The Trent and Mersey Canal was engineered by James Brindley, although it was not completed until 1772, five years after his death. It was originally part of Brindley's concept of a 'Grand Cross' of inland waterways to link the Trent, Mersey, Thames and Humber.
As it's name suggests, this canal links two of those waterways; running for 93 miles between Preston Brook (where it joins the Bridgewater Canal and so links to the Mersey), and Shardlow (where it runs into the Trent Navigation).
Once opened, it served the pottery industry, carrying fragile porcelain out of the Potteries around Stoke-on-Trent and bringing in West Country china clay. It also transported coal, salt and beer. Trade contined into the 1960s, but was eventually moved onto roads and railways.
Today, the canal is busy with cruise boats, as this canal forms part of both the Cheshire Ring (which also involves the Bridgewater, Macclesfield and Rochdale canals) and also the Four Counties Ring (Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and West Midlands). Down this end though, being only eight miles from Shardlow, most of the traffic is local.