The second Act was for the Dudley Canal which was to run
from Stourbridge to the numerous coal fields of Dudley and Netherton.
These new canals would cut out the Birmingham Canal
completely for local traders and shorten the journey to the Severn by around
The two new canal companies were very dependant upon
each other though the Dudley Canal was in the much less secure position as
its only outlet was through the Stourbridge Canal.
However, the companies had obtained their Acts
together, they would build their routes together and in future years would
always work close together.
Thomas Dadford, a former assistant of James Brindley, was appointed as Engineer on
both the Dudley Canal and the Stourbridge Canal, it took just 3 years to complete the Dudley
The Dudley Canal opened its full 2¾ miles from
Brierley Hill, where 9 locks took it up and away from its head-on junction with the Stourbridge Canal, to
Blowers Green in Dudley. No link was made at this stage from the Dudley Canal to the Birmingham Canal despite
the close proximity of the two waterways (about 2 miles). This was partly due to competition between the two
companies but also due to the difficult terrain at Rowley Hills which lay between the two canals.
The Dudley Canal Company sought and gained an Act to allow them to construct a link from their terminus
at Blowers Green in Dudley to the Birmingham Canal at Tipton. The new link would have to include a long tunnel
beneath Dudley. The area was already known to be rich with minerals and had been mined for many years so the
building of the canal tunnel through the mining area would create an exclusive business for the Dudley Canal
company. Underground basins were to be built within the tunnel and short arms were planned to link the
The new tunnel would provide a short-cut from the Birmingham Canal at Tipton to the
Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Stourton, cutting the journey from Tipton to Stourton from around
17 miles to just 9 miles. The Dudley Canal itself would also gain a direct outlet to the towns of Birmingham
and Wolverhampton but the Birmingham Company bitterly opposed the link into its canal at Tipton and when it
lost the fight to stop the connection it warned that it would charge incredibly high tolls for use of Tipton
Junction in order to discourage boats from using the short-cut. However, this would not be for some time as
money and construction problems, along with the shear length of Dudley Tunnel, caused long delays in the
building of the link.
Work stopped on Dudley Tunnel when it was discovered that the bore was out of line! The contractor, John
Pinkerton, was sacked and the company took on the work itself with Isaac Pratt as engineer.Later he too was
replaced but this time it was the accomplished Josiah Clowes who took over to finish the tunnel and the short
stretches at either end.
An Act was sought by a new company to create the Worcester & Birmingham Canal which was to run from
the River Severn to Birmingham town centre. The Dudley Canal company saw the new canal as a great opportunity
to cash in. They sought an Act to build a link from Dudley to the newly proposed canal. This would allow their
boats to reach Birmingham town centre without paying the extortionist tolls for the use of Tipton
Not surprisingly, the Birmingham company bitterly opposed this proposal but the Act
for the new bypass was granted and the route was begun. It was to be called the Dudley
No.2 Canal and was to connect the original Dudley Canal from its terminus at Blowers
Green to Selly Oak where a junction would be made with the Worcester & Birmingham. However, on the route
the Dudley company had to construct another large tunnel at Lapal. It became the country's 4th longest tunnel
at nearly 3,800 yards and it gave the constructors every bit as much trouble as the Dudley Tunnel
The Dudley Tunnel Branch opened throughout, enabling the short cut route from the Birmingham Canal to the
River Severn via Stourbridge. The branch ran from Tipton Junction, under Dudley to Blowers Green where it
joined the original Dudley Canal at its junction with the new No.2 Canal. At the time of completion Dudley
Tunnel was the longest in the country, it was built to narrow canal dimensions with no towpath. The Birmingham
Company - as expected -began to charge incredibly high tolls for the use of Tipton Junction.
The Dudley No.2 Canal opened throughout. Unfortunately, the building
of the No.2 - and Lapal Tunnel in particular - cost the Dudley company dearly and they never really recovered.
Maintaining the tunnel was a never ending and very expensive job as it suffered badly from subsidence and roof
falls. It was one of the most unpopular tunnels ever used in Britain, becoming more claustrophobic every
To help water supplies on the Dudley No.2 Canal the company built Lodge Farm Reservoir. This necessitated
the re-routing of an old meandering section of the canal, part of which was now used by the reservoir. A new
straight line was built which included the 75 yard long Brewins Tunnel.
