Wednesday 29 April 2020

Anson Branch Canal

Anson Branch Canal

Strictly speaking the Anson Branch Canal forms part of the Walsall Canal rather than the Bentley Canal, but as the through route for the Bentley Canal ran along its southern end, I have taken the liberty of attaching it to the Bentley Canal homepage.

The Anson Branch was something of a slow burn, being approved by Parliament in 1768, but not actually built till 1830, after having been surveyed by Telford.

It was built to reach limestone workings at Pouk, and an extension was planned at the far end  beyond Reedswood, but only a short stub was built supplemented by a tramway which had its far end at Bentley Wharf on the Wyrley and Essington Canal. The minerals were not very extensive and by 1890 the waterway had fallen into a decline. Its. fortunes were revived when the Birchills Power Station was built in 1922, supplying up to 10m gallons of cooling water each day.

Reedswood Basin, at the northern end, had two arms, with the western one known as the Bradford Branch. This was supposed to be much longer but the extension never materialised. The basin sat beside the Reedswood Lido, a popular leisure venue for the population of Walsall and capitalising on this a skiff construction and hire business was built up by the Taylor family, who also ran the adjacent pub. This business was sold in the early 1900's with one brother moving to Canada to build bats on the Great Lakes and the other to Chester, founding what became Taylors of Chaster who built distinctive canal leisure craft based on the Broads Cruiser design. A full account of the Taylor family story can be found in the Spring 2022 issue of Narrow Boat magazine.

The section north of the Bentley Canal was abandoned to navigation in 1956, and the route was barred by the construction of the M6 in 1970 although small culvert was installed to allow the cooling water to reach the pumping engine at Reedswood. Whilst the northern section was no longer accessible for normal sized narrowboats, a small weed cutter was built which could get through and in so doing keep the water channel clear to the pumps. Technically the lower section below the Bentley Junction was closed in 1961, small craft were able to reach the M6 culvert till the mid 1970's.

When I started this post I had just a couple of images of craft at the M6 obstruction, but over time the collection of images has grown and today we are blessed with a very good photographic record of its course and structures.

Anson Branch from above Birchills Power Station 1948

Reedswood end of the Anson Branch

Birchills Power Station cooling towers to the Anson Branch Canal

The Anson Branch viewed from over Birchills Power Station

Map of Reedswood Basin

Reedswood Basin 1965 - Ian Huselbee

BCN Cottage 248 at the end of the Anson Branch - Geoff Taylor

Taylor skiff at Reedswood

Leisure trip from Reedswood Basin with BCN inspection launch

Reedswood Basin - Jack Haddock

The design for the Incline (CRT archive)

Birchills Incline design (CRT Archive)

Great Bridge Incline design (CRT archive)

Reedswood Basin from over Reedswood Lido

End of Reedswood Basin with BCN cottage 248

End of Reedswood Basin

BCN Cottage 248 at Reedswood

Reedswood Basin with Bradford Arm (left)and pumping station inlet (right)

Reedswood Pumphouse 1965 - Ian Huselbee

Reedswood Basin in 1986

Bentley Lane (Reedswood)  Bridge 1965 - Ian Huselbee

(Above and below) The old Reedswood Bridge 1965 Ian Huselbee

Bentley Lane (Reedswood) Bridge

A view from Bentley Lane Bridge "back in the day"- Geoff Taylor

Reedswood Bridge - P Weaver HNBC

Reedswood Bridge Ian Huselbee 1965

Reedswood Bridge from the south - 1965 Ian Huselbee

M6 being built from Bentley Mill Lane

Between Reedswood from Reedswood Bridge and the M6 after power station

South from Reedswood towards M6 in 1986

New Bloxwich Lane Bridge

South from Bloxwich Lane Bridge to M6 Arthur Farrand Radley - BCNS Archive

Bradford Bridge (M6) to Bloxwich Lane

Farm on Bloxwich Lane north of M6 - P Weaver HNBC

Bradford Bridge being dismantled - P Weaver HNBC

The M6 culvert just after the motorway was completed

M6 culvert 1975 (Nick Yarwood)

The end of the road after the M6 was built

M6 obstruction in 1974

Anson Branch M6 culvert Jack Haddock

Bradford Bridge (now under the M6) (HNBC - P Weaver collection)

Bradford Bridge (under M6) 1965 - Ian Huselbee

Bentley Mill Bridge to M6 - BCNS Archive

The Anson Branch Canal under Bentley Mill Bridge where Walsall Showcase Cinema stood

Anson Branch from Bentley Mill Way to the new M6 embankment

Bentley Mill Bridge to M6 embankment in 1986

The new Bentley Mill Bridge - BCNS Archive

 cruising north just south of Bentley Junction1976 - John Adey

North towards Reedswood Bridge - P Weaver HNBC

Anson Branch towards Reedswood from Bloxwich Lane Bridge

 Birchills Power Station beyond the new Bloxwich Lane Bridge from Bradford Bridge

An older version of Bentley Mill Bridge

Bentley Mill Bridge

The old Bentley Mill Bridge from above

Looking south towards the Bentley Junction from the M6 embankment

Looking south from Bradford Bridge - P Weaver HNBC

Looking south from Bradford Bridge Arthur Farrand Radley BCNS Archive

Dredging south of Bradford Bridge - P Weaver HNBC

A Jack Haddock image looking south from Bradford Bridge (M6)

North from the M6 embankment

Towards the new Bentley Mill Bridge from Bentley Junction

Bradford Bridge from Bentley Mill Bridge looking north - P Weaver HNBC

North form Bentley Mill Bridge 1965 - Ian Huselbee

Bentley Mill Bridge looking south to Bentley Junction 1965 - Ian Huselbee

South from Bentley Mill Bridge in 1966 Ian Huselbee

Bentley Junction

The entrance to the Bentley Canal

Bentley Branch to Bentley Lane Bridge 1974 (Hugh Potter)

Bentley Canal entrance 1984

Winding at Bentley Junction after the closure of the Bentley Canal

Looking up the Bentley Canal from the Anson Branch1965 Ian Huselbee

Bentley Junction - Arthur Farrand Radley - BCNS Archive

Bentley Junction and Bentley Mill Bridge in1975 Nick Yarwood

Bentley Mill Bridge 1965 - Ian Huselbee

Ian Huselbee returned to the same spot at Bentley Junction in 1966 (above and below)

Bentley Mill Bridge 1965 Ian Huselbee

Anson embankment near James Aqueduct 1986

Possibly above James Aqueduct on Anson Branch

 Tame Aqueduct on adjacent Walsall Canal1965 Ian Huselbee

Anson Embankment in 1948

Anson Junction and embankment plus Bentley Junction in 1934

Anson Junction from the Walsall Canal

Looking out of Anson Junction in 1986

Anson Junction from the Laurence Hogg slide collection

Anson Junction with canal cottage in 1957

Anson Junction in 1979

Anson Branch to the first bridge (Hugh Potter) 1973?

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).

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