Birmingham City Council

A History of the Canals in and around Birmingham: 1760s

In the 1760s, Birmingham was a town of 35,000 people. It was developing slowly as a manufacturing area. Roads were poor, and goods of all kinds were transported by wagon or packhorse.

In that decade, canals were beginning to develop all over the country. The first to capture peoples imaginations was the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal. This carried the Dukes coal direct from the mines 15 miles into Manchester. It gave the Duke a means of transporting his coal cheaply and in quantity. He was able to undercut his competitors. Started in 1759, it was finished in 1761, most of the engineering work was planned and supervised by James Brindley

Buinessmen and potential investors soon saw the possible benefits in similar schemes. In 1766 Parliament granted a Bill for a canal to link the Trent and Mersey. and for a separate canal to run from the Severn at Stourport, through Wolverhampton, to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Both were surveyed and built under Brindley's direction. At this time there was no enthusiasm in Birmingham to be included in these schemes.

A year later, letters to the press appeared suggesting that the "price of carriage of coals" and the cost of almost every commodity could be reduced if a "navigable cut or canal" could be built . The proposed route was to Wolverhampton (to link with the Staffs and Worcs Canal) passing through an area of coalfields. There was also to be a branch that went to the coal mining area of Wednesbury. A Public Meeting was held on 28th January 1767 and on 4th June Brindley was submitting proposals for the route, having been asked to make a survey.

By August, the 50,000 pounds needed to fund the project had been raised by issuing shares. Parliament granted a Bill for the construction of the canal on 24 February 1768, but with an odd condition attached. It gave the Staffs and Worcs company the right to connect the new canal to theirs, if the Birmingham company failed to do so after 6 months of completing the canal . . . Canals in the 1770s

Canals in Birmingham: History