1840 - Pensnett Canal
A privately owned canal connected to the Dudley Canal just south of Dudley Tunnel beside Parkhead Locks.
The canal was sometimes known as Lord Ward's Canal but is better known
as the Pensnett Canal. It was owned by the Earl of Dudley (who may well
have been Lord Ward?) and it remained in use for 110 years serving various iron and steel works. A railway at
its western end connected it to the Staffs & Worcs. Canal.
A unique system was created for passage through Lapal Tunnel on the Dudley No.2 Canal. Pumps were
installed at each end to flush water through the tunnel. Boats were then carried through on the current! This
made the journey considerably shorter and saved a lot of leg work.
As railway companies began to arrive, the Dudley Canal - like all canals - began to suffer. Worse still,
the Dudley Canal's biggest rival, the Birmingham Canal (or BCN as it now was) joined forces with the London
& Birmingham Railway Company in a venture to build a railway between Birmingham and
This railway/BCN agreement and another track from Stourbridge to Birmingham was all
too much for the Dudley Canal and the company decided to amalgamate with - and become part of - the BCN.
However, the Dudley Canal's friend and neighbour, the Stourbridge Canal, stayed independent of both the
railways and the BCN. The amalgamation of the BCN with the railways was unlike all other such partnerships or
take-overs as in this case the canal network continued to grow under railway management.
The 9 Delph locks on the Dudley Canal which curled up Brierley Hill were closed and replaced by a shorter
flight which charged straight up the hill. The original top and bottom locks were kept in place and 6 new locks
were constructed, thus shortening the flight by one lock.
Also in the same year a short cut named the Two Lock Line (for obvious reasons) was
created to the south of the junction of the No.1 and No.2 canals. This short 600 yard line cut nearly 2 miles
off the main line around the junction. More improvements were made just to the east where the short Brewins
Tunnel on the Dudley No.2 was opened out.
Also, a loop at Windmill End was by-passed with a short, high embankment. Just north
of Windmill End, Netherton Tunnel was built to supersede the narrow and congested Dudley Tunnel. Netherton was
built on a grand scale, wide enough for two boats to pass with tow paths along each side.Gas lights were
provided along its whole length as it travelled for 3,000 yards to a new cut named the Netherton Branch. The
branch then connected to the Birmingham main line at Dudley Port Junction.
Other improvements were planned but never completed. One plan was to connect Primrose
Wharf to somewhere close to Lodge Farm Reservoir. This would have cut out the long winding course around
Further agreements with the railways kept the BCN in profit for many years but eventually the railway
took control when the BCN began to make losses.
The Two Lock Line was closed due to mining subsidence. It was hoped that it could be repaired and
reopened but this did not happen. It was officially closed in 1909. Its closure meant boats had to travel the
extra 2 miles around Parkhead Junction at Blowers Green if travelling from the Dudley No.1 Canal to the No.2
Canal. Mining subsidence also caused problems elsewhere, especially at Lapal Tunnel. The company provided piles
of bricks at each end of the tunnel in case work had to be done in an emergency.
Lapal Tunnel finally had to be closed when subsidence become too costly to combat. This meant there was
no longer a through route to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
Having seen no through traffic since the closure of Lapal Tunnel, the eastern end of the Dudley No.2
Canal was officially abandoned from Selly Oak on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Halesowen.
The privately owned Pensnett Canal near the south end of Dudley Tunnel was closed. It had not been used
throughout for many years though some localised traffic had remained at the west end (furthest away from the
Following WW2 the Dudley Canal was privatised.
By this time it saw very little traffic and Dudley Tunnel was virtually unused because of the much better
Netherton Tunnel. Thus the government hoped to quietly close Dudley Tunnel without anybody noticing! But some
people were noticing and they were not prepared to allow the historic tunnel to be abandoned.
A huge protest cruise was organised through Dudley Tunnel to increase public awareness. Much to the
government's annoyance, the cruise was a great success.
