Sunday 7 December 2008

Birmingham's Canalside Industries

Birmingham and the Black Country's Canalside Industries by Ray Shill
Book review

This is an encyclopedic tome detailing the minutiae of the industries which grew up, withered and died alongside the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

It has been painstakingly pieced together by Ray, drawing on local history archives and brought to life with a good assortment of photographs. The photo's and engravings depict long gone industrial scenes and the only clues to their locations is by close examination of the bends and bridges on the relatively unchanging canal bed.

Birmingham was built on coal and metal, and needed an infrastructure to move these heavy commodities around in a cost effective manner. As Birmingham sits high on a sandy plateau with little surface water, the natural river system offered few options for water travel. The ingenious local industrialists therefore developed network of canals to join the collieries, mills, mines and works together and then to access the surrounding canal and river navigations. Without the canals Birmingham and the Black Country couldn't have prospered and they were therefore instrumental in shaping the face of the West Midlands we see today.

This is no easy read as it examines the businesses from archive material and includes many tables and lists of items moved. That said, it is a rewarding read for those with a interest in the the history of Birmingham and its surrounds, and in particular an interest in the impact the BCN had on shaping the industrial heartland of England.

ISBN 0-7524-3262-1

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