Tuesday 7 April 2020

Cannock Extension Canal - crossing the open cast

Cannock Extension Canal - Norton Canes to Hednesford
April 2020

The line of the canal become very indistinct after the village of Norton Canes, making a brief appearance east Badger Bridge where a quarter of a mile of canal bed is still to be found at the bottom of a garden, and then disappearing beneath the massive area of ground which was opencast mined by the NCB.

The surface layer has been completely stripped away and the coal was removed in the 1960's and 1970's, and the landscape re-profiled in the 1980's. Today much of it is either open space or covered in light industry and retail parks, and whilst you can follow the path on a map, its anyone's guess what the levels used to look like!

Over the years I have found photos of most of the bridges and structures, but getting the sequence right in an area which has been so radically reshaped has proved to be very challenging. I cant really claim all the credit for the following sequence of photos which, to the best of my knowledge, reflect the order you would have encountered them when traveling from the south to the terminus at Hednesford. I have been fortunate to have had the help of a group of local residents and a few boaters who were on the last trip in 1962, and who remember the canal in water. Mention also has to go to Duncan Moore, who has at times persevered in this effort when I started to despair.   

If you have any missing images, please let me know and I will add them to the sequence.

My apologies for the length of this post - many more images have surfaced over the years and it seems a shame not to include them!

Norton Canes area

An arial view from above Conduit Colliery towards Rumer Hill Junction

Looking south to Foredrove Bridge with the subsided Conduit Basin on the left

Conduit (aka Norton Springs Branch) entrance before subsidence

Looking north west towards Hednesford Road Bridge - John Whitehouse

Hednesford Road Bridge (at the top of the rise)

Norton Canes today - Suzie Bradbury

Two photos of Hednesford Road Bridge by Shirley Hewitt

Hednesford Road Bridge

Towing at Hednesford Road Bridge

and a colourised version

Hednesford Road bridge looking west

Hednesford Road Bridge looking east

Aerial view of canal from Hednesford Road Bridge to Kingswood Bridge

Hednesford Road Bridge (Robert Aickman)

Looking west from Hednesford Road Bridge to Railway Bridge 1915

As above, but closer to the railway bridge and viewed from the towpath side

Judith Anne and Dart double heading in the winter of 1948 

Leonard Lee's Joan towing five day boats - location unidentified - BCNS Archive

Railway and Hednesford Road Bridge viewed from Norton Common Bridge looking east

Looking west to Norton Common Bridge

Parapet of Norton Common Bridge

Plans for the 1915 reconstruction of Norton Common Bridge

Canal retaining wall at Washbrook Lane, Norton Canes

Washbrook Lane embankment - CRT Archive

Badgers Bridge looking east

Badger Bridge by C O Hughes 1971

Badgers Bridge


Badgers Bridge is in the middle of this image - the eastern edge of the Poplars Opencast site

Coppice Colliery Basin

Coppice Basin Laurence Hogg Collection

Site of Coppice Basin later on

Silvesters Bridge looking west

Dismantling the original Silvesters Bridge in 1934 (Will King)

Puddling  repaired banks at Silvesters Bridge 1950's

Bank Repairs

The surviving fragment of Silvesters bridge

Site of Silversters Bridge - in the middle of the opencast area

A later (repaired) Silvesters Bridge looking east (Hugh Potter)

East from Silvesters Bridge 1950's

Silvesters Wharf looking west from Silvesters Bridge (Tony Manning)

Working Boats on the Cannock Extension Canal 1950's

Norton Lane crossing Sylvester Bridge

Sylvester's Wharf looking west after dewatering

Slightly clearer version from the Laurence Hogg slide collection

Rumour Hill to Hednesford

Poplars Opencast looking north at Rumer Hill Junction with A5 in foreground

Two images of Poplars Opencast at Rumer Hill looking South East with A5 in top right

Rumer Hill Junction today - Suzie Bradbury

Mineral Railways on the Cannock Coalfield

Two views of Rumer Hill area

Kingswood Bridge looking east into cutting (Hugh Potter)

The arched version of Kingswood Bridge

Looking west between Kingswood Bridge and High Bridge 1962

Photo HNBC Philip Weaver Collection
Dated 1963
Gang building up banks - subsidence
Photo taken looking south from High Bridge just south of Rumer Hill Junction.
On left, side bridge is entrance to Cannock and Leacroft colliery basin.
1963 - land was sinking so fast they could hardly raise banks quickly enough to keep pace. Dropped 15ft in a fortnight

Building Banks near High Bridge in 1963 (HNBC Phillip Weaver Collection)

Near High Bridge after demolition P Weaver

This is an artificially "colourised" version of the same image

Bank Repairs near High Bridge

Subsidence repairs to embankment in 1963 (HNBC Phillip Weaver Collection)

Leacroft Basin with Colliery beyond - DCT Archive

Leacroft Basin 

The Cannock and Leacroft Colliery Co gained approval to lease the land to build this basin from the BCN committee in 1900 at a cost of £10 per annum.

