The Worcester Canal, 1785

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2022

Richard Dean

The birth of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal is explained by Richard Dean

As the canal system expanded, Worcester interests were anxious to improve the supply of coal to their town from pits in the Black Country, which reached them via the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and the uncertain passage down the unimproved River Severn from Stourport. Surprisingly, the direct route from Birmingham was initially rejected in favour of a difficult line from the Stourbridge Canal via Hagley and Bromsgrove. Surveyed by John Snape in 1785, it was 26 miles long and required 128 locks and a short summit at the 504ft level near Clent, with a reservoir and two tunnels. A bill was submitted to Parliament that year, but heavy and coordinated opposition by mill owners and others led to defeat in the Lords in May 1786. This complex and expensive scheme could not be justified, and the promoters reverted to the more sensible route from Birmingham, which was eventually authorised in 1791 and opened throughout in 1814. But the ghost of the 1785 scheme survives south of Han…

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