Company of Proprietors of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Navigation
Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Navigation: minutes and agendas 1845-1948, legal records 1618-1961, financial records 1770-1855, letter books and correspondence 1776-1948, administrative and maintenance records 1767-1952, traffic and tolls 1883-1940, landowners' surveys 1769-1773, maps and plans of the canal c1766-1924, plans showing company property and land 1802-1836, bridges 1899-1930, other plans 1831-1912, vessels 1924-mid 20th century, South Staffordshire Mining District and Water 1851-1909, papers kept by the company for information 1888-1894.
These records are available immediately for research
The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was promoted by James Perry and friends from Wolverhampton and a Bill was passed in 1766, on the back of surveys done by Hugh Henshall and Samuel Simcock, for a narrow canal from the Trent and Mersey Canal at Great Haywood to the River Severn near Bewdley. James Brindley was surveyor and Samuel Simcock and Thomas Dadford engineers. The canal was 46 1/8 miles long with 43 locks, including two barge locks at Stourport (the junction with the River Severn). Water was supplied from reservoirs at Gailey and Calf Heath, and from the Wyrley brook via the Hatherton Branch (opened 1841). In 1772 the canal was opened, the same year as the Birmingham Canal, which joined the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at Aldersley just outside Wolverhampton. In 1779 the Dudley and Stourbridge canals joined the canal at Stourton Bridge. Stourport became a transshipment centre between Severn craft and narrow boats with a new road bridge across the River Severn. Stafford had been bypassed by 1805 when a tramroad linked it to the canal and in 1816 the River Sow was made navigable to the town from the canal at Baswich. The canal did well although the opening of the Oxford Canal in 1790 and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal in 1815, canals with more direct links to the River Severn, caused Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal dividends to fall. The completion in 1835 of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal with a junction at Autherley caused traffic to decline on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal between Great Haywood and Autherley. The new canal did make the section between Autherley and Aldersley very busy and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire company raised the tolls here for compensation. They were later dropped when a bill threatened to bypass the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal altogether unless charges were reduced. In 1841 the Hatherton Branch, named after the chairman Lord Hatherton, was opened to the Cannock coalfields. In 1863 it made a junction with the Churchbridge Branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) and was 3 ½ miles long with eight locks. The canal did well until 1860 because of the heavy traffic on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, Stourbridge and Shropshire Union canals. In 1851 it started a carrying company and took over a Severn tug business. After 1860 the canal became more dependent upon the Birmingham Canal Navigations for traffic and water down the Wolverhampton locks. In 1895 the canal joined the Thames and Severn Trust to enable the continued distribution of Staffordshire coal. The Stafford Branch was not used after the 1920s and the last coal was carried on the Hatherton Branch in about 1949. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal paid a dividend until nationalisation in 1948. The company changed its name from the Company of Proprietors of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Navigation in 1933 to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Company. For further information on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations'.
It has not been possible to ascertain the complete original structure of record-keeping from the records held for this company. The fonds has been arranged into series by subject, which is how some of the records were originally kept. The company's minutes and agendas have been placed first, followed by legal records and then financial records. These are followed by letter books and correspondence, administrative and maintenance records, and traffic and tools. These progress through landowners' surveys, maps and plans of the canal, and plans showing company property and land. Plans of bridges follow this, then other plans, and vessels. At the end of the collection are plans relating to South Staffordshire Mining District and Water and papers kept by the company for information. The records within these series have been arranged chronologically while keeping records relating to each other together. This means that some records may fall slightly out of the chronological sequence. Some of the series have been divided into subseries - the arrangement of these is described at series-level.
[See also: BW107 for records of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal during other periods of ownership]