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Canals: Worcester and Birmingham - Part 2

The line of the canal was surveyed by Josiah Clowes and John Snape. There were a succession of engineers responsible for the works. Thomas Cartwright, John Woodhouse and William Crosley all took charge at some time. The plans had at first been for a canal to take barges, 15 foot wide boats, but the idea seems to have been dropped before construction.

Wast Hill Tunnel, Kings Norton

The work began from the Birmingham end, but seemed to progress slowly. Selly Oak was reached in October 1795 and Kings Norton by May 1796 By March 1797 the 2726 yard tunnel at Wast Hill was open and the canal was trading to Hopwood.

At this point money for further building seem to run out and further progress was even slower. It took until 1807 before the canal reached Tardebigge (old wharf) Here the company set up a temporary terminus and began trading to Worcester, goods being carried overland for the final section.

A further Act of Parliament authorised the raising of more money in 1808. It was a time when canal shares were popular, so the money was quickly borrowed.

So far the canal had been level, but soon the company was going to need to build locks to take the canal down in stages to the level of Worcester. The 428 foot drop eventually needed 58 locks. While the workmen tunnelled through the hill at Tardebigge, experiments were carried out on the south side with a "boat lift" as an alternative to locks. When the 580 yard tunnel was complete in 1810 , the trials took place. The lift seemed capable of passing boats very quickly. Though the trials were successful, and many eminent engineers consulted, the company seemed determined to build locks.

Worcester and Birmingham canals - Part 3
History of Canals - Main Menu