Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Worcester and Birmingham Canal

The Worcester and Birmingham Canal is a canal linking Birmingham and Worcester in England. It starts in Worcester, as an 'offshoot' of the River Severn (just after the river lock) and ends in Gas Street Basin in Birmingham. It is convert|29|mi|km long.There are 58 locks in total on the canal, including the 30 Tardebigge Locks, one of the largest lock flights in Europe. The canal climbs convert|428|ft|m from Worcester to Birmingham.


The parliamentary bill permitting its construction was passed in 1791 empowering the company to raise £180,000 through 1,800 shares at a cost of £100 each. It also allowed them to raise a further £70,000, if needed, amongst themselves or by the mortgage of tolls and rates. The Act also permitted the company to allow landowners on the line to build wharfs and wharfhouse, and if they refuse to, the company are allowed to if needed. A further Act of Parliament authorised the raising of £149,929 amongst themselves or through the creation of new shares. However, the company were unable to raise the full amount of money authorised by the second Act, and so another was passed allowing them to raise £49,680. Another Act was passed to obtain more money in 1808. This Act empowered the company to raise £168,000 through the creation of 4,200 shares at £40 each. A final Act was passed in 1815 after the company had purchased land for reservoirs, which was not permitted in the previous Acts. The Act permitted the company to sell the land and to pay a debt of £29,096 to the treasurers by September 29 1815 as well, otherwise it would be taken out of the proceeds raised from selling the land.

The canal was surveyed by Josiah Clowes and John Snape. Its engineers changed often, and included Thomas Cartwright, John Woodhouse and William Crosley.

Construction of a barge-width (14 ft) canal began in 1792 from the Birmingham end, but progressed slowly. Selly Oak was reached in October 1795 and Kings Norton Junction by May 1796, meeting the new Stratford-upon-Avon Canal which had by then reached Hockley Heath. By March 1797 the 2726 yard (2493 m) tunnel at Wast Hill was open and the canal was trading to Hopwood. In 1807 the canal reached Tardebigge without the use of locks. The cost of building convert|14|ft|m|sing=on locks was too great so the 56 locks down to Worcester were built to the narrow convert|7|ft|m|sing=on specification, with the final two locks connecting to the Severn in Worcester being convert|14|ft|m|sing=on to allow river craft access to Diglis Basin.

The final 16 miles (26 km) was opened in December 1815. Plans to construct basins at Lowesmore and Diglis were abandoned.

The Dudley Canal Line No 2 was built through the Lapal Tunnel to meet the canal at Selly Oak in 1798. The tunnel, after repeated collapses was finally abandoned in 1917 leaving a short stretch navigable between Selly Oak and a brick works at California until 1953, after which it was drained and filled in.

A major user of the canal was the Cadbury chocolate factory at Bournville.

Birmingham terminus

For twenty years direct connection to the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) was prevented by the "Worcester Bar", a physical barrier at Gas Street Basin, Birmingham designed so that the BCN would not lose water to the Worcester and Birmingham. Cargoes had to be laboriously manhandled between boats on either side. In 1815 an Act allowed the creation of a stop lock and the bar was breached. The Worcester and Birmingham raised their water level by six inches to minimise water loss and today the two pairs of lock gates have been removed. There were separate toll offices either side of the bar for the two canal companies. The bar still exists, with boats moored to both sides of it.

The commercial terminus in Birmingham was "Worcester Wharf", a large complex extending from the bar along Bridge Street, Gas Street and Granville Street. Part of it now forms a water front to The Mailbox shopping and residential complex.


The canal is popular for leisure and has a number of narrowboat hire centres at Alvechurch, Viking Afloat (Worcester), Anglo-Welsh (Tardebigge), Brook Line (Dunhampstead) and Black Prince (Stoke Prior).

The canal forms part of the Stourport Ring, which is one of the popular cruising rings for holiday boating.

ee also

*Canals of Great Britain
*History of the British canal system
*Bittell Reservoirs
*Tardebigge Engine House
*Wychall Reservoir


*cite book|author=Shill,Ray|title= Birmingham's Canals|publisher=Sutton|year=1999|isbn=0-7509-2077-7
* [http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/sdoc.php?wpage=PNRC0702#PNRC690 Joseph Priestly (1831) "Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways, Throughout Great Britain", Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green]
*Ordnance Survey First Edition map

External links

* [http://www.canaljunction.com/images/mwb.gifRoute Map from canaljunction.com]
* [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/canals Birmingham City Council canal pages]
* [http://www.catshill.com/wbcs/about.htm Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society]

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