Thursday, 14 January 2010

Halford Branch Canal, western section

Halford Branch Canal, western section 
West Bromwich
Birmingham Canal Navigations
January 2010

The Halford Branch Canal was a mile or so long, serving as an arm to the Ridgeacre Branch, which was in turn a branch of the Wednesbury Old Canal.
The  first two or three hundred yards of it's course can be traced running due south from the end of the watered section of the Ridgeacre, which was once the home of a substantial oil works. The canal's path dives into an overgrown cutting before coming to an abrupt end beneath a huge embankment formed by the slag of the nearby iron works, now supporting a partially occupied housing development. The substantial barrier prevents further progess from this direction.

Entrance to the Halford Branch

A circular detour is now required, finding Church Lane and then the helpfully named Johnson's Bridge Road. I am not sure if the bridge carrying Church Lane was called Johnson's Bridge, or if this referred to another lost structure which carried the towpath over an inlet to the Cyclops Ironworks (This has subsequently been confirmed by Paul Swift at Johnson's Bridge after the adjacent Johnson's Ironworks which were still operating iin the 1960's). Either way, the Halford Branch will have run beneath the works at the northern end of Johnson's Bridge Road, angling to the west of the highway and making it's way beneath Church Lane, where a distinct rise is still visible, but without any remains of the bridge itself.

Works car park covering the line of the canal

The hard standing to the south of Church Lane will have been at the level of the canal, and formed a junction where the Jesson's Branch departed beneath what is now Gladstone Street.

The rise on Church Lane marking the site of the bridge

From Church Lane the Halford Branch Canal curled round the back of what is now a big factory, crossing a valley on a substantial embankment and serving the Hall End Brickworks, which is now open public ground. The presence of housing the factory premises prevented an on the ground inspection, but the line was re acquired in open grassland a little further on.

More of this tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I do admire your fortitude in tracing and walking these old canal routes - it's a pleasure to read about them.

Sue, Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

It is a labour of love really. It gives an excellent purpose for a walk / cycle in unlikely areas. I have also developed a massive respect and affection for the Black Country.

Mark of nb Northstar said...

I think I commented on another of your posts before realising that you had already been down this little stretch.

On the eastern arm of the Halford, I don't understand why the canal ended where it did. By rights it should have continued another few hundred yards to the mine. However, I know that Hall End Colliery was mined southwards, so it is possible that the canal ended by the newest shafts (the part where the canal ends was also Hall End Colliery) and that the tramway was used simply to take the waste to the tip. If this was the case, it is possible that coal waste might have been moved locally by boat from collieries which had less space nearby.
Also, apparently, coal waste from some of these seams in this area was particularly prone to self-combustion and that exposure to air was often enough to cause it to burst into flame!

I have wondered about whether there should be some campaign to recognise the role this area had on the development of the Industrial Revolution.

- Mark