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Birmingham City Council

A History of the Canals in and around Birmingham: 1770s

Work started in March, mainly with Samuel Simcock and Robert Whitworth in charge. Brindley was involved in the construction of six canals at the time and just could not do the day-to-day supervision.

A year later the shareholders were urging the company to "execute the locks and bridges with all possible dispatch, without regard to any extra expense ... necessary for that purpose" As a result the ten mile section from the Wednesbury coal mines and Paradise Street was working from 6 November 1769.

Within a year the wholesale price of coal had fallen from 16 shillings (80p) per ton to 4 shillings (20p) per ton.

The completion of the intended Birmingham terminus at Newhall took another two years (for less than a mile of canal!). Eventually Newhall was used for all goods except coal.

Progress finishing the canal slowed down once trade had started and money was being made by the company. In 1770, the Staffs and Worcs canal tried to get the Courts to compel the Birmingham company to complete the canal. In the end, after attempts to get Bills through Parliament agreement was reached. The Birmingham company would pay the cost of the Staffs and Worcs completing the canal from their end.

The connecting flight of 20 locks (later 21)at Wolverhampton was completed in September 1772. The Main canal was 23 miles long and the branch to Wednesbury 4.5miles.

Right from the start the Birmingham Canal made money. It ran its own boats and traded in competition with private companies who it charged tonnage tolls. The canal itself took a rather indirect route. Its winding line was the result of Brindleys attempts to follow the contours and avoid having to use too many locks. The Company was criticised as a more direct route would have reduced the tolls it charged . . . Canals in the 1780s