Wyrley and Essington Canal

Wyrley and Essington Canal
Wyrley and Essington Canal
Sneyd Wharf on the Wyrley and Essington Canal
Original owner Birmingham Canal Navigations
Principal engineer William Pitt
Date of act 1792, 1794
Date completed 1797
Date closed Sneyd Branch 1900s, parts in 1955
Maximum boat length 70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)
Maximum boat beam 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Start point Wolverhampton
End point Huddlesford Junction near Lichfield
Branch(es) Sneyd, Cannock Extension, Daw End, Chasewater
Locks 0

(originally 39)

Status Most navigable
Navigation authority British Waterways
[v · Legend
-- Coventry Canal
Urban transverse track Unknown BSicon "uJUNCa" Urban transverse track
Huddlesford Jn
Urban straight track
(Variable status to Ogley Jn)
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Locks 29-30
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Locks 27-28
Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu"
A38 road
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Locks 24-26
Unknown BSicon "uSTRfl"
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Locks 20-23
Unwatered canal with floodgate down
Lock 19
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Ogley 3rd Flight (13-18)
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Ogley 2nd Flight (9-12)
Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu"
A5 road
Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu"
A461 road
Unknown BSicon "uMROADo"
Lichfield Canal Aqueduct (M6 Toll)
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSd"
Ogley 1st Flight (1-8)
Unknown BSicon "uRESRa" Unwatered canal
Chasewater Res and feeder
Unknown BSicon "uKHSTxa" Unwatered canal
Waterway under motorway Unwatered canal
M6 Toll motorway
Urban straight track + Unknown BSicon "POINTERl"
Unwatered canal
Anglesey Branch
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "ugGRENZE"
Lichfield Canal (above, planned)
Waterway turning to left Waterway T-junction to right
Ogley Jn
Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu"
A452 road
Unknown BSicon "uxgJUNCld" Unknown BSicon "ugBASINr"
Sandhills Branch
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Urban track turning from right
Catshill Jn
Urban straight track Urban straight track
Daw End Branch
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uxgJUNCld"
Hay Head Limeworks
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uGRENZE"
Rushall Canal
Unknown BSicon "ugBASINl" Waterway with unused unwatered canal T-junction to right
Slough Arm
Unknown BSicon "uxgJUNCld" Unknown BSicon "ugBASINr"
Gilpins Arm
Unknown BSicon "ugHSTa" + Unknown BSicon "POINTERl"
Urban straight track
Unknown BSicon "ugJUNCrd" Urban straight track
Hatherton Canal
Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu" Urban straight track
A5 road
Urban straight track + Unknown BSicon "POINTERl"
Urban straight track
Cannock Extension
Waterway turning to left Waterway T-junction to right
Pelsall Jn
Unknown BSicon "ugBASINl" Waterway with unused unwatered canal T-junction to right
Lords Hayes Branch
Unknown BSicon "umKRZo"
Chase Line aqueduct
Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu"
A34 road
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Urban track turning from right
Birchills Jn
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uGRENZE"
Walsall Canal
Waterway turning to left Urban track turning from right
Unknown BSicon "ugJUNCld" Urban straight track
Wyrley mines
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSu" Unwatered canal Urban straight track
Essington Locks (5)
Unwatered canal turning left Unknown BSicon "ugJUNCrd" Urban straight track
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSu" Urban straight track
Sneyd Locks (4)
Unwatered canal turning left Waterway T-junction to right
Sneyd Jn
Waterway turning from left Waterway turning to right
Waterway under motorway
M6 motorway
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Urban track turning from right
Wednesfield Jn
Urban straight track Unwatered canal
Bentley Canal
Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu"
A4124 road
Urban transverse track Unknown BSicon "uJUNCe" Urban transverse track
Horseley Fields Jn
-- BCN Main Line

The Wyrley and Essington Canal, known locally as "the Curly Wyrley", is a canal in the English Midlands. As built it ran from Wolverhampton to Huddlesford Junction near Lichfield, with a number of branches: some parts are currently derelict. Pending planned restoration to Huddlesford, the navigable mainline now terminates at Ogley Junction near Brownhills.