Leacroft Basin as Hole Farm by CO Hughes 1970

Leacroft Basin 1955 - Stan Heaton

Tramway bridge at Leacroft Old Hall Farm, just above the basin

High Bridge Bridge by C O Hughes 1958

High Bridge Bridge

Rumer Hill Junction from High Bridge Bridge (Tony Manning)

Churchbridge Top Lock 1962 with opencast beyond

Remains of Churchbridge Top Lock 1962 - Don Gray Collection

Churchbridge Top Lock and pontoon Bladys in 1962 - Don Gray Collection

Churchbridge top lock and office (HNBC Phillip Weaver Collection)

Rumer Hill junction

Opencast at Rumer Hill looking south

Rumer Hill  Bridge in the distance looking north

The view out of Rumer Hill Basin taken by Stan Heaton in 1955
Description: Dave Bailey from the Old Photos from Hednesford... group remembers the ropeway at Rumer Hill, and even rode it! "The basin with the overhead cables is Mid Cannock basin by Rumer Hill bridge. The small railway ran from Mid Cannock Pit and at some time loaded coal onto barges, it was not in use in the 50s, where it went under the road near the pit had been filled in.They did however leave a couple of coal tubs on the canal side and it was a gentle slope down to the pit end. We were able to push these tubes back up the slope and ride down in them, jumping of onto the grass bank before they hit the stop... The overhead cableway ran from Mid Cannock pit and the slag heap was on the far side of the canal, it was always on fire and had to be continually sprayed with water to damp it down. The steel nets under the cables protected people below from anything falling out of the overhead tubs. As kids we used to climb the gantries walk on the nets, jump up and grab a tub and ride across the canal, when I think back now it's a miracle we survived. I can't thank you enough for this picture it brings back so may memories of my childhood, what a playground we had."

Another distance image of the elusive Rumer Hill Bridge

Rumer Hill Bridge looking north (Steve Larkin 1971)

Rumer Hill Bridge looking south by Barrie Harley 1971

Rumer Hill Bridge road view by Barrie Harley 1971

Canal at Leacroft

Poplars Opencast looking over site of Rumer Hill Junction to Hednesford

Leacroft Bridge looking north 1962

Leacroft Bridge

Leacroft Bridge being raised with Parkes Bridge beyond (Will King)

Road View of Leacroft Bridge

Probably looking south to Leacroft Bridge

Leacroft to Rumer Hill 1971 Steve Larkin

North from Leacroft Bridge

Salvation Army Sunday School outing neat Leacroft 1940's

Same Sunday School outing at Norton Pool (AKA Chasewater Reservoir) 1940's

Parkes Bridge and embankment looking south

A cropped in version 

Parkes Bridge 1920 looking south

A colourised version of this popular image

Park Bridge reconstruction plan 1939, the last arched bridge on the line - CRT Archive

Hawkes Green Weir to the north of Parkes Bridge 1974 (Hugh Potter)

And looking the other way - 1974 Hugh Potter

Under Hawkes Aqueduct

Hawkes Aqueduct 1927

Goods Train beside canal probably at Hawkes Green - Deavalls Collection / Bob Williams

Hemlocks Farm -
 Deavalls Collection / Bob Williams

Hemlocks Farm - Deavalls Collection / Bob Williams

Hemlocks Farm at Hawkes Green -Devalls Collection / Bob Williams

Hawkes Green

Hawkes Green Lane Embankment looking north

Hawkes Green 1945 looking north to to L&NWR Bridge

L&NWR Bridge looking north to Hednesford Basin

Boatmen's Mission between railway and Hemlocks Bridge

Hednesford Mission 1910

Back of the Mission at Hednesford

Mission Building at Hednesford by Edward Paget-Tomlinson

Looking south from Hemlocks Bridge with Boatman's mission on right

South from Hemlocks Bridge to L&NWR Bridge

Hemlocks Bridge entering Hednesford Basin 1962

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).


Duncan Moore said...

I think the two shots around Silvester's bridge are the same shot, one in water, one drained. Also, the one you've got marked as maybe Hednesford Road bridge you also have marked as Rumer Hill Bridge. The idea that it's Rumer Hill bridge came from a sort of photostream I saw on the Norton Canes History Group on FB. (Sorry if I posted this twice, was doing strange things on my phone so I tried again on the desktop)

Andy Tidy said...

Duncan - would you believe it - I noticed that conflict yesterday and removed it. Its far more likely to be Rumer Hill than Hednesford having look at the shape on the aerial images.

Andy Tidy said...

Sylvesters Bridge remains outstanding in this collection!