A view from a bridge


The long-gone canal bridge over the Wyrley and Essington Canal (now the Lichfield and Hatherton) at Barracks Lane, Brownhills, in 1949. Image kindly supplied by Geoff Harrington via David Evans. Click for a larger version

Out of the blue, the young David Evans has been busy again – this time answering the call of the wonderful Geoff Harrington, who’s donated a whole bunch of never seen before images to the blog.

Geoff, of course, is the remarkable sportsman whose amazing exploits at Powderhall I documented earlier in the year; he also spent years as a snooker referee and also co-authored several local history books with Geoff and Clarice Mayo.

With this one, Geoff has really come up with an amazing image. Click on it for the full size view – this is the canal bridge over the lost line from Ogley Junction to Huddlesford, where it went under Barracks Lane, just past where the veterinary surgery is today – formerly Warrenhouse Farm.

In the distance, the countryside – looking distinctly barren by today’s standards – stretches out to Muckley Corner and Summerhill. Note the locks, just visible beyond the bridge.

This canal is, of course, currently under restoration by the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust, who have their heritage gathering all this weekend (19-20th September 2015).

David Evans had this to say:

Hello Bob

This is a very interesting image. Taken by Geoff harrington in 1949 it shows his wife and friend standing on the canal bridge over the canal along Barracks Lane. I think you just make out the Boat Inn in the distance, and also what Mr Harrington identified as Asa Thacker’s pools along the canal

The two ladies worked at Kynochs munitions factory, Birmingham, during the war on the ‘Dangerfield’ aassembly line. I wonder if readers have information or personal experiences of friends who also worked there during the conflict?

My thanks to Mr Harrington for this lovely photo.


If only we had an expert on Kynochs in the house…

Thanks to Geoff for a whole tranche of brilliant, illuminating images, the rest of which I’ll feature in future posts – but in the meantime, what do you know about this cracking picture?

Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Geoff, you are a remarkable and generous man. Thanks so much.

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29 Responses to A view from a bridge

  1. Clive says:

    Great photo Geoff and Dave. Thank you

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Judging by the 1970s OS Pathfinder the line of the canal is pointing almost directly towards Muckley Corner. The canal turns left (north) to skirt the higher ground just right of centre.

    I don’t know much about what they did, but my uncles Walter and Alan Dennis worked at Kynoch. Walter was also a spotter, looking out for the Luftwaffe. Alan was in the Home Guard, one of his duties being to guard the entrance to the railway tunnel at Shugborough. I’m not sure why and neither was he!

  3. John Anslow says:

    Where would the photographer have been standing? I’ve looked at the maps from 1882 and 1947 and can see only one bridge.

    • Hi John

      Good question, and something I missed.

      Looking at the photo, you can just see the towpath cut in under the bridge. Looking at the maps, there was a lock on the photographer’s side of the bridge as well as beyond it; there was no lock cottage, but I wouldn’t mind betting he was probably stood on the lock gate arm.


      • John Anslow says:

        There are several courses of bricks visible on the far parapet, Bob, so the photographer must have been looking down on the bridge. The idea did cross my mind that he might have had some sort of “selfie stick”; a barge pole, perhaps!

        As youngsters in the early 1960s, my mates and I used to play along that section of the cut, but I cannot bring to mind a second bridge or structure that would have been tall enough to achieve that view. I wonder if the bridge I remember was a replacement that was being built when the picture was taken, prior to the old, narrow, hump-back one being demolished.

    • Bob Houghton says:

      My 1882 map shows this very well. The photographer was stood on Lock No 5. The first water on the opposite side of the bridge is the pound for lock 6, which is clearly shown on the map. The water beyond the lock is the pound for lock 7. Lock No 7 is also shown in the photograph at the end of the stretch of water. Beyond that and out of sight the water swing to the left and later right, not seen on the photograph. I doubt if The Boat can be seen on the photograph. If it is it would be on the extreme right and out of focus on the photograph.

      Lock 5 would have had a fall of about 6ft, so it would have been a lot higher than the water level at the bridge and so I would have expected the photographer to be looking down on the bridge. Locks 1 to 5 were all close together , so the further back along the canal, the higher the photographer would have been.

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Both possible. Could be using the old photographer’s trick of holding a tripod up to get an elevated view.

  5. john keay says:

    that bridge is the barrack lane road bridge the water behind was called the pound.

  6. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    the Pound….why was the pool so called? Did it serve a particular purpose? Is this the only one or were there others locally?
    The ladies are smartly dressed, and I think the walk from Brownhills to the Boat was a popular walk for local coalminers at one time. I think there were other local walks. They may have had a nickname..
    kind regards

    • John Anslow says:

      Interesting article on canal pounds here, David:

      Locks 5 and 6 were close together on either side of the bridge, so the pound would have prevented too much variation in water level between those locks.

    • Pedro says:

      The line from Ogley to Huddlesford required a number of locks….William Pitt (Surveyor), conscious of water supply, conceived a lock that would conserve water in segments of a semi-circular side pound.

      Wyrley and Essington Through Time, by Ray Shill

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi John
    thanks for the link. I wonder who Asa(Acer?) Thacker was! Navigator?

  8. Pedro says:

    The mention of “Dangerfield” assembly line at Kynoch (ICI Metals) is interesting.

    Not come across the name Dangerfield associated with Kynoch, and the term assembly line doesn’t sound right for the time. Much talk of Shops and Sheds.

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    I think the phrase used by Geoff was;- “at (or in?) the Dangerfield at Kynochs…..assembling bombs and bullets..munitions , that sort of thing”
    I must admit being more interested in looking at the photo when I should have paid more attention to what was being said.
    I do remember the little humpback bridge in Barracks Lane, but not the canal or the pound.

  10. Andy Dennis says:

    I got the impression that what my uncles worked on was shell casings. From a range of tv history programmes, it seems the casings went to explosives sites, for example at Gretna, where the explosives were made and placed into the shells. I think that explosives were not used in built up areas, though maybe (I don’t know this) detonators could have been made? The key thing about explosives was that an accident could cause serious injury, death and damage to factories (far worse than the Luftwaffe), so they were placed in remote places with railway access, such as Gretna. In WWI there was a Nobel dynamite works in the sand dunes at St Ives Bay, between Hayle and Gwithian, in Cornwall – I’ve been in the area many times because my Uncle lived nearby for some years and there are some remnants still standing.

    • Pedro says:

      I have heard of a few explosions at ICI during the war, but of course they would not be reported in the Press.

      One that just made it was March 1939 when a lady killed in the danger zone. In the small powder drying shed. The management being satisfied that it was accidental.

      One report says that the residents of the district were startled by the explosion, and some windows of the local houses were blown out. (If this it is true it must have been pretty big!)

  11. From what I can remember, lock 5 was VERY close to the bridge and it is listed as having a drop of 8 feet 10 inches. As the camera is angled slightly to the left it could well have been taken from the tow path beside the lock. The remains of the lock are still there to be seen.

    What particularly interests me is what is on the inside of the far wall of the bridge? It looks like a cast iron sign. I would love to know what it said!

  12. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    from one simple ,innocuous, black and white box camera photo we have so much history revealed by your readers! I wonder what the bridge sign said, too…the name of the engineer/builder, perhaps?..
    Were there any stables nearby..and perhaps a blacksmiths?

  13. Shirley says:

    My mom worked at Kynochs for a short time during the war. She worked in the office at Witton. A separate building I believe. Unfortunately she remembers very little other than weighing and recording what the workers had produced in the factories. I found this site which gives quite a lot of information about Kynochs.http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/KOtherInformationKynoch.htm

  14. Pedro says:

    The canal was completed in 1801. Where locks and bridges were required, bricks were handmade and stone was cut. The task done by bricklayers who worked together as a set of three.

    Following the merger with the BCN improvements were made (1843-50) including reconstruction of locks along the Ogley Locks flight.

    In the restoration by The Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Trust (LHCT) the engineer John Horton investigated some of the locks and noted their make up….The locks as originally built were constructed with ‘orange bricks’, which were presumably made from local clay, and the BCN reconstruction replaced only the surface layer…All locks are of brick construction with single top and double bottom gates….each lock has a similar drop averaging about 8 feet 10 inches. Originally orange brick 2.5 inches thick and the walls were capped with continuous copingstones, typically 8 feet long of sandstone….

    (information from Ray Shill, Wyrley and Essington through Time.)c

  15. aerreg says:

    ehi bob its me again re the locks and barracks lane this was a sunday night walk after chapel with mom re the photo location at the point where the photo was taken opposite the tow path was a piece of ground by the farm ocupied by varius slusses and gates to control the flow of the lock by the bridge i may be wrong but was this a right of way acces re the notice on the wall we kids used to gather there to try and cadge a ride up to the chemi stables wher the simpkins family lived i remember the year the pound froze over solid another thing puzzles me on the photo on the horizant left no hammerwich church a familier land mark a charachter in those days was harry the locky a warter bailif on his byke we would fly at the cry harries comming re kynocks an early morning train uesd to leave brownhills station bound for the factories in brum coaches kept over night in the ridings by central school another sunday night walk in the baracks lane district was round lions den sorry ive gone on but you will keep stiring the grey matter i luv i long may it reign good bless

  16. Pedro says:

    Looking on the old maps to check the position of Hammerwich Church, which I think would be just out of camera shot on the left, I see that the bridge between Locks 5 and 6 bridge becomes Warren House Bridge from the OS 1903 edition.

  17. Pingback: Pound signs | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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  19. Tracey rogers says:

    Very interested photo of brownhills wesley choir as many my relatives on there…m Portsmouths…Hilda was my Nan. Doing family tree. Love to hear any news or copy photos. Thanks ☺

  20. Geof Harrington says:

    I took the photo sitting on the arm of the lock gate. My wife worked on the Dangerfield field so called because they all worked in small huts 4 ladies to a hut filling bullets with gunpowder. They were searched before they went into the shed for hair grips or any kind of metal that could course an explosion. Then they had to wear rubber shoes and very thick jackets just to make sure they didn’t cause a spark that is the reason they only worked in small groups every time they went into work they didn’t know if they would see the next day.

  21. Gordon Hollings says:

    I lived in Ogley Hay in the earlyto late sixties,in fact Geoff Harrington and I worked together at Press Tools Ltd in sadler road.I have many fond memories of Geoff and my time in that area.

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