Historical Information

When the Birmingham Canal was completed through to Wolverhampton and a connection with the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal it gave an outlet to the west for the minerals and manufactured goods of the Black Country.  With the Coventry and Oxford canals then being built to join theTrent & Mersey to the Thames, the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal was planned to provide a vital link to the east.

But progress with building the Coventry Canal was slow and in 1782 the Birmingham & Fazeley and the Trent & Mersey companies took the initiative by offering to build the Fazeley to Fradley section of the Coventry Canal’s route between themselves if the Coventry Canal would complete its line to Fazeley.  This was done by 1790 and the Oxford Canal was finally completed to the Thames in the same year.  Meanwhile the Coventry Canal had bought back the Trent & Mersey’s part of their route but never took over the intervening Fazeley to Whittington Brook section which remains to this day legally part of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and follows its tradition of named instead of numbered bridges.

In 1784 the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal amalgamated with the Birmingham Canal as the Birmingham and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Navigations, a rather cumbersome title which was shortened in 1794 to the now familiar Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN).  Thus the BCN extends out as far as Whittington Brook, only 1½ miles from its other former outpost at Huddlesford Junction.  The historically significant end-on junction at Whittington Brook was unmarked until 1990 when an inscribed boundary stone was provided by IWA Lichfield Branch on the 200th anniversary of completion of the canal.

The route of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal is a varied one, starting from Birmingham with a rapid drop from the Birmingham level down the 13 Farmers Bridge locks, hemmed in and partly built over by densely packed commercial premises, old and new.  At Aston Junction its Digbeth Branch heads off through 6 locks to the Grand Union Canal at Warwick Bar whilst the main line continues down 11 more locks of the Aston flight to Salford Junction.  Here at a waterway crossroads the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal part of the Grand Union system joins on one side and the Tame Valley Canal on the other, with two large aqueducts over the River Tame, a railway and the M6 Spaghetti Junction flying over it all.

The route out of the City is heavily industrial but from Minworth locks on the countryside appears and the Curdworth flight is pleasantly rural, except for the noise from the nearby M42.  The Tame valley opens out with gravel pits and water parks before the cotton mills of Fazeley mark the original terminus on the edge of Tamworth.  But the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal actually continues via Hopwas to Whittington Brook through more pleasant countryside.

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See also:

Waterways A-Z
Map of UK Waterways

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