One of the curious things about writing and keeping this blog has always been the steady, curious dynamic of story arcs – where an old subject gets continually, slowly and gradually expanded as Google lists it, people search and find the post, comment and expand it.
So it has been with the curious, still pretty much unresolved tale of the September 1982 canal breech at the Wyrley and Essington canal by Millfield School at Catshill.
I had originally thought that the voids that opened up under the canal were caused by mining subsidence, but others have contested this is not the case and that they were just sinkholes – but they did a huge amount of damage.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve had a whole tranche of images of the drained canal and damage – which in those days wasn’t particularly rigorously faced off – from Steve Turner, featured above and in the gallery below. Steve supplied the wonderful pictures of Brownhills High Street I posted here in the week.
Good Morning Bob,
Sorting through some old photos and came across these that might be of interest to your readers.
Late 70s I think when a hole appeared at the back of Millfield School and drained the canal.
As ever with these kinds of photos, as interesting as the subject is, some of the background is equally memory-jogging. See Saddlers Mill on the canal side, still a factory before renovation and conversion – and the Superalloys factory – is that the base of the chimney there, or am I imagining it?
These photos obviously compliment the wonderful work supplied way back in 2012 by that great local historian, David Hodgkinson. There’s still much I’d love to know, but we are getting closer. I include that post below the gallery to save flipping browser windows.
Of particular interest is the idea that the modern drainage system for Chasewater’s overflow – where it dives under the canal and into the Crane Brook – was built in response to this event Can anyone add more to that, please?
That’s to Steve for a wonderful donation, and if you can help with memories of this dramatic event, or anything else relating to it, please do comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
The original 2012 post on the subject below:
Yesterday, in a post relating some recollections of the Chasewater modern overflow culvert, an anonymous correspondent suggested that the new system had been constructed in response to a serious subsidence issue near Anchor Bridge. In that post, I rather cheekily yanked the chain of David Hodgkinson, top bloke and long time local historian and webmaster of the parish. I knew that David had good recollections of the collapse, from comments on his own excellent site, but today, David has excelled himself.
Digging through his archives, David has located a series of photos and a sketch made after the incident, and some later during the reparations. He is also able to date the occurrence to sometime around the 12th September 1982 – almost 30 years ago. That any material from this work survives is remarkable, let alone this veritable treasure trove. Readers of this blog and my fellow Brownhillians never cease to amaze me.
All I remember of the incident was hearing reports on Beacon Radio’s lunