Lichfield Canal - History

History

The Wyrley and Essington Canal was built under an Act of Parliament passed on 30 April 1792, for a canal which would run from Horseley Junction near Wolverhampton to Sneyd Junction, near Bloxwich. The main line would be level, following the 473-foot (144 m) contour. From this junction, a branch would run to Wyrley Bank and on to Essington, which would include nine locks, and another level branch would run to Birchills, near Walsall. In 1794, the company obtained a second act, which authorised a long extension from Birchills to Brownhills, again on the level, but then descending through 30 locks to reach Huddlesford Junction, on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Lichfield. The whole canal was opened on 9 May 1797, although there were problems with inadequate water supply, which were not resolved until 1800, with the building of Cannock Chase reservoir.

Although not prosperous, the company made enough profit to start paying dividends, which eventually rose to 6 per cent in 1825. The price of coal in Lichfield dropped considerably, due to the benefits of cheap transport. Following an agreement reached on 9 February 1840, the whole canal became part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations from April of that year. Under the terms of an Act of Abandonment obtained in 1954, most of the branches of the original Wyrley and Essington Canal were closed, including the branch from Ogley to Huddlesford, which was abandoned in 1955. Much of the bed has been filled in since then, although a short section at Huddlesford Junction remains in use as moorings. The branch has subsequently been named the Lichfield Canal, while Huddlesford Junction is now considered to be on the Coventry Canal.

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