Friday, 20 November 2009

Sneyd Locks - Wyrley Bank Branch Canal BCN

Sneyd Locks, Wyrley Bank Branch Canal
Birmingham Canal Navigations
7th November 2009

It's possible to argue that the first section of the 1795 Wyrley Bank Branch Canal is the most interesting, packing in it's six locks and the junction with the Essington Branch Canal within its first half mile.

Sneyd Lock No 1

The view from the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Sneyd Junction is a bit misleading, with the entrance to the bricked up bottom lock in full view. This suggests the the other five locks are preserved in a similar manner, and therefore an easy option for restoration. Sadly, this is is not the case and, whilst there is a fair bit to see on the ground, the sad reality is that the only traces remaining in  November 2009 relate to the top and bottom locks. But hey, thats not bad considering the paucity of tangible remains on the lines of some other abandoned canals in the area. At least this route offers some food for the imagination.

Update Jan 2013 - I found this excellent map recently posted on CWDF by Laurence Hogg which really brings the area to life:

Sneyd Lock No1 - top

Let's start at the bottom, with it's beguiling first lock. Whilst a bit cracked and crumpled, the bottom wings are intact and, having been culverted and infilled, it is reasonable to assume that the chamber as a whole is in good condition. The top wings are similarly well preserved, which gives a good idea what the rest of the blue bricked flight must have looked like before it was abandoned in the 1950's.

Vernon Way - Site of Sneyd Locks 2,3 & 4

Sadly, beyond the Wolverhampton Road the line of the canal has been completely obliterated by the construction of Vernon Way, taking with it the remains of locks two, three and four. The only link to the canal the road sits on lies in it's name, with Mr Vernon being the mine owner at Essington, and one of the four individuals who promoted the waterway.

Site of Sneyd Locks No 5 

Sneyd Pub at Lock 4

As you reach the top of this steady incline, Vernon Way takes an abrupt left next to the Sneyd Inn, leaving an area of undulating grassland which indicates the line of the last two locks. Whilst there is no concrete (or brick) evidence of Lock 5, it will have been where the rise in levels is retained behind a line of railway sleepers.

A great image of Lock 5 before being filled in can be found here.

Outline of Sneyd Lock No 6

Lock six offers more scope for investigation, with the upper entrance clearly visible among the trees and, if you look carefilly in the grass, you can still see the stone edgings to the chamber peeping through, right down to the lock tail. It would appear that this lock has been simply infilled and left alone.

Sneyd Lock No 6 - top

All in all, two out of six isn't bad and well worth a visit.


Michelle Hiscott said...

Hi, my grandfather worked for British Waterways before,during and after the war. He lived in a house opposite the Sneyd Wharf in Bloxwich, right along side the canal. My mum has fond memories of growing up there. Is there anyway to find pictures of the house of surrounding area for the 30s and 40s? I've found pictures of the bridge but not the house.

barraldo said...

Hi Michelle,
If your grandfather was Dick Smith, I remember him well, used to buy fishing tickets from him, lots of memories of the canal, traffic etc, recently tried to get planning from Walsall council to rebuild/replace Dicks old house and create dry dock opposite, no good, but then we are dealing with WMBC and in Particulare Ms. Hulse, keep smiling, try google earth (1945) or contact Laurence Hogg, he might be able to help, also BWB archive

Best regards, Barry Lycett