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Canals

The Black Country canals include a fascinating network of junctions and branches. There is a wealth of features of interest to canal enthusiasts and industrial archaeologists: locks, bridges and warehouses. Commercial carrying has long since gone from these waters leaving them to be enjoyed by walkers and boaters. The scenery varies from industrial sections to surprisingly secluded rural lengths.

Dudley borough has 3 main canals (Dudley No 1, Dudley No 2 and Stourbridge) with a number of smaller arms and extensions (Stourbridge Arm, Lapal Canal, Fens Branch).  In addition to the main canals there were many branches and hundreds of basins and docks serving canal side factories. Most of these have now gone as have many of the factories themselves.

These canals played a key part in bringing the Industrial Revolution into what was then rather remote country in south Staffordshire and north Worcestershire situated on the watershed of England and thus distant from navigable rivers. Cheap bulk transport allowed the mineral resources of the area, above all coal, to be exploited to the full.

Ironworks, brickworks, glassworks and many other industries proliferated amongst coalmines, clay pits and limestone quarries, creating the Black Country.

The Stourbridge and Dudley Canals were cut in the late 18th century to link with the Staffs & Worcester Canal to the west and the Birmingham Canal Navigations system (BCN to the enthusiasts) to the east and thus become a part of the national network of waterways.

The traffic was so great that the old Dudley Tunnel became a bottleneck and was supplemented by a new line of canal, the Dudley No. 2 Canal which originally took a short cut to join the national system at Selly Oak, south of Birmingham. This route also had the advantage of avoiding the Birmingham Canal Company's notoriously high tolls. However, even this was insufficient and in 1859 a new double width tunnel was driven through the Rowley Hills at Netherton, the last canal tunnel to be built in Britain until the Dudley Canal tunnel was extended into the Singing Cavern in 1984.

:: Further information on the Dudley Canal Trust

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