Saturday, 20 September 2014

Oldbury Loop BCN - part 1

Oldbury Loop BCN
Part One - Old Main Line to Birmingham Street
September 2014

I have had some unfinished business in the Oldbury area.

Other posts in this series:

1. Old Main Line to Birmingham Street (this post)

The Old Main line may be a bit remote to some but even this ancient waterway was subjected to some shortening and straightening over the years. The section which has been nagging away at me for years is the loop which wound its way round the centre of Oldbury but ceased to part of the main line in 1820/1821, which itself became bypassed by the later construction of the "Island" New Main Line.

The Oldbury Loop - from The Other 60 Miles

The loop was about 2.5 miles long and operated to serve local industry until well into the 1950's.

Southern entrance to the Oldbury Loop

It had its southern entrance opposite what was Allens Boatyard and near Whimsy Bridge, now a mere  shadow of its earlier self with just one short stub of several fingers of water which used to exist. Not that there is a lot to see of the junction with the original roving bridge first dropped to a platform a few inches over the water and now only distinguishable by a just discernible indentation in the towpath.

A road following the canal line to what is now The Ringway (previously a railway)

The canal was in water as far as far as the Oldbury Ringway till the 1980's at which time the old railway and its bridge was replaced by the new road. Today the route is covered by an access road to the rear of a Mecca Bingo Hall. From here the canal crossed The Ringway skirting by Judge Close where a road sign reassuring proclaims "Canal Street". 

Proof that a canal went this way!

The Birmingham Street crossing represents something of a challenge. As far as I can tell the old canal bridge still exists but I would need an excavator to prove the point. Reference to Richard Chester-Browne's The Other 60 Miles indicates that the bridge and the buildings it carried were visible in the 1970's. The canal went under the road at the point the buildings are at their thinnest and when viewed from Judge Close, a canal width gap exists to the rear of the buildings.

 The two sides of the obscured Birmingham St Bridge

When explored on foot there is a very distinct hump in the road, often suggesting a canal bridge, and opposite a footpath descends behind some newish sheltered housing, tracking the old towpath. The northern portal must now exist behind the garage of the housing with the canal track continuing north beneath the new Health Centre and adjoining Primary School.

1 comment:

mark geeson said...

Excellent research. I too have been exploring the old Oldbury loop. Some great black & white aerial shots of the loop at www.britainfromabove.org.uk such as this one... http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw046071?name=OLDBURY&gazetteer=OLDBURY&POPULATED_PLACE=OLDBURY&ADMIN_AREA=Sandwell&ref=37 The Oldbury Langley & Warley local history society facebook page also has some old canal pics where the loop passed under Birmingham Street.