Heritage Towpath Trail
An Introduction to the Lichfield Canal
The Lichfield Canal runs for 7 miles from Huddlesford Junction to Ogley Junction then on to Catshill Junction. It was originally built by the Wyrley and Essington Canal Company and completed in 1797. At Huddlesford the Lichfield Canal joins the Coventry Canal.
THE CURLY WYRLEY
The Wyrley and Essington Canal known as the 'Curly Wyrley' was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1792 for the transportation of coal from Wyrley and Essington to the north of Bloxwich into the urban centre of Wolverhampton.
The company obtained a second Act in 1794 which authorised an extension to reach more collieries at Brownhills, close to Catshill Junction, and on to the site of Ogley Junction, from where it would descend through thirty locks to reach Huddlesford Junction just east of Lichfield. In 2008 it was designated a Local Nature Reserve.
These two cottages were built to house the Toll Collectors which ensured the companies got their payment. They are now home to Lichfield Cruising Club.
HUDDLESFORD JUNCTION WAS A 'STOP'
The Stop at Huddlesford marked the end of the Wyrley and Essington canal and its junction with the Coventry Canal. What was The Stop? There does not seem to be a lock so possibly it was a gate. It was the point at which a toll must be paid.
This original 1790's traditional canal brick overbridge carries the old Watery Lane (now a public Bridle Path) over the canal. This is the only bridge dating from the original construction of the W & E Canal in the late 1790's.
From the oldest to the newest !
Cappers Lane Bridge was constructed by the LHCRT in 2005/6 using ERDF funding and replaces the original bridge which was removed following the canal closure in the 1950's. This is my impression of how it might have looked one day but unfortunately it may be demolished to make way for HS2.
Darnford Lift Bridge
A new Lift Bridge was installed in 1997 by the Trust and allows the towpath to cross over from the south side of the canal to the north side. This is the location of a historic iron culvert installed to take the Darnford Brook beneath the canal at this point. The iron culvert sections were removed and taken to the BW Museum in Gloucester.
Two Major obstacles - The A38 and A51
A new crossing is required for the A38 dual carriageway. The completed crossing would be around 45m. long, with a 4m. wide navigable channel and 2m. towpath.
Another new tunnel is required under the A51. This road is single carriageway but widened at the location of the proposed canal crossing to two lanes in each direction. The completed crossing would be around 50m. long, with a 4m. wide navigable channel and 2m. wide towpath.
Borrowcop Locks Canal Park
The area alongside Locks 24 to 26 forms the Borrowcop Locks Canal Park. A steel footbridge provides wheel-chair friendly access over the tail of Lock 25 where an interpretation board has been sited.
Pound 26 has been fully restored by the Trust and was re-watered in early 2011 and was the first section of re-watered canal through Lichfield since the abandonment of the canal in the 1950's.
Lock 24 has been excavated for inspection, but has been part filled with soil to conserve it until it can be fully restored and returned to water.
Originally the canal line passed under Chesterfield Road, through a Canal Basin and wharfs which included the Brewery Maltings (now converted to apartments) before passing under Birmingham Road Bridge. To the east of Birmingham Road Bridge further basins and wharfs and kilns adjacent to the Duke of Wellington Public House. The Cross City Line Railway was constructed later over the canal.
Sandfields Pumping Station
In 2014 the Engine House at Sandfields Pumping Station was granted Grade II* listed status on the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. The building still contains a splendid early example of a steam beam engine dating from 1875. The adjacent canal was used for cooling water for the steam engines although the boiler coal was provided via the adjacent rail siding.
These photos from 1926 shows the Lichfield Canal as it passes the pumping station. There are very few photos showing the original canal.
A new route is required for the restored canal which will take it under the Cross-City railway line. It will then pass under the Birmingham Road roundabout in a tunnel which was constructed by the Trust in 2006/7 and temporarily buried.
Plans by County Highways to extend the Southern Bypass are well advanced where there is a vital Agreement in Principle with Network Rail to drive the road through and install a new railway bridge during a brief possession of the line, probably in late 2019. The work is such that it would be immensely more difficult and substantially more expensive to construct the culvert after the road is completed.
THE TRUST NEEDS TO RAISE £1,000,000+ TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN
The new route will run alongside the Southern Bypass before returning to the original route.
At the site of the old Lock 19 the Canal returns to the old heritage canal line. Beyond the railway turn the canal will be restored on its original alignment south of the disused Lichfield to Walsall railway.
The low lying land between the old canal and the railway boundary was acquired by the Trust in 2000. This area lends itself to establishing visitor moorings integrated with a nature reserve incorporating lowland heath and wetland areas to encourage an environment with a wide biodiversity.
Fosseway - Lock 18
Lock 18, just off Fosseway Lane, was restored by the Trust in 1997, commemorating the bicentenary of the opening of the original canal in 1797.
The railway crossing phone may be redundant but you may walk down the Heritage Towpath Trail from here or enjoy a peaceful picnic by Lock 18.
On the other side of Fosseway Lane is Ogley Third Flight, Locks 17 - 13
This old photograph shows Lock 17, probably just prior to closure of the canal in the late 1950s. Lock 16 can be seen in the background. The elevation changes over 6 locks by 50 feet in 500 yards. These locks remain in place but are infilled and the land and side pounds are in private ownership.
The canal passes under Wall Lane and the remains of the existing road bridge need to be exposed and restored.