Reservoirs of the BCN

Unearthing History: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2017

Andy Tidy

Andy Tidy looks at how Birmingham’s canals were supplied with water from reservoirs at Smethwick, Rotten Park, Titford Pools, Sneyd, Cannock Chase and elsewhere

It’s probably fair to say that water is the lifeblood of any canal. With it you can create man-made waterways in the most unlikely places, but without it you have nothing but a dry ditch. This fact was not lost on the canal engineers who generally sought out potential water sources for summit levels long before they even started to consider the detailed line of the canal itself. Given this, Birmingham and its surrounding areas are not likely candidates for a massive canal-building enterprise, sitting, as they do, on a sandstone plateau about 500ft above sea level with no significant natural water courses or lakes. However, the area did have an abundance of the minerals needed during the Industrial Revolution, so why let a small matter of water availability stand in the way of a big profit?Creating reservoirs Viewed annually, there is no shortage of water in Birmingham. The ridge of high land that runs through the Black Country and forms the watershed between the rivers Severn a…

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