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Coventry Canal

The Coventry Canal connects the city to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction.

Things to do nearby

A moored boat near bridge 88 near Fradley Junction on the Coventry Canal
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Facts & Stats

38 miles

(61.3 km)

The length of the Coventry Canal that is navigable.

13 locks

1768

Construction began

The Act was passed allowing construction to begin. However when money ran out in 1771 progress was paused until 1782.

From Coventry to the Trent & Mersey Canal

The Coventry Canal connects with the Oxford Canal at Hawkesbury Junction, the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at Fazeley. 

Part of its route between Fazeley and Whittington Brook was actually built by the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and legally still has that name, leaving the Coventry Canal divided into two sections, a historic anomaly that still causes some confusion. The former connection with the Wyrley & Essington Canal at Huddlesford Junction is now reduced to a short arm but restoration of this ‘Lichfield Canal’ link through to Brownhills is making progress.

The Coventry Canal was a vital link in James Brindley’s scheme of canals to join the major rivers of the Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames (later known as Brindley’s Grand Cross). With the Oxford Canal it formed the strategic fourth arm of the cross after completion of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal in 1772 and the Trent & Mersey Canal in 1777. The Act was passed in 1768 and construction began but the proprietors had the temerity to sack Brindley in 1769 and sometimes seemed more interested in their local trade than completing the through route. Having built the canal out from Coventry to the coalfield at Bedworth it had reached Atherstone in 1771 where the money ran out and construction stopped for many years.  They then became embroiled in a long running dispute with the Oxford Canal about the location of their junction, resulting in the ludicrous situation of the two canals running parallel for over a mile to Longford and it was not until 1785 that the present junction at Hawkesbury was made.

 

Development of the Trent & Mersey Canal

By 1782 frustrated by the lack of a link to London and an eastern outlet from Birmingham the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and Trent & Mersey Canal got together to put pressure on the Coventry Canal to complete their route. The outcome was an agreement for the Coventry Canal to complete to Fazeley, the Birmingham & Fazeley to continue building beyond Fazeley along the Coventry’s line as far as Whittington Brook, half way to Fradley, and the Trent & Mersey Canal to build the other half from Fradley to Whittington Brook, which was all completed by 1790.  Meanwhile the Coventry Canal had found the money to buy back the Fradley to Whittington Brook section but not the section built by the Birmingham & Fazeley, resulting in the anomaly that persists to this day that the Fazeley to Whittington Brook section of the Coventry Canal is legally still part of the Birmingham & Fazeley and is still labelled as such on Ordnance Survey maps.  For the canal user the most notable consequence is that the Coventry Canal bridges are all numbered whilst the Birmingham & Fazeley bridges are named, so there is 5½ miles between bridges 77 and 78 with about 15 un-numbered bridges in between. 

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.

Several private branch canals were built by colliery owners in the Nuneaton-Bedworth area including the Griff arm in 1787, the Newdigate Colliery Arm and the remarkable Arbury or Newdigate canals; a 6 mile complex of canals at various levels with 13 very small locks built between 1764 and 1795 on the Arbury Hall estate.  All these colliery connections, completion of the through route to Oxford in 1790 and a junction with the Ashby Canal in 1804 ensured that the Coventry Canal became one of the most profitable of canals.  The example of its large dividends contributed to the ‘Canal Mania’ years of 1793-4 when many more useful, and a few not so sensible, canal schemes were promoted around the country.

Today, the Coventry Canal is becoming increasingly popular.  The old coal mining and quarrying areas around Bedworth, Hartshill and Polesworth have greened over, the urban sections in Coventry are being regenerated whilst Nuneaton, Atherstone and Tamworth retain many canalside open spaces, and in between is much attractive countryside.  As well as remaining a key link in the network, more boats are being based on the canal as a convenient central location and with access to one of the longest level pounds on the system.

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 75′ 0″ (22.85 metres) – Atherstone Lock 5
  • Beam: 7′ 5″ (2.27 metres) – Atherstone Lock 5
  • Height: 7′ 4″ (2.25 metres) – Bridge No 1 (Drapers Fields Bridge), Coventry
  • Draught: 4′ 11″ (1.5 metres) – cill of Atherstone Lock 5

Navigation authority

Canal & River Trust

Branch

Lichfield – North of Marston Junction

Warwickshire – Coventry Basin to Marston Junction

Waterway news

Waterways in Progress Grant: Ashby Canal

£10,000 was awarded the Ashby Canal Trail Project as part of IWA’s Waterways in Progress Grants in 2019.

Waterways affected by HS2

We’re campaigning to protect canals and rivers from the damaging effects of HS2, especially where the tranquillity of the waterways is under threat.

Waterways affected by the HS2 plans

Both the public country park and the private moorings at the old colliery basin at Polesworth on the Coventry Canal will be severely damaged by HS2.

Waterways affected by the HS2 plans

The junction of HS2 with the West Coast Main Line at Abram requires a high embankment that will be visible from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’s Leigh Branch across the Hey Brook valley.

Waterways affected by the HS2 plans

It is expected that the HS2 viaduct crossing will maintain the headroom and width required by the maximum size of ships that can use the canal – making the structure very high and prominent.