Phosphorus Waste

Last Traffic: NarrowBoat, Summer 2014

Hugh Potter

Hugh Potter sums up recollections of what was probably the most infamous and noxious cargo ever carried by canal

I had always thought that ‘Tank House Slime’ sounded to be a noxious cargo, but it turned out to be a valuable by-product carried neatly, tidily and cleanly in barrels (Winter 2012 NB). However, the phosphorus waste traffic from Albright & Wilson’s works, located beside the appropriately named Chemical Arm of the Birmingham Canal’s Old Main Line at Oldbury, was definitely noxious. Phosphorus is an essential element for life, and can have almost magical connotations, with derivative words like phosphorescence, but there was nothing magical about the waste product carried by Alfred Matty’s Coseley-based fleet of motor narrowboats and open day boats. Various phosphorus ores and compounds were brought by canal to Oldbury by carriers such as Fellows, Morton & Clayton, Severn & Canal Carrying Co, the Bridgewater Trustees and the Grand Junction Canal Carrying Co, depending on the date. These boats usually went up ‘The Crow’ (Titford Lock…

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