The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) are a network of canals that connect Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and parts of the East Midlands known as the Black Country. It is one of the world’s most intensive canal networks, and the Gas Street Basin is the hub of them all, in Birmingham’s vibrant centre. Here are a few fun facts about the BCN!
Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice
Although Birmingham does not have as many canals overall as Venice, it does have more actual miles of canals according to the Canals & Rivers Trust. The inner network of canals adds up to 35 miles, but if you include the entire BCN it reaches an impressive 100 miles. At the height of their working operation, there were almost 160 miles of canals in the region.
The locks used to operate 24/7
We may think of 24/7 business hours as a modern phenomenon, but when the canals were at the peak of their usage in the Victorian era, the locks were lit by permanent gas lamps so that they could operate round the clock. The canals were a vital transport network during the height of the industrial revolution, carrying coal, iron, and other products in and out of the region.
The BNC is built on three water levels
The canals are built on three main levels known as the Birmingham Level, the Wolverhampton Level, and the Walsall Level. Each level has its own reservoir and they are linked by a series of locks. Some stretches of the canal network have their own levels, such as the Titford Canal which is linked to Titford Reservoir.
They were once called the Birmingham and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company
The first canal to be built was the Birmingham Canal, which was begun in 1768 and completed in 1772. The work was supervised by James Brindley. This was followed by the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal in 1784 and the two companies merged.
This resulted in the new name of Birmingham and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Fortunately, the name was soon changed to the more manageable Birmingham Canal Navigations in 1794.
The canals are used for leisure purposes today
The industrial use of the canals declined during the 20th century, and by 1980 all commercial use of the canals ceased. However today many of the canals have been restored to preserve the industrial heritage of the region, and to provide leisure and recreation opportunities both on and alongside the waterways.
Some people have even made permanent homes on narrowboats, either as continuous cruisers or with a long term residential mooring. The central Birmingham canals provide instant access to the thriving heart of Birmingham, with shops, restaurants, and cultural venues all around.
If you are looking for canal boat hire near me in the Midlands, please get in touch today.