An astonishing series of events took place
concerning Dudley Tunnel, which the BTC (the government body who then ran the canal system) were determined to
close. First they had sought to prevent the Inland Waterways Association's national rally from taking place at
They failed and the IWA encouraged boats to use Dudley Tunnel on route to the rally.
To stop boats making the through route the BTC dismantled Parkhead Locks on the south side of the tunnel,
burning the gates and destroying paddle gear. On top of this, heavy timber had been placed across both portals
of the tunnel. A local youth, Vic Clarke, removed the blockages and soon afterwards he formed the Dudley Tunnel
Preservation Society which eventually became the Dudley Canal Trust.
The new society obtained an old Joey boat and began legging trips through the tunnel.
The demand to go on the trips was huge and the plight of the tunnel began to reach much further afield. At one
point the society advertised a trip as "the last chance to travel through Dudley Tunnel" and 300 people turned
up! The society quickly borrowed a second Joey from a local coal yard and crammed 150 people into each of the
After a number of years gaining more and more
support the preservation society began to restore the basins on either side of the tunnel. By this time the BTC
had been replaced by the slightly more helpful BWB so the society were not obstructed this time. At about this
same time the local council decided to create an open air museum very close to the northern portal.
The council began to support the canal society and since then all threats of closing
Dudley Tunnel have vanished. Next the society set up an official trip boat company which raised money by taking
museum visitors into the tunnel. At this point the tunnel trips didn't go very far though the aim was to open
up some of the old mine and quarry tunnels which would eventually create a unique trip to underground caverns
Parkhead Locks on the link up to the southern
portal of Dudley Tunnel were fully restored allowing pleasure boats to travel from the Dudley Canal, through
the tunnel to the Birmingham Canal. A "Grand Reopening" was held over Easter weekend with trip boats, brass
bands and fireworks (among other things).
The underground caverns in Dudley Tunnel were opened and trip boats could now go deep into former mine
workings and ancient quarries.A brand new tunnel was built accessing underground wharves which had not been
used for over a hundred years. The tunnels were restored to such an extent that a round trip was possible. This
also made it possible for 2 trip boats to operate at the same time. Demand was so great that both boats were
filled throughout the day, every day.
Disaster struck when part of the southern end of
Dudley Tunnel collapsed. BW were left with no choice other than to close it until repairs could be made.
Although the through route was now closed, trip boats could still enter the northern end.
A separate society was set up with the intention of raising money to restore the Dudley No.2 canal
through Lapal Tunnel to Selly Oak on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. For some reason this society, which
later became a trust, kept itself separate from all other restoration groups and therefore often missed out on
advice, manpower and funding.
In the spirit of the early 60's, the IWA organised its national waterways festival at Windmill End on the
Dudley Canal and used the event to publicise its displeasure at the continued closure of the southern end of
Dudley Tunnel. However, the IWA were somewhat embarrassed to find that work had already begun on the repair of
the tunnel and an exhibition was on show at the same festival showing what had been done so far!
After 10 years of fund raising and hard work, the southern end of Dudley Tunnel was restored and the
through route was pronounced open once again. However, because of low head room and poor ventilation, boats
were only allowed through if the crews were willing to switch off their engines and leg. While this was very
traditional - it was not very popular! On top of this, Parkhead Locks on the south side of the tunnel were not
reopened yet though they were undergoing restoration.
Parkhead Locks were reopened for the second time in 10 years. It was hoped that the land above the locks,
just south of Dudley Tunnel, would then be redeveloped by the local council.
As part of the redevelopment above Parkhead Locks, Dudley Canal Trust announced their hopes to restore
the Pensnett Branch (also known as Lord Ward's Canal after the man who had built and owned it).The original
line was 1¾ miles long and the trust hoped to develop the sections nearest to Parkhead Locks. Later in the year
the society launched a new electric tug which was to be used to bring boats through Dudley Tunnel, taking away
the need to leg all the way through.
