Thursday 30 April 2020

Toll End Communication Canal - Tipton

Toll End Communication Canal - Tipton (upper) half
Locks Four to Eight

My search for obscure waterways draws me back to the Tipton area time and time again.

This is not because the area has any particular scenic beauty, far from it. In fact, much of it can best described as a post industrial wasteland, but nowhere else in the UK contains so many canals in such a small area. Of course, many of these waterways were abandoned in the middle of the last century, but the desolate nature of the area means that, with a bit of poking around, telltale remains are still visible on the ground.

The Toll End Communication Canal is a waterway with a confusing history, a hybrid never really knowing what it was. Soon after Brindley completed what we now refer to as the Old Main Line, a short 1/4 mile branch was dug to the east of Tipton Green in 1805, dropping down through three locks, known as the Tipton Green Branch. This initially terminated somewhere near the line of today's New Main Line at Watery Lane Junction. There is not a lot to see of this canal today, save the chamber of the middle lock which has been incorporated into a path.

The following year the Tipton Green Branch was extended for a further mile, descending through four more locks and following the line of what is now an open land drain to the side of Tipton Cemetry.

Starting at the other end, a side arm of the Broadwaters Canal (now the Walsall Canal) was built in 1801, rising up through two locks to reach a new coal mine. Eight  years later, in 1809, the Toll End Branch was extended westwards, linking into the mid point of the Tipton Green Branch, with the addition of two more locks. There is little to see of the Toll End section today, apart from a raised water pipe spanning an infilled entrance, and a bricked up archway under Toll End Road.

Further west the canal path can be detected passing under Bridge Road before it is completely lost under industrial wasteland, but continued on up the hill next to Tipton Cemetry, kinking round to the right to join the mid point of the older Tipton Green Branch. The line of this sharp twist  is  still visible from the air in the form of a stand of trees and the line has been studiously avoided by subsequent development projects.

The area between the eastern end of the old Tipton Green Branch and the western end of the Toll End Branch became home to the Horsley Ironworks until 1865, which supplied many of the fine canal bridges we see in the area today.The recent construction of a new road to replace the old railway level crossing has revealed an archway in the embankment behind Caggy's yard, which was probably the canal bridge. Sadly, the construction team were not enthusiastic about my request for a hands on investigation, hence no photo!

The construction of the New Main Line in 1829 cut through the Tipton Green Branch creating  Watery Lane Junction, which is now the site of Caggy's Boatyard.

So, this short 1 3/4 mile canal with its 9 locks was built in four stages over eight years to service the local mines and industry, until it was abandoned in 1966 and filled in in the 1970's. For ease of reference the locks re numbered one to ten including the Tipton Green and Toll End Communication Canals combined running top to bottom.

Given the number of archive photos we have discovered the total line has been divided into three:

2. TECC - Watery Lane to Lock Eight, junction with the Toll End Branch (this post)

Toll End Communication Canal (foreground) with the old line to Bradley beyond

Toll End Junction 1975 (Hugh Potter)

Watery Lane Bridge by Alan Price 1969

Entrance to Toll End Communication Canal (right) - John Whitehouse

Looking north from the entrance to the Toll End Communication Canal

Entrance to Toll End Comms Canal 1966 (HNBC - P Weaver Collection)

Toll End Stub 1975 (Hugh Potter)

Entrance to Toll End - November 1973

Ian Huselbee 1966

Tipton Green (left) and Toll End (right) - there The New Main Line crosses

Entering the Toll End Communication Canal

Unidentified boatyard in Toll End

Sunday School outing at unknown location at Toll End

Toll End Sunday School outing in 1912

Toll End Lock 4 1975 (Hugh Potter)

Toll End Lock Four

Alan Smith image from around 1961 of Lock 4 and BCN Cottage to right (now Caggys Yard)

Lock Four

Lock Four (site of)


Toll End Junction 1975 looking back to Tipton (Hugh Potter)

 Toll End Lock Five and Workhouse Lane Bridge (formerly Moat Bridge)

Workhouse Lane Bridge 1966 Ian Huselbee

Workhouse Lane Bridge and Lock Five (HNBC - P Weaver collection)

Lock Five overflow 1969 (Arthur Price)

Lock Five and Workhouse Lane Bridge by Ian Husslebee

Workhouse Lane Bridge sign by Alan Price 1969

Toll End Lock Five beneath Workhouse Lane (Moat) Bridge 1975 (Hugh Potter)

Workhouse Bridge and Lock Five 1966 - Ian Husslebee

Note the "Bridgeguard" reinforcement underneath Workhouse Lane Bridge

Destruction of Alexandra Road Bridge

Toll End Lock Five 1975 (Hugh Potter)

 Below Toll End Lock Five (Hugh Potter)

Workhouse Bridge and Lock Five in 1966 - Ian Husslebee

Below Workhouse Lane Bridge by Alan Price 1969

Toll End Locks Five and Six by Alan Price 1969

Locks five and six by Ian Husslebee 1966

Line of Toll End Communication Canal between locks five and six in 1975 (Hugh Potter)

Lock Six looking downstream

 Toll End Locks six and five with Workhouse Lane Bridge beyond

Below Lock Six by Alan Price 1969

The 'kinked" join between the old Tipton Green Canal and the Toll End Branch
Lock Six in 1966 - Ian Huslebee

Lock 6 1966 Ian Huselbee

Between Locks 6 and 7 1966 Ian Huselbee

Approaching Lock Seven

Locks seven and eight - the junction between Tipton Green Canal and the Toll End Branch

Lock  Seven (HNBC Weaver Collection)

Lock Seven on the twist onto the older Toll End Branch below by Alan Price 1969

Lock Seven - "The Tipton Lido"

Lock Seven by Ian Husslebee

Lock Seven 1966 Ian Huselbee 

Lock 7 1966 Ian Huselbee

Stable at Lock Seven

Lock Seven from above

Toll End Locks Seven and Eight

Lock Eight by Ian Husselbee

Lock Eight detail by Alan Price 1969

Click here to move to the lower half of the Toll End Communication Canal

Click here to return to the Tipton Area index page

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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