Birmingham Canal Navigations

Phil Clayton
The Birmingham Canal Navigations comprise the greatest concentration of waterways in Britain. Over the course of a century, from the original Birmingham Canal of 1769, they grew to their greatest extent of almost 160 miles, all within about a 12-mile radius of their geographical centre of Walsall. The network was a major driver of the great industrial development of Birmingham and the Black Country, carrying vast quantities of raw materials and finished goods into the twentieth century. Following decades of decline, the BCN is once more an important player in the regeneration of the region’s centres and the growth of leisure. With 140 illustrations, including maps and archive photographs, this book includes: the beginnings and expansion of the network; subsequent improvements to the system; supplying the water; the people who worked the BCN; trials and tribulations, including inclement weather, subsidence, breaches, wartime and accidents; the impact and influence of the railways, and finally its decline and subsequent transition into a New Canal Age.
Birmingham Canal Navigations by Phil Clayton

About the author

Phil Clayton developed an interest in the BCN after moving to the area in the 1970s. Involvement with the nascent Black Country Museum and later the BCN Society encouraged this curiosity, leading to explorations of the system on foot and by boat. A former history and geography teacher, he is currently BCNS Talks and Presentations Officer and a Society Vice-President. He has produced many articles for waterways and local history publications, and wrote and performed in a musical, Birmingham Lads and Friends to celebrate the original canal's 250th anniversary in 2019.

Press Reviews

I think it’s fair to say that the book contains a treasure trove of inside information... If you love your canal history you will enjoy this fresh account of the BCN.

- Andy Tidy, Waterways World

Phil Clayton has given his readers an account that is not only a pleasure to read but is also an excellent source of credit to those who have so well served the BCN with their hard working support throughout the years. They deserve it and this book is highly recommended.

- Norma O’Keeffe, Boundary Post

This is nicely produced, and well-illustrated. It includes a wide range of photographs, many in colour and from the author's own collection; one intriguing view shows a hill of piled up canal ice at Hawne Basin, from the winter of 1963, which damaged trade. Overall, this is a creditable account of a very complex set of waterways with a fascinating history.

- JOSEPH BOUGHEY, Railway & Canal Historical Society.