Tuesday 13 April 2010

Bentley Canal, Wednesfield Junction Update

Bentley Canal
Wednesfiled Junction and the top three locks
Update April 2010 - Original Post December 2009

Lock number three proved to be elusive during my exploration of the Bentley Canal, sitting somewhere behing a row of modern offices and under their car parks. I have recently found a photo of Lock Number three from the 1970's when the canal was being filled in. Whilst the top gates have been replaced by spoil, the bottom gates hang in place minus their balance beams. In a few short years the lock chamber, the nearby bridge and the whole channel wiould be lost forever.

Lock No 3 at Wednesfield on the Bentley Canal



Lock 4

Original Post December 2009
In spite of the extensive regeneration in the area, one feature of the old Bentley Canal continues to stand proud and unchanging – the fine cast iron bridge which still spans the entrance to the remaining stub arm, next to the Nickleodeon pub. Sadly, the picture framed by this graceful arch is unrecognisable from just 30 years ago, when the canal started its descent through the first three locks towards Willenhall and then on to the outskirts of Walsall.

Wednesfield Junction 2009

Wednesfield Junction 1992 (Photo: TNC website)

Fortunately for canal hunters, the Bentley was remarkably straight and it is possible to draw a line on the map between Wednesfield Junction and Neachells Lane bridge, the first surviving structure on the line half a mile to the east. Between these points the line dips down through the new car parks, before burrowing under the corner of Hobbycraft.

2009 view up to Wednesfield Junction,
The line passes under the petrol station and the shed beyond

Ruins of top two locks at Wednesfield Junction 1992 (Photo: TNC website)

It then breaks free of the built up area, invisibly traversing what is currently an open area of waste land framed by Backhouse Lane, Kenmare Way and Wells Lane (which used to have a bridge of the same name). It then took the route now occupied by car parks to the rear of the buildings which border Wednesfield Way, passing through lock number four along the way.

Line of the Bentley canal between Neachells lane and Wells Lane

If you know where to look, the fingerprints of the line remain stuck to the landscape, but are not sufficiently well defined to secure a firm conviction!

Culverted section runs beneath the trailers parked between Neachells and Merills Hall Bridges

Same stretch in 1992 (Photo: TNC website)

 Neachells Lane bridge comes as something of a relief, providing the first emphatic evidence of the canal line, with access to the underside possible via the adjacent haulage yard, formerly the BASF factory. From here the channel, which included locks numbered five and six, was piped and now runs beneath the hard-standing before finally emerging briefly from beneath the buried remains of Merrils Hall Bridge before continuing under the stockyards of the CORUS depot to the main gate.

Neachells Lane Bridge

To get an idea of what went before you need to refer to the history books or the more recent collection of photos found of the Tuesday Night Club’s website. These atmospheric images were taken in August 1992, just months before the remains of the flight was bulldozed.

The canal fell into disuse in the 1950’s, was abandoned in the 1960’s but remained technically navigable through till the early 1970’s when BW work boats could still be found in the intervening pounds, tucked behind spindle less paddles, their mechanisms removed to prevent vandalism.

Line of Bentley Canal across the Corus site

To bring the story up to date, the line of the canal may be almost completely buried, but a cycle way has been built which carries cyclists on a parallel course a few hundred yards to the south. This cycle way then crosses Wednesfield Way and continues on along the line of the old canal, into some wasteland via Steelpark Way to the CORUS works, an area which offers more scope for canal hunters.


Anonymous said...

I have many photos of the first 6 locks indeed the photos posted in black and white I took! I even have photos of a group of enthusiasts attempting to naviagate the locks in the early 1970s.
Also have photos of the rest of the canal in the late 70s.

Andy Tidy said...

Quentin -they are really great atmospheric images. I cant remember which book I found them in but I hope that you dont mind them being posted so people can see what it all looked like before the redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

there is an old bridge that used to cross the canal outside corus offices now standing in landscaped gardens

l.w. said...

I wonder if any of you, including those of you who have commented, have any more photos that you can shed some light on to the stretch of the Bentley canal system, particularly lock 4 where there was a lock house present?

Thanks in advanced for any information.