However, at this stage Parkhead Locks were closed once again. When I visited the
flight in the summer they had some gates and paddle gear missing. This was put down to vandalism with a promise
of the situation being rectified by 1996 when the society were moving their HQ into the pumping station at
Parkhead Junction close to the locks. This would mean a close watch could be kept on the locks 7 days a week
At around this same time the separate Dudley No.2 canal trust announced its plans to
restore the closed sections on either side of Lapal Tunnel.
In July the Lapal Canal Trust erected a sign at Selly Oak marking the site of the filled in junction
where the Dudley No.2 canal had once joined the still navigable Worcester & Birmingham Canal. At the
opposite end of this unnavigable stretch the trust obtained a lease from the local council which allowed it to
start restoration work in the Halesowen area.
The Dudley Canal is still going strong. Commercial traffic has ceased of course but pleasure craft use
the route every day. Dudley Tunnel is officially open and thousands of sight seers enter the tunnel every year
on trip boats from the Black Country Museum. The current head of navigation on the No.2 Canal is in Halesowen
some way short of Lapal Tunnel but this route is now well on its way to full restoration.
Visit the Dudley Local History website at http://www.dudleymall.co.uk/localhis.htm
Nine locks in one long, curving flight originally carried the Dudley Canal up the Black
Country plateau from its head-on junction with the Stourbridge Canal. Seven of these "9 Delph Locks" were later
closed and replaced with 6 new ones which now stride up the hill in a straight line.
Alongside the new flight are what look like former duplicate locks but these are actually
just over spill weirs which may have been built with future conversion to locks in mind. After heavy rain these
weirs form spectacular cascading waterfalls. There is a small museum in old canal stables near the top of the
flight and to the rear of this building are traces of the original 7 disused locks.
Only one lock can still be found, decaying in the undergrowth, while all the others have
been buried. Delph Road (B4172) crosses the Delph Locks at the bottom of the flight. It is possible to take a
circular walk starting at the bottom and walking up the current navigable flight.
At the top, past the small museum, there is a basin to the right. This is the original route
round to the old lock flight. The only existing lock from the original flight is just beyond the point where
the basin ends. From here you can walk down the hill, past the buried locks back to the bottom of the
From the top of the lock flight the canal travels east and north east through industrial
sites such as Round Oak Steel Works which was in operation for nearly 200 years until its closure in 1983.
Other factories and new industrial units still flank the canal for about ¾ of a mile to
Woodside bridge. A cast iron footbridge made at Horsley Ironworks (in nearby Tipton) takes the towpath over
what was once the entrance of the Two Lock Line which went south east for about 600 yards to form a very short
short-cut to the Dudley No.2 Canal.
Woodside Bridge now carries the busy A4036 dual-carriageway though access to Woodside
Junction can be gained from Peartree Lane which runs parallel to the canal on its northern bank. The Two Lock
Line was officially closed in 1909 after 15 years of disuse due to subsidence. It was officially abandoned in
1954. A factory now stands over the first lock but beyond it the subsided canal line can still be followed. The
second lock has also been filled in but Blackbrook Junction at the far end can easily be spotted with its
standard cast iron roving bridge.
Back on the main line, about ½ a mile north east of Woodside Junction, is the original
terminus of the Dudley Canal. Today the canal goes straight past the former terminus and arrives at Blowers
Green Lock which is the deepest on the BCN, lifting the canal up by 12 feet. It replaced 2 earlier locks which
- like the Two Lock Line - were victims of mining subsidence. Peartree Lane crosses over right beside the
Parkhead Junction is immediately above the lock, to the right the Dudley No.2 Canal heads
off south eastwards while the main line continues north through the 3 Parkhead Locks which have a toll house
and cottage alongside. A disused railway viaduct which is also suffering from subsidence crosses high above the
middle lock, this used to be the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway. At the top of the locks the
Pensnett Canal used to head south west for 1¾ miles. The restoration society hope to reopen part of this line
though some parts have been built on. Opposite the entrance to the Pensnett Canal there is another waterway,
the Grazebrook Arm.
A few yards further along the main line the Dudley Canal turns north east and enters Dudley
Tunnel. The tunnel is 3,154 yards long though there is actually over 5,000 yards of underground waterways
inside.These run into underground basins and natural caverns (some thousands of years old).
