Sunday, 7 February 2010

Hatherton Canal, Churchbridge Locks

Hatherton Canal, Churchbridge to Rumer Hill Junction
February 2010

Do a Google Earth search for Rumer Hill Junction and you will find a strange little star sitting out in the middle of a field, just east of Cannock.

Rumer Hill Junction, Cannock Extension Canal 1950's
(I particularly like the "volcano" in the background, complete with its puff of smoke ;-)

The scene on ground gives little credibility to this proposed location but I can assure you that it is absolutely true. Having crossed the path of the A5, the Cannock Extension Canal took a swing westwards, stopping just short of the north / south railway line, before resuming a northerly course to terminate at Hednesford. It was at this point, just before the railway line at Churchbridge, that a connection was built to the Hatherton Branch Canal below.

 Line of the Hatherton and Cannock Extension Canals 1936

The Churchbridge flight was among the last set of locks to be built, and were said to be among the best engineered on the system. Sady, following the abandonment of the canal in the 1950's  these venerable chambers stood in the way of progress, and in particular in the way of the Churchbridge opencast mine which was opened up so scour out the last remnants of coal left by the preceeding 100 years of mining activity. 

The Lichfield and Hatherton Canan Restoration Trust's website contains a splendid collection of black and white images of these locks, just as they were being demolished. The following is a particularly good shot looking down towards the White Heart Hotel, which stood at the bottom, somewhere near today's Renault showroom. It would appear that the actual line of the locks lies beneath the multitude of roundabouts built on the incline leading to the Orbital Business Park.

The Churchbridge flight of locks, Hatherton Canal 1950's

There is little point seeking out evidence on the ground as the line was completely obliterated, scoured out and then replaced by the old overburden. It's a shame, but at least we have a few photos left behind to give us an idea of how things used to be.


lhp said...

Rumer Hill junction still exists in part. The extension canal is now a "roadway" and the first pound below the top lock is an ornamental lake. See latest google earth image, regards,
Laurence Hogg

Mick Bullock said...

The public house at the bottom of the locks was the White Lion not the White Hart.I am sir prised nobody has corrected this before.

2uluru said...

I have enjoyed the stories of your various adventures and followed up your investigation of the Churchbridge Locks "from the comfort of my armchair" without having to blunder about in mud and brambles (and run across main roads).

I have discovered the National Library of Scotland who offer " that allows a set of historical map overlays to be viewed (against current maps)". I have posted the results of my toil here

I have identified what would have been under which island or car park (if I have calculated correctly!)