Canal Icebreaker Boat, BCN Titford Branch Canal, Oldbury
- Reference Number: p/2126
- Date: c 1920
- Level: Item
- History Note: The Titford Branch Canal, is part of the Birmingham Canal Navigation, and branches off Brindley's Old Main Line at Oldbury. The canal is just under two miles in length and opened to traffic in 1837. The canal leaves Oldbury a climbs a flight of locks, known as the 'Jim Crow Locks', and heads towards Langley and Titford Pool. The canal is fed by the canal feeder arm that comes from the Rotton Park Reservoir, Edgbaston, Birmingham. At Titford Pool, there is another canal arm that branches off the Titford Branch Canal, called the Causeway Green Arm. The canal once served the collieries on the Rowley Hills, and Pratt's Brickyard, as well as the factories and maltings in Langley.
- History Note: The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) began in September 1772, with the completion of a canal between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, by engineer James Brindley. The main aim of the BCN was to provide the short haul transport of finished goods and raw materials of the surrounding manufacturing region of the Black Country. By 1789, it had expanded rapidly and had already absorbed the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. By 1840, it had incorporated the Wyrley & Essington Canal, and had amalgamated with Dudley Canals in 1846. By the 1850s, there were around 160 miles of canals with over 200 locks, 17 pumping stations, 7 tunnels and 6 reservoirs. However, by the end of the 19th century, canals were in decline due to the railways. BCN did not go under however, as they had an agreement with the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) where local deliveries and collections would be handled by boat, and long transport by rail. By the 1930s though, most of the heavy work on the canals had ceased causing many of the canals to fall into disuse and neglect. Eventually, in 1968, BCN were taken over by the British Waterways Board. They, along with local water authorities, set about to restore many of the original BCN canals. Consequently, they are now used for leisure and recreation.
- Description: An icebreaker boat on the Titford Branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigations' (BCN) Old Main Line Canal. It would have had a round bottom (most canal boats had flat bottoms), and a special reinforced, sharply pointed bow to cut through the canals that regularly iced up in winter. The bow can just be seen in the image. The boat would have been rocked by the men in it, causing a shock wave from the bow that rippled through the ice. If the ice was too thick to break, the boat would be pulled out and across the ice by horses. However, if the ice was thicker than 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm), all canal boats would cease working until it thawed. Ice can be clearly seen on the canal. (Courtesy of the T. W. King collection held at Dudley Archives & Local History Service).
- Copyright: Mrs. R. Collins
- Access Status: Open
- Contact: Dudley Archives,
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