Saturday, 16 January 2010

Jesson's Arm reattached

Jesson's Branch Canal, BCN

Part of the Ridgeacre Branch network
January 2010

The Jesson's Branch is the least of the canals which made up the dense cluster of waterways fanning out from Riders Green Junction. This canal was no more than 400 yards long, branching off the the south of the Halford Branch Canal at Church Lane to reach pitheads which lie beneath the contemporary Ruskin Street, and the Ridgeacre Tubeworks which occupied its western bank. These mines were sunk to reach the thick 'thirty foot' seam of high grade coal which formed the foundation, quite literally, of the Black Country.

Start of the Jesson's Branch

I can safely say that there are absolutely no visible remains of this short waterway and yet, as is so often the case, it's line is as apparent as the nose on you face, providing you know where to look. I am referring to the canal, not you nose, of course!

Having passed under Church Lane you would have found a junction with the Jesson 's Branch with a bridge spanning its entrance, carrying Gladstone St. In 1890 this was no more than an access bridge to the site of an ironworks but was later rebuilt to carry a wider road serving the victorian housing which now occupies the area.

Jesson's Branch terminus

The line of the canal is still present in the shape of the car park built to the rear of some new flats, and an inspection along the line reveals that the practice of avoiding the canal line when building has continued all the way to it's terminus at Greswold Street, with the obligatory tramway collecting coal from further afield.

This isn't the most illuminating of canal hunts, but I felt it was worth an entry of it's own just for completeness sake. I doubt that many of the residents have any idea that they have unwittingly bought into the canalside living concept.


Halfie said...

All this is fascinating, Andy. It's inspired me to go there myself when I'm next in Birmingham. I'm in communication with Karen Swift about various maps.

I forgot to mention that I have "a Historical Map of the Birmingham Canals", compiled and drawn by Richard Dean. Is this what you've referred to (as well as the Godfrey maps)?

Captain Ahab said...

No, I havnt got a copy of that one. In the main I have been using hand drawn sketch maps by Eric Richardson, drafted about 20 years ago, and some very ancient thumbnail maps contained in Ray Shill's The Birmingham Canal Navigations.
Someone is currently trying to assemble a complete map including every arm - but I havnt heard anything of the project for over a year.
How detailed is Richard Dean's map of, say the Halford arm.?

Halfie said...

It's pretty good, but shows the canals and nothing else. No towns, for example, as reference points. But this can be a good thing too, especially in such a canal-crowded place as Brum.

I'll have to do a post about it, with a photo of part of the map.

Captain Ahab said...

That would be great.
I have just realised that in addition to the Wednesbury Old Canal there is yet another branch canal before you reach the Walsall Canal. If struck off east from below Eight Locks and was called the Danes Branch and was nearly 3/4 mile long. It passed under a couple of railway lines so I am hopeful of finding some sort of structure. Another reason to revisit Hilltop!