Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Balls Hill Branch Canal, Golds Green to HIll Top terminus

Balls Hill Branch Canal
Golds Green to Hill Top terminus
March 2009

Whilst Golds Green remains a feature on the modern A-Z, it's near neighbour, Golds Hill which existed on the western side of the Balls Hill Branch Canal, appears to have disappeared without trace. It was there in 1902 but fast forward to 2010 and it has vanished.

True the curiously named Pikehelve Street remains, but the community it hosted in no more, replaced by down at heel industrial units. Even Golds Green isn't what it was, with its main Puddingbag Street lost beneath light industry and Shaw Street no more than an access road.

Site of Golds Green Bridge, next to the Miners Arms

The thing is, the canal, the local industry and the community it ran through were all inextricably linked, and a clue lies in one of the few original buildings in the area - The Miners Arms.

Golds Hill and Golds Green sat on top of a sharp rise in the land, with good claypits at the top and coal seams emerging at the bottom. These two industries supported the physical needs of the community and between them the Miners Arms and St Paul's Church supported their various "spiritual" needs. With the coal seams worked out, the brickworks were without fuel and closed. The community withered and died and over time most of the houses were destroyed.

Balls Hill Branch Canal north of Golds Green Bridge

As for the line of the canal, it passed under Bagnall Street at Golds Green Bridge, just outside the pub, and contoured round to the north east. The line is invisible on the ground but from the air a curved row of buildings bears testimony to its passing, eventually crossing Shaw Street at Golds Hill Bridge befire disappearing under more industrial hardstanding.

Canal contour from Pikehelve St

The final one third of a mile is apparent from the air as a thin stand of trees, but access is impossible no matter how cavalier one is with the laws of trespass.

End of the road from Golds Green side - canal follows the line of trees

Whilst this last section of canal track to the old GWR railway line is beyond our reach, it's line can be spotted from the other side of the tracks at Tunnel Lane. The canal crossed the railway on an aqueduct which was removed in the 1960's and then terminated in a basin at the end of Tunnel Lane. The basin has been infilled but it's location is visible in the form of an area of open waste ground.

Site of the aqueduct over the GWR railway - now the Metro

So that marks the end of this particular branch which extended for approximately two miles from today's Ridgeacre Pub, and the head of the nearly navigable Swan Arm. A short length, but significant in that it was the "far end" of Brindleys original canal, the other end of which was in the heart of Birningham.

Balls Hill Basin, near Hill Top


Frank Mander said...

The aqueduct over the GWR main line was still in place in 1967. I have 8 mm cine film of Pendennis Castle and Clun Castle passing through northwards on the 'last weekend' steam specials

Captain Ahab said...

That has got to be one of the few photos of the aqueduct. The best I have come up with so far is a drawing.