The canal was built to allow transport of coal from coal mines near Wyrley, Essington and New Invention to Wolverhampton and Walsall, but also carried limestone and other goods. An Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent on 30 April 1792, entitled "An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal from, or from near, Wyrley Bank, in the county of Stafford, to communicate with the Birmingham and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, at or near the town of Wolverhampton, in the said county; and also certain collateral Cuts therein described from the said intended Canal".[1]

As the act's name suggests, this authorised the construction of the canal from the BCN Main Line of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (which would not be known as such until 1794) near Wolverhampton to Wyrley Bank, and the raising of up to £45,000 to pay for construction. William Pitt was appointed engineer.

A second act received Royal Assent on 28 March 1794, entitled "An Act for extending the Wyrley and Essington Canal" – this authorised a long extension, from Sneyd (thus making the line from Sneyd to Wyrley Bank effectively a branch) past Lichfield to Huddlesford Junction on the Coventry Canal, together with the raising of up to £115,000 (£10,522,579 as of 2011),[2] to complete construction.[1] The 1794 Act also authorised a branch to the Hay Head Limeworks, which became known as the Daw End branch, and a short branch to Lords Hayes.

The canal, including the extension, was open throughout by 1797. In February 1840, the Daw End branch was linked to the Tame Valley Canal by the Rushall Canal which included 9 locks. The section from Ogley Junction to Huddlesford is now known as the Lichfield Canal and is derelict, having been abandoned in 1955, under the terms of an Act of Abandonment obtained in 1954. It is now the subject of restoration.

The Cannock Extension was a late addition, being authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1854, for the construction of a branch between Pelsall and the coal mining area of Hednesford, near Cannock. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal built a flight of 13 locks to connect the new branch to their Hatherton Branch at Churchbridge, which were opened in 1860, and the Cannock branch reached Hednesford basin by 1863. Heavy coal traffic used the branch for its entire life, although the mines affected the canal. In July 1960, subsidence caused by mining resulted in the canal bed dropping by 21 ft (6.4m), and although the banks were rebuilt, the canal to the north of the A5 road was abandoned three years later. The Churchbridge connection had been abandoned in 1955, as traffic had ceased on the Hatherton Branch in 1949, again following subsidence. Most of the route north of the A5 has since been destroyed, some of it as a result of opencast mining.

In common with other canals in the Midlands, it was built as a "narrow" canal, that is, able to take narrowboat approximately 70 feet by 7 feet (21.3 metres by 2.1 metres).

The canal was lock-free from the Birmingham Canal mainline at Horseley Fields Junction for 16.5 miles (26.5 kilometres), after which there were 30 locks descending to Huddlesford over a further 7 miles (11.3 kilometres).

There was a connection to the Bentley Canal, which in turn connected to the Anson Branch and thence the Walsall Canal, but the former closed in 1961.


A number of branches were constructed:

The section of the original mainline from Sneyd to Wyrley Bank, later considered a branch, was opened in 1798, some 2.2 miles (3.6 kilometres) long with four locks; this was extended towards Great Wyrley in 1799, but the extension was disused by 1829. It was reopened and extended to reach Great Wyrley and serve the mines there in 1857. When completed it was 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) long, with major wharfs at Broad Lane, Landywood and Wyrley.[3] This branch was abandoned in 1955, under the powers of the Act of Abandonment.

The Birchills Branch was opened in 1798, 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometres) long. In 1840 a link to the Walsall Canal was created by a flight of 8 locks at the southern end of the branch.

The Essington branch, off the Sneyd to Wyrley Bank line, was opened in 1800, 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometres) long with five locks. It was the first section to be abandoned, (prior to 1904)[3] as its water supply was always inadequate.

