Friday, 8 May 2020

Smethwick Summits

Smethwick Summits

Smethwick Locks to old summit

When the original Birmingham Canal was built the plan was to drive a tunnel through the hill at Smethwick, but adverse land conditions put paid to this idea.

A "Plan B" was soon hatched involving a flight of six locks on either side of the hill which clearly represented an obstacle to boats and a challenge to supply water in sufficient quantities to a very short summit pound. The fix for the water problem came in the creation of Smethwick Great Reservoir, a water source which was both shallow and leaky - so maybe not so great after all.

An addition supply of water was fed down from Titford Pools, and with a great deal of expensive back pumping from steam engines at Smethwick, the canal operated fairly well. In time the traffic grew and justified the expense of carving out the top three locks and so tapping into the extensive Wolverhampton as a huge summit pound. 


Spon Lane Locks to old summit

While the summit was being lowered by John Smeaton, the Birmingham Canal also installed a second flight of locks, thus boosting capacity. The three locks you see at Smethwick today are the newer flight and Brindley's older ones to the north were removed when trade dwindled.

Today you see the Old Main Line following Smeaton's lowered summit alongside Teford's New Main Line. And if you look up the bank you will see a further "ledge" which is a reasonable representation of the height of the original summit.

Smethwick Junction

Smethwick Locks

Smethwick's duplicated Locks

Smethwick Top Locks 1957 (Arthur Watts)

Smethwick 1957 (Arthur Watts)

RCHS image of Smethwick Top Locks

Smethwick Top Locks and Engine Arm Aqueduct 1957 (David Morris)

Layout of Smethwick Top Locks


Brindley's original third lock


Brindley's line to the right and Smeaton's duplicates to the left

Tern in Smethwick Locks parallel pounds 1970 - Hugh Potter

Smethwick Locks 1969 (Arthur Watts)

Smethwick Locks 1957 (Arthur Watts)


Smethwick old bottom lock (Brindley original) in 1973 - Hugh Potter
Smethwick Old Middle Lock 1973 - Hugh Potter

Mac approaching Smethwick Middle Lock

Hugh Potter 1973


Smethwick Old Top Lock (Brindley original)1973 - HughPotter

Smethwick Old Locks 1973 - Hugh Potter 

Above Smethwick Locks 1973 - Hugh Potter


The old summit

Duplicated locks in operation





Bindley's old locks filled in (left) Mid -1970's

Duplicated Top Locks at Smethwick

Smethwick Top Lock with offices and cottage

Smethwick Top Lock Cottage from the Old main Line

Smethwick Top Lock Buildings from the New Main Line

Summit Bridge 1926

The abandoned Smethwick Great Reservoir

Rotton Park Reservoir - source of the summit level water

Feeder from Rotton Park Reservoir to Smethwick at Winson Green

The Engine Arm

Smethwick Pumping Engine



Three Levels at Smethwick



Smethwick Pumphouse as it was

Smethwick Pumphouse 1990 Stanley Holland

Removing the boiler - Steve Bingham






Site of Brindley's sixth lock to Smethwick Summit (beyond pumphouse)


The Old and New Mainlines in Galton Valley



The above photos have been assembled from various sources, including those freely found on the internet. My thanks go to the many photographers alive and dead who have contributed to this collection and in so doing, are keeping the memory of these lost canals alive. These images are reproduced for ease of research are are not necessarily the property of this blog, and as such should not be used for commercial gain without the explicit permission of the owner (whoever that may be).





No comments: