I’ve had an inquiry from reader and friend of the blog Trevor Wallage who’s interested in what material we may have relating to the canal/rail interchange wharf that existed in Brownhills, around about where the Canoe and Outdoor Centre is today – one of the basins still exists, and is in use as a private mooring.
After a shufty through the books and scans, here’s what I have. I welcome reader contributions, of course – comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
Recent Bing! Maps aerial imagery shows the urbanisation now present, and the one remaining canal basin used for private mooring. The red box highlights where the interchange was.
The 1884 map above shows that a railhead extended from the South Staffordshire mainline just south of Brownhills Station and headed south under a second arch of Brownhills Bridge into sidings parallel with the basins. Over one, there appears to be a covered wharf or warehouse, which suggests it was for unloading stuff that needed to be kept dry, like grain.
This image is taken from about where the miner statue stands today, looking down the High Street towards Shire Oak. About where Aldi is today, there was a pub many remember called the Station Hotel. For several decades this was owned by Brownhills entrepreneur and philanthropist William Roberts, and it was actually quite a high-class hotel. Behind it, there was a surprisingly large brewery – also owned by Roberts – that brewed ale for his pubs. This would undoubtedly have been served by the railhead, and probably the canal basins, too.
The image above seems earlier – note the growth in branches on the telegraph poles. I think this shows the earlier Roberts brewery, but can’t be certain. The shop on the left, incidentally, was Brewes Bakery and this was known as ‘Brewes Corner’.
I’m trying to get a larger version of the above 1926 image, but this is the clearest picture of what the wharf, railhead and brewery looked like. Note the covered wharf (extreme left), and what appear to be coal stacks on the right of it. Follow the track up, and that’s the brewery. It was a large concern.
By 1963 when the above aerial survey was taken, the area around the basins was derelict, and only a few buildings remained. Ralph Ferrie would use the land close to the rail line and High Street for a couple of decades as a lorry repair yard, and Ravens Court would soon be built obliterating any sign of the Roberts Brewery.
This is the old Iron Bridge, now replaced by the modern, sweeping structure we have today. This picture would be around 1986, as it shows the current Tesco store as Hillards, the company that originally had it built. They were taken over by Tesco in 1987. The odd arrangement of walls and poor quality block paving was what passed for a ‘marina’ in the original plans.