How You Can Help Our Wyrley & Essington Canal!

The Wyrley & Essington Canal, is a stunning piece of Industrial history that was envisaged to play a huge role in the Industrial revolution which of course it did.

Now some 224 years after the law was passed in Parliament to construct the canal we have the most amazing piece of infrastructure on our doorstep! It is of course still being used for boat traffic, but the nature of the water way has changed.

It was built for the coal fields. They have gone! But the canal is used for leisure boat traffic, and it is a great walkway, and a fabulous natural habitat.

The Parliamentary Act was passed in 1792 and the canal, built by William Pitt, the canal was opened in 1797 to serve the towns and industry developing around the South Staffordshire Coalfield.

It was I reliably informed, a typical ‘contour’ canal with a circuitous route to avoid the need for locks hence its nickname ‘The Curly Wyrley’.
The canal runs from Wolverhampton via Wednesfield towards the coalfields at Essington and Great Wyrley (with a now disused branch), Bloxwich, Pelsall and Chasewater.

A number of links were added to connect with the Staffs & Worcs Canal, Coventry Canal and Walsall town centre. A reservoir was built at Chasewater to top up the water for the series of locks connecting with the Coventry Canal.

We are very lucky  that as a Community we have this really great historical facility at the heart of our Village. Its been there for more than 200 years, and now we can use its history, natural history and tow paths, for fun and pleasure.

There is some thing exciting to be able to use a canal that was a brand new project- an exciting project on its construction, that was very much attached to our  Industrial revolution.

How great it is that we can walk and view a piece of industrial history that is set in the same landscape and itself is virtually unaltered.

Yet in historical terms 1792 was a year when Sierra Leone as a Country was  only just established under British rule as a home for former slaves. So as the Navvies were getting ready to constructing our canal. Almost at the same time a British settlement had been established in the area of West Africa now known as Sierra Leone in 1787, but the community was almost entirely wiped out due to failed crops and disease. In 1792 a group of 1,100 people left Nova Scotia to establish a community of free black people in Sierra Leone. Many of these settlers were black men and women who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence.

In 1793 after the Act had been passed and work was just starting on our canal, Britain in this year went to war with France. The French had been at war in Europe since 1792, but it was not until the execution of Louis XVI, king of France, ( In the French Revolution) that Britain joined the anti-French coalition. In 1805, Britain attained complete mastery of the seas at the Battle of Trafalgar, but by 1807 Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France, was master of continental Europe. War continued until the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

When the Canal opened in 1797 –there were Naval mutinies taking place in the Royal Navy after clashes between seamen and officers over pay and conditions. Can you believe that! There were fears in that such disturbances might be the trigger for a French-style revolution here in Britain.  We have a living and very visible timeline with the WE…how fabulous is that!

Today I am looking for You and our  schools support,photo 2 Wednesfield Canal as we approach an important part of the work I have been pressing.

I am keen to see the canal become a Local Nature Reserve. This status would help to protect the canal, and it will without doubt help to manage the canal in a way that will enhance its role in our community. All I am looking for is a useful note supporting this endeavour.

Also recognising its benefits to education and your leisure going forward.

All the wildlife surveys have been udertaken, the management agreement is almost there. What I am looking for is expressions of support to go with the work that has been undertaken

I do hope that you can agree to this. I am always open to speak with organisation and social clubs and talk up the great facility we have here.


Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more


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