This week we are still in Birmingham and making the most of our time looking at the history of the canals around here.I walked back down the Farmers Bridge Flight last week to have a closer look at the Factory Tunnel that has been bugging me for about a month.I now know the name of the company that operated from there,and what they made.As the C&RT guy told me a few weeks ago,the company was called Birlec,but what he couldn’t tell me,was that it was short for Birmingham Electrical Furnaces,and they were world famous manufacturers of,(surprise surprise),electric furnaces.I managed to take a couple of photo’s of the inside,of the factory,it’s empty now and being used for storage,and the reason it was built over the canal was probably because they could.It doesn’t seem to have been built with canal transport in mind,large pieces of machinery don’t fit under many of the bridges on our canals.
Top left is the view of the factory from the outside,top right is the view through the “ tunnel “.there are four doors at the far end giving access to below the factory but it’s unlikely they would have been used for much other than coal deliveries.The bottom two are the inside of the factory,overhead cranes were used here,but as you can see,it’s now just used for storage.
Over the weekend we took a walk in the other direction from here towards Smethwick.Our first walk was to the reservoir at Edgebaston,formally called Rotten Park Reservoir,it’s only a couple of miles or so and our route took us through some more of the manufacturing history of Birmingham.Rotten Park Loop is part of James Brindleys Old Main Line Canal,the first canal built here in 1769 to bring coal from the Black Country collieries.In the 1820s Thomas Telford built a New Main Line that is much straighter and cut through the Old Main Line.This left a number of Loops which attracted a lot of businesses wanting access to the canals.You have to realise that at that time there were just fields around here.Rotten Park Reservoir was built by Telford as a feeder to both canals.It’s a great place for a walk and it’s only a mile or two from the city centre.
On the left we have Edgebaston Reservoir and on the right is one of the feeders to the canals.The main feeder goes directly into Rotten Park Loop,the one on the right took water from the reservoir to the Engine Arm,which is just under a mile and a half to the north west of the reservoir,and the destination of my last walk.
The picture on the left is the Roving Bridge over another of the loops left by Telford’s new canal,this one went through Matthew Boulton and James Watt’s Soho Foundry.The foundry was built in 1795,for the manufacture of steam engines,for which it became world famous.I believe the buildings in the photo’ were built by W & T Avery the weighing machine makers who took over the foundry in 1895.On the right is the Engine Arm aqueduct over the New Main Line,built as the end of the feeder in 1825 to take water to the Old Main Line which is to the left of the photo’,and higher than the new by 20 feet.
The top of the Smethwick Locks on the left,with it’s replica Toll Office,on the Old Main Line.The entrance to the Engine Arm is on the right.I have been assured that this short arm is navigable so sometime in the future,Lisa and I will take a trip to the end.
On the left is the Engine Arm from the bridge you see on the top right photo’ and on the right there are the factories that back onto the arm.Non of these use the canals now but they would have when they were built some 150 years or so ago.One of the factories here,was,I believe,the Patent Nut and Bolt Company which eventually became part of the GKN empire.
That’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have not done any locks or any miles,but this is likely to change in the near future so next week we could be anywhere.Our grand total should stand at 99 Locks and 107 Miles,my addition has not been so good of late and I got the totals wrong for the last few weeks.Take care everyone please.