Friday 5 April 2013

Flights of fancy - update

Wolverhampton Level exits old and new (ish)
Various updates

(Update Sept 2011) (and April 2013)

Mark pointed out that the Gibson's Arm also had a lock off the Birmingham Level as it entered the basins, under what is now Centenary Square and the new Birmingham Library, adding to my list of downward exits from this pound.

This fact stuck in my mind and when I picked up one of Ray Shill's articles in the BCNS's Boundary Post I discovered a map revealing that access to the basins was via a lock up off the main line - not down. Actually its from Richard Chester Brown's "The Other Sixty Miles" so I should have noticed this before. It therefore does not qualify for my list of exits from the Birmingham Level, but I have no idea what they used for a water supply...

April 2013 - I was reading John Liley's "Journeys of the Swan when I found a photo of the entrance of the Newhall Branch exiting the back of Cambrian Wharf and taken in 1969:

Entrance to the Newhall Branch Canal in Birmingham - 1969

Solve one issue and another crops up - any suggestions?

Original post from May 2011:

I was plodding along the Old Main Line at Smethwick yesterday, gazing up at that huge chimney and wondering why they needed such a big pumping engine to keep the top level in water.

Of course, there were lots of loads about then, but the Wolverhampton Level is huge, it must be the better part of 40 miles from Longwood near Aldridge round to Smethwick and the Engine Arm. Thats a big reservoir even before you start to include Chasewater. This line of thinking got me counting lock flights which drew on the Wolverhampton Level, and it was a bit like counting sheep and every time I compiled a mental list I remembered others.

So, for those interested, this is the list I came up with:

1. Smethwick Locks ( were duplicated, but lets count as one)
2. Spon Lane Locks - oldest lock chambers in the UK
3. Brades Locks - only staircase on the BCN
4. Tipton Green Locks - infilled but still partly visible in a park
5. Factory Locks - the fastest way from Wolverhampton to Birmingham
6. Park Head Locks - beyond the Dudley Tunnel and sometimes operational (today yes)
7. Bradley Locks - infilled but visible descending to the Walsall Canal
8. Wolverhampton 21 to the Staffs and Worcester
9. Bentley Locks - lost beneath a retail park
10. Walsall Locks
11. Church Bridge Locks - lost beneath a road in Cannock
12. Rushall Locks - The least used flight on the BCN?
13. Ogley Locks - connecting the Wyrley and Essington with the T&M - being restored

Is my list complete? I cant think of any more, save possibly a short arm parallel to the Toll End Communication Canal to service the original factory which made all those graceful iron bridges, which may or may not have existed at the same time as the adjacent Toll End. 

Jeff tells me I shouldn't know all this stuff and I should get out less!

All this thought took me as far as the Titford Canal so I thought that to be fair, I should do the same exercise for the Birmingham Level:

1. Farmers Bridge Locks 
2. Lapworth Flight
3. Tardebigge Flight
4. Blowers Green (thanks Nick) via Lappal and later Netherton
5. Two Locks line (thanks again Nick - and to think I have walked the route!)
5. Ryders Green Locks
6. Toll End Communication Canal

Have I missed any?


Martin said...


Nick said...

I don't think you've missed any for the Wolverhampton level, but for
Birmingham you've made a (tiddly) mistake: Delph isn't off the Birmingham
level, there is Blower's Green (originally the bottom 2 of Park Head)
in the way. That means you've got to add the Two Locks Line locks as

Being pedantic, I assume you're not counting (ex) stop locks as
breaking a level up. Otherwise you've got (at least) one at the
junction of the Dudley and W&B and one at Horseley Fields.

Andy Tidy said...

Thanks for pointing out Blowers Green - can you tell that I rarely venture onto the back of the map! I could kick myself for missing the Two Locks line - I have walked it and found the foundations of the top lock!
Are you doing the Challenge this year?

Mark said...

I hear you are doing the BCN Challenge this weekend.....

I am doing it with Tawny Owl for the second time. Hope we get the chance to catch up at some stage and talk about those lost stretches of the Jesson Branch, Halford Branch and the aqueduct over the old GWR at Tunnel Lane in West Bromwich! I am looking at some archives at Sandwell Archives tomorrow and I am hoping to find a plan of the original terminal basin there!

Mark (of NB North Star)

Andy Tidy said...

Hi Mark
Yup we are all set for the off and will be spending Sunday night at Walsall so see you there.

Mark said...

And then there's the lock at the entrance to the Gibson's Arm off the old Newhall Arm.....

- Mark

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

For the Wolverhampton Level – I think there was another branch descending to the left through two locks immediately beyond the current end of the Wednesbury Oak Loop and well before you get to Bradley Locks.

For the Birmingham Level – Assuming you are limiting yourself to the BCN then I suggest you mention Worcester Bar as a potential loss (or gain?) of water.

Steve ( said...

I realise that this is a rather belated comment, but the map of Gibson's Arm taken from Richard Chester Browne's book seems to be wrong. It has the arm connecting about a third of the way along the northern of the two basins. I think the connection and the site of the Gibson's Arm Lock is at the eastern end of the northern basin,in line with the connection to the southern basin. The lock is shown on the 1889 OS 1:500 town plan of Birmingham, which can be seen at
Gibson's Arm left the Newhall Branch under what is now Cambrian Hall and seems to have tunnelled under some buildings that stood where Brindley Drive car park now is, emerging at the back of a building on the other side of Cambridge St. The lock was situated under what is now Baskerville House. Given that the plaza in front of Baskerville House, and the land on the far side of Broad Street, are at a higher level than Cambridge St, it seems pretty certain that the lock took boats up to the basins from the Birmingham level.