What we now know as the Walsall Canal was built in several stages between 1785 and 1841. It has its origins with the Birmingham Canal which opened in 1772 between Wolverhampton and Birmingham and included the Wednesbury Canal branch which was the first part to be completed in 1769. The Wednesbury Canal descended by the Spon Lane locks from the main line (the Old Main Line) and was on the Birmingham level, although it was not until the improvements by Telford cut through the summit at Smethwick in 1829 that it was connected to it by part of the New Main Line. The Wednesbury Old Canal wound round the contours but was at too high a level to cross the headwaters of the River Tame to actually reach Wednesbury. To access the collieries and industry around Ocker Hill and Moxley the Broadwaters Extension was proposed to descend by 8 locks at Ryders Green and opened for the 2 miles to Ocker Hill in 1785 and to Broadwaters Colliery in 1786. Despite its former importance, Broadwaters seems to have disappeared from modern maps but the original terminus at Moxley became the Broadwaters Arm when the canal was further extended to Walsall Town Wharf in 1799.
The Walsall Canal acquired another connection to the BCN Old Main Line when the 7 Toll End Locks were built in 1809 connecting to the earlier 3 locks of the Tipton Green branch to form a through route known as the Tipton Green and Toll End Communication. However, the Walsall end of the canal remained a dead-end branch until several new connections were built between the BCN and the Wyrley & Essington Canal following their merger in 1840. The Walsall Junction Canal opened in 1841 with 8 locks in ½ a mile and linked to the earlier Birchills Branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal which itself had opened about 1798. In 1843 the Bentley Canal was opened from the Wyrley & Essington at Wednesfield via 10 locks in 3½ miles to the Anson Branch of the Walsall Canal. Then the Tame Valley Canal in 1844 along with the Rushall canal in 1847 made another connection with the Daw End Branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal. Finally, the Bradley Branch which originally had just 3 locks was extended with 6 more in 1849 to join the Wednesbury Oak loop, a part of the original Old Main Line.
The Walsall Canal was at the core of the BCN system and as well as developing many links to adjoining canals it also had a large number of short branches to collieries, ironworks, etc., most of which have now disappeared. Reference to a detailed map is needed to understand the complicated history and geography of the Walsall Canal and all its connections but in summary the main branches and connections from south to north, with their opening dates where known, were: Haines Branch 1833; Danks Branch; Tipton Green and Toll End Communication 1809; Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch 1805; Tame Valley Canal 1844; Gospel Oak Branch 1800; Monway Arm 1813; Bradley Branch 1818 and Bradley Hall Extension 1849; Broadwaters Arm 1786; Bilston Branch; Willenhall 1803; Anson Branch 1830.