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Company of Proprietors of the Dudley Canal Navigation


Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Dudley Canal Navigation: agreement for subscription 1792, articles of agreement 1795, extract from ledger 1833, plans of land conveyed to the company of proprietors 1803-1843, plans of the canal extension 1802-mid 19th century.



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Dudley Canal was originally promoted along with the Stourbridge Canal to take coal from Dudley to the River Severn via the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. The joint scheme of 1775 failed due to opposition from the Birmingham canals but new bills were introduced and the separate canals got their Acts in 1776. The 2 3/8 mile section between Dudley and Brierley Hill, including the nine Black Delph locks, was opened by 1779. The Dudley Canal was dependant on the Stourbridge as that canal was its only outlet and in 1785 the Dudley Canal company gained an Act to allow them to build a link from their terminus at Blowers Green in Dudley to the Birmingham Canal at Tipton. The new link would include five locks at Park Head and a long tunnel beneath Dudley, but as the area was rich with minerals the building of the tunnel would create valuable income for the Dudley Canal company. In order to take best advantage of the available minerals, the company built underground basins linked with the canal. The new tunnel was to be 3172 yards long with 230 yards of its length being Lord Dudley's private tunnel and Castle Basin, both being started in 1775 as a private branch off the Birmingham Canal at Tipton. The tunnel finally opened in 1792, building having stopped in 1787 as it was out of line. At the time it was the longest tunnel in the country. Water supply for the canal came from a reservoir at Gad's Green, Netherton, built in 1791 and extended in 1802. In 1791 the Worcester and Birmingham Canal was being promoted and the Dudley Canal company saw an opportunity to join the new canal, and at the same time exploit the collieries around Netherton. The new line would also mean they could avoid the high tolls payable to the Birmingham Canal at Tipton Junction. An Act for the new line to be called the Dudley No 2 Canal was obtained in 1793. This canal would connect the original Dudley Canal at Blowers Green to the new Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak. The canal was just short of 11 miles long with two tunnels, a short one at Gosty Hill and a longer one at Lappal. The tunnel at Lappal was 3795 yards long, the fourth longest in the country. The Dudley No 2 Canal opened completely in 1798. Although the Worcester and Birmingham Canal was open from Selly Oak to Birmingham at that time, it would not open to Worcester until 1815. Additional water supply for the Dudley No 2 was provided by a new reservoir at Lodge Farm built in 1836. The two very long, narrow bore tunnels caused the Dudley canals a great many problems. Mechanical haulage was suggested for the Dudley Tunnel in 1840 but was too expensive. In 1841 a system of stop gates and steam pumps was used to create currents in Lappal Tunnel to help boats through. This continued in use until 1914. Both tunnels, but especially the Lappal Tunnel, suffered severe subsidence and were very expensive to maintain. Improvements were made to the line by rerouting some of the meanders through straighter sections; one of these had a short tunnel opened in 1838 called Brewins Tunnel after the superintendent of the time, Thomas Brewin. The Dudley canals suffered from railway competition much like most other canals, but its main rival the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) made this worse by working with the London & Birmingham Railway Company to build a railway between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. In the face of this competition the Dudley Canal company amalgamated with the Birmingham Canal Navigations in 1846, although its original partner the Stourbridge Canal managed to stay independent of both the railways and the Birmingham Canal Navigations. For further information on the Dudley canals see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain the original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore generally been arranged chronologically while keeping records relating to each other together. This means that some records may fall slightly out of the chronological sequence. Documents are placed first, followed by plans.

Associated material

[See also: BW165 for records of the Dudley canals during other periods of ownership]