the late John and Phillipa Stothert; John ran the shop until he retired in 2005.  The single storey extension at the rear, which housed the original Crossley semi-diesel oil engine which operated the mill via belts, rods and pulleys, is now used by Canal & River Trust for canal maintenance purposes.  Much of the other internal mill fittings, such as the hoppers and chutes, still survive, and are incorporated into the shop.

Over the years, the business has become one of the best-known shops on the canal system.  The new owners will continue in this fine tradition.

Click here for more information, here for photos of the Mill before conversion 40 years ago, and here for information on other canal buildings alongside the Audlem flight of locks.

Shropshire Union Canal

The majority of canals in the UK were built from the 1760s through to around 1820, but this one of the three separate canals that later joined to become the Shropshire Union Canal (the “Shroppie”) was a latecomer, being completed in about 1835, just at the start of the railway era.  And just like the railways, the civil engineering is bold.  Designed by one of Britain’s foremost engineers, Thomas Telford, the canal strides almost straight across the countryside, both in deep cuttings and on high embankments - completely the opposite of early canals, which hugged the contours and had relatively minimal engineering works of any scale.  Locks came grouped together in flights, which saved a significant amount of time for the boatmen.  The Audlem flight of 15 locks is the longest on this canal, dropping it 90 feet on to the Cheshire plain.

Like much of the canal system, the Shroppie was built to take ‘narrow boats’, 70 feet long and 7 feet wide, which typically held about 20 - 25 tons of cargo.  Some operated “fly”, i.e. 24 hours a day, with occasional crew changes and rather more frequent changes of horse.  The Shroppie Fly pub next to Audlem Mill was thus named, reflecting the fact that the warehouse it was converted from was served by fly boats.

The Shroppie main line joins the west midlands canals at Autherley Junction, near Wolverhampton, and runs roughly northwards to Ellesmere Port, where a junction was later made with the Manchester Ship Canal - a distance of just over 66 miles, with 46 locks.  The Shroppie had a branch leading into Wales (now popularly known as the Llangollen Canal), a very busy holiday route, with the astounding Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, built in 1805 across the River Dee valley, near Llangollen.   The aqueduct and adjacent canal were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.