Some of the underground channels have long since been cut off but most are still accessible
and are part of the circular underground boat trips which are run by the canal trust from the Black Country
Museum. A new section of tunnel was cut as recently as 1974 for easier access into the inner caverns. The
underground canals were originally built to connect with mines and quarries which were already in use long
before the canal was built. To the north of the tunnel the Dudley Canal now runs right through the Black
Country Museum to Tipton Junction on the Birmingham Canal (old main line).
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At Parkhead Junction the Dudley No.2 Canal leaves in a south easterly direction. An old pump
house still stands inside the "V" of the sharp junction, now used as the canal society HQ. This was once a very
rural area but now industry can be seen all around. Rural lands appear briefly once again to the north as the
No.2 curves around the steep Netherton Hill, here the Two Lock Line used to re-join from the west. About ¼ of a
mile further on is a lock and the canal then goes under High Bridge in a cutting which was once a short tunnel.
Built in 1838, it was known as Brewins Tunnel though it was opened out just 20 years later. High Bridge can be
found on Highbridge Road.
Urban streets appear on the hill to the north while Lodge Farm Reservoir is on the south
side of the canal. The original line of the canal (superseded by Brewins Tunnel) used to run through land now
used by the reservoir.
The No.2 has been travelling generally south east for about a mile but just after the
reservoir it bends east as it continues around Netherton and Primrose hills. About a third of a mile further on
is Primrose bridge where an anchor stands on the wharf to remind us that Netherton was once famous for its
chain making. At the wharf on the towpath side are some fine warehouses and the building beside the anchor on
the opposite side was a "test" house belonging to a chain manufacturer.Primrose Wharf is crossed by Cradley
The canal curves about a bit over the next ½ mile but generally headsnorth east as it
circles Primrose Hill. At Griffin Bridge a warehouse stands with a covered loading bay and then there is a
junction. The Withymoor Branch headed off in a north easterly direction for a few hundred yards to a colliery.
The branch opened in 1803 and was closed in 1960. It has since been built on though a road called Canal Side
crosses its line and runs parallel to the main line.
Within a few hundred yards there is another junction. To the left (north west) the
Bumblehole Branch leaves the main line.
The current main line of the Dudley No.2 crosses the grassy valley, which the original line
avoided, on a high embankment. The valley is seen on the north west side while urban streets sit way below on
the south east side. The straight embankment continues for about ¼ of a mile, passing the chimneys of a pub in
Windmill End on the south east side before reaching a canal crossroads.
This is Windmill End Junction and although there is no sign of a windmill, the tall chimney
and remains of the derelict Cobbs Engine House stand high over the junction. To the left (north west) is the
Boshboil, a short arm which is now used for overnight moorings but was once part of the main line loop
connecting to the Bumblehole Branch (described above). Straight ahead (north east) is Netherton Tunnel with its
2 towpaths and wide channel, no longer lit by gas - or anything else - it is by far the most splendid tunnel
ever built on the British waterways network. It forms the main bulk of the Netherton Branch which connects with
the Birmingham (new) main line about a third of a mile past the far end of the tunnel.
Back at Windmill End the final direction off the crossroads is the continuation of the
Dudley No.2 Canal, now heading south east again but more precisely - heading nowhere! It now ends 3 miles
further on at Hawne Basin though it once travelled a further 7 miles to Selly Oak.Just past the junction at
Windmill End is a disused toll island in the middle of the canal and a railway coal basin is nearby. In fact
the whole area here must once have been a very active place as on a recent visit I saw many lanes on the
embankments above the canal which were obviously used as railways until fairly recently.
The journey towards the terminus is very urban and industrial though some areas where
factories have been removed are now landscaped. Gosty Hill Tunnel is reached after about 2 miles. It is just
500 yards long with a "lay-by" at the far end where the tunnel tug used to stand though the tug house has long
since gone. The tunnel has no towpath so walkers have to emerge back into the real world. Unfortunately there
is a British Steel works to the south of the tunnel so walkers have to take a long detour. However, there is
canal interest on the walk as you pass by No.171 Station Road, this house has the strangest of buildings in its
front garden. Its actually the very top of one of the tunnel's air vents! More of them are situated on private
land within the steel works.