The Daw End Branch from Catshill Junction to limestone quarries and limeworks at Hay Head was also opened in 1800, some 5.4 miles (8.7 kilometres) long with no locks. Over the years it has suffered from mining subsidence, with the result that many of the embankments are now much taller than when they were constructed. The 1954 Act allowed the final section to the limeworks to be abandoned. Surrounded now by Hay Head Woods, it is still partially watered, and the area has been declared a Site of Important Nature Conservation (SINC).[4]

Birchills Junction - The Walsall Canal runs to the right through the bridge

The Lord Hayes Branch was 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometres)[3] with no locks; this branch was built under the 1794 Act and abandoned under the 1954 Act. It is also referred to as the Lords Hayes or Lord Hay's branch. The branch could be restored, as it has been identified as a suitable route for the restored Hatherton Canal in a feasibility study carried out by Atkins. Previously a route to reconnect the Hatherton Canal to Grove Basin on the Cannock Extension Canal had been favoured, but met with opposition from landowners and on environmental grounds,[5] whereas the Lord Hayes route satisfies the environmental concerns, is preferable to landowners, and would reduce the number of new road bridges needed.[6]

The Anglesey Branch from Ogley Junction, built as a feeder in 1800 to carry the main source of water for the canal from Chasewater Reservoir, was upgraded to navigable status in 1850 as new mines opened in the area. Coal continued to be transported along the branch from Anglesey Basin until 1967. The end of this branch is the furthest north it is currently possible to travel on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

There were three short branches at Gilpins, Slough and Sandhills, all of which are now abandoned.


The canal was bought by the Birmingham Canal Navigations in 1840.


The affectionate, rhyming, name "Curly Wyrley" is derived from the fact that the canal is a contour canal, and so it twists and turns in order to avoid any gradients, and thus the need for locks. Some of the bends have been straightened over the years, following mining subsidence.


See also

Moore Bridge.jpg UK Waterways portal


  1. ^ a b Joseph Priestley, (1831), Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways, of Great Britain
  2. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  3. ^ a b c Bradshaws Guide 1904
  4. ^ Walsall Council
  5. ^ Waterways, Issue 225, Autumn 2009, Inland Waterways Association
  6. ^ 'Canal Boat' magazine, July 2009
  7. ^ a b c d Canal Companion - Birmingham Canal Navigations, J. M. Pearson & Associates, 1989, ISBN 0-907864-49-X
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Historical Map of the Birmingham Canals, Richard Dean, M. & M. Baldwin, 1989, ISBN 0-947712-08-9

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Essington — Infobox UK place country = England official name= Essington latitude= 52.62843 longitude= 2.05727 shire district= South Staffordshire region= West Midlands shire county = Staffordshire constituency westminster= postcode district = WV11 postcode… …   Wikipedia

  • Lichfield Canal — The Lichfield Canal, as it is now known, was historically a part of the Wyrley and Essington Canal, being the section of that canal from Ogley Junction at Brownhills on the northern Birmingham Canal Navigations to Huddlesford Junction, east of… …   Wikipedia

  • Birmingham Canal Navigations — (BCN) is a network of navigable canals connecting Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and the eastern part of the Black Country. The BCN is connected to the rest of the English canal system at several junctions.At its working peak, the BCN contained about …   Wikipedia

  • Water levels of the Birmingham Canal Navigations — The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN), a network of narrow canals in the industrial midlands of England, is built on various water levels. The three longest are the Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Walsall levels. Locks allow boats to move from a… …   Wikipedia

  • Walsall Canal — The Walsall Canal is a narrow (7 foot) canal, seven miles long, forming part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and passing around the western side of Walsall, West Midlands, England.RouteThe canal runs from Ryders Green Junction where it meets …   Wikipedia

  • Great Wyrley — infobox UK place country = England official name= Great Wyrley longitude= 2.0102 latitude= 52.6593 map type= Staffordshire population = 1,566 shire district= South Staffordshire shire county= Staffordshire region = West Midlands constituency… …   Wikipedia

  • Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway — [v · d · …   Wikipedia

  • Cannock Extension Canal — The current Cannock Extension Canal is a 1.8 mile canal in England. It runs from Pelsall Junction on the Wyrley and Essington Canal, north to Norton Canes Docks and forms part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.It was opened to Rumer Hill… …   Wikipedia

  • Rushall Canal — The Rushall Canal is a straight, short (2 ¾ mile), narrow (7 foot) canal forming part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) on the eastern side of Walsall, West Midlands, England.RouteThe Rushall Canal runs from Rushall Junction (which is… …   Wikipedia

  • Bentley Canal — The Bentley Canal is an abandoned canal that was part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. A very short section still exists where it joins the Wyrley and Essington Canal in Wolverhampton. From there it headed generally southeast through… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.