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Birmingham Canal Navigations

Tales From The Towpath
Where Other Waters Flow
Up The Cut
Birmingham Canal Navigations
Cotswold Canals
Folk On The Water
The Hatton Flight
The Hereford & Gloucester Canal
Lichfield & Hatherton
Bosworth Summit Pound - A Story
L. T. C. Rolt 1910 - 1974
Gloucester Docks and the Sharpness Canal
Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival
The Bold Navigators
Lost Routes
Contemporary Campbells

Farmers Bridge Locks. BCN [click for larger]

Birmingham sits on a plateau about 200 feet above the surrounding countryside, and would probably have been passed by by early canals which were intent on linking the Rivers Trent and Mersey and Severn. Local merchants funded a meandering 10 mile canal to serve local coalfields but the rapidly developing Industrial Revolution led to over 180 miles of canals and 216 locks being built over the next 100 years, hence 'more canals than Venice', and Birmingham became the heart of the narrow canal network.

Even the coming of the railways did not slow the growth of trade, over eight and a half million tons a year were being carried at the end of the nineteenth century and canals and railways worked together to supply the 'Black Country's' industry and population. There were over 40 basins where goods were trans-shipped. Canals serviced the canalside factories, railways carried raw materials in and products out to the the country and world.

Commercial trade disappeared in the middle of the twentieth century and 54 miles of canals were closed, but the remaining network is still a uniquely interesting area to explore, overflowing with industrial heritage, tunnels, flyovers, factories and warehouses. The city of Birmingham is making maximum regeneration use of the space and life that canals can bring into the heart of urban areas and building some stunning waterside developments.

Subsidence has always been a major problem because of mining activities. Lappal Tunnel (3,795 yards) which gave a faster link to the Worcester & Birmingham was closed in 1917 due to subsidence, though even it now has a society planning to reopen it.

Although much of the BCN is urban there is a lot of pleasant countryside too, Sneyd Junction (right) is on the Wyrley & Essington Canal, known by boatmen as the 'curly whirly' because of its twisting route. It now sees few boats but was once one of the busiest parts of the BCN carrying coal from surrounding mines, now long closed.

There's a wealth of Industrial history to see alongside the canal, don't miss the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley.

Birmingham Canal Navigations, includes the Wyrley and Essington Canal, Rushall Canal, Birmingham and Fazeley, Tame Valley Canal, Stourbridge Canal, Walsall Canal, Dudley Tunnel, Netherton Tunnel.

canal boat on the BCN  ©

related internet links

Rod Beavon's very informative
and well laid out website

'Bradshaw's' was a common word
used by travellers for decades to
refer to the most famous of all
railway timetables in Britain.
Perhaps less well-known is the
canal Bradshaw's written by
Henry Rodolph de Salis as a
reference work for traders on
the canals.the first edition was
published in 1904 and is hard to
find. Even the David & Charles
reprint of 1969 is not at all common.
via the link you'll see the entire
section on the BCN.

The Locks are known by some as
the "old thirteen" as opposed to
the "new thirteen "at Perry Locks
The locks lower the level about
81 feet to the Aston Level.

Phil Clayton, Chairman of
the Birmingham Canal Navigations
Society (BCNS) writes about the
the world famous, 100 mile long
network of Birmingham and
Black Country waterways.
from the BBC, of course.

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