The canal emerges from the tunnel at the steel works which surround it for about ¼ of a
mile. Hawne Basin (the end of the navigable line) is just ¾ of a mile past here. The basin is home to private
moorings and because of this it is not easily accessible. The last stretch of the navigation can be reached via
Although navigation ends at Hawne Basin the canal itself continues south and is still in
water. However, the former Heywood Bridge is now an embankment carrying the A458. According to the Birmingham
A-Z street map there is still water in the canal for another ¾ of a mile beyond the former bridge. This stretch
is currently (1997) being restored by the Lapal Canal Trust, it runs alongside the beautiful landscaped
Leasowes Park. The canal passes the western edge of the park high up on an embankment and, in fact, this 60
feet high bank is of great historic interest as it was the highest in the country when it was built. The water
comes to an end alongside Hamilton Avenue near Manor Way Middle School at the back of a works near Cloister
Drive. In fact, the works has one of its corners in the former canal bed. This should never have been allowed
to happen because this stretch was never officially abandoned. The canal's course used to go under what is now
the Halesowen bypass (A456) though this road is now a dual-carriageway built on an embankment. The original
small canal bridge is partly buried at the base of the bank. On the south side of the road the canal ran close
to the northern side of Hales Owen (or St. Mary's) Abbey. Then, near Lapal Lane South, the canal entered Lapal
(or Lappal) Tunnel. According to my reference book the approach cutting and portals to the tunnel have been
obliterated though the Birmingham A-Z marks a lane which would surely have been the original horse path leading
down from Lapal Lane South to the tunnel. Whether this lane really exists or not I do not know. The
"up-to-date" A-Z maps have been known to mark features that have been gone for over 100 years! The straight
line of the tunnel's course is also marked in the A-Z street map as it runs under the M5, Woodgate Valley
Country Park and a housing estate. The tunnel was 3,800 yards long, one of the longest in Britain and the
longest on the BCN. It had a tiny bore and is said to have been incredibly claustrophobic. Being just over the
width of a narrow boat it has been said it was more like a drainpipe than a navigable waterway. The eastern
portal was just east of the B4121 near the roundabout with Stonehouse Lane but there is no trace of the portal
today. The land to the east of the tunnel is now used as a storage yard for road stone. The first bridge and
access point is about 400 yards east of the portal on Somery Road. Heading east from Somery Road it is possible
to walk along the canal bed but there are few obvious signs of the former waterway. Just past Somery Road the
canal passes the remains of Weoley Castle on the south bank.East of here is an embankment blocking the canal,
it used to be a steel girder footbridge though even this was built after the closure of the canal. The road on
the embankment is Bottetourt Road. For anybody trying to follow the route via the Birmingham A-Z, the next
section is very easy. Although the canal is not marked, its route can clearly be seen on the map. After passing
under Bottetourt Road it ran between Burnel Road and Alwold Road. This stretch is now a public footpath which
runs for about ¾ of a mile into Selly Oak Park. Sadly there is nothing of the canal to be seen in this stretch,
even the small Bourne Brook aqueduct has completely vanished.
The canal ran along the edge of Selly Oak Park and today it is still in water here. A path
with the usual park-style benches follows the canal - this path is in fact the former towpath. In the park the
canal is crossed by a small humped bridge, the only surviving original Dudley Canal bridge.
From the park the canal crossed under what is now the A4040. Harborne Bridge is marked in
the Birmingham A-Z though it is now a 20th century concrete structure carrying a dual-carriageway. Beyond the
bridge is the last 400 yards of the canal's line. The A-Z marks it in water here though this is not the case.
The line can be seen from the bridge but it is not accessible as it currently passes through private land. This
stretch included a stop lock which was situated just before the junction into the Worcester & Birmingham
Canal. The Lapal Canal Trust have recently erected a sign by the side of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal
marking the site of the vanished junction. Birmingham Council have not yet agreed to allow the full restoration
of the Dudley No.2 Canal though they have included the former route in their forward planning which suggests
they are keen to make sure any extant bridges and canal bed are not flattened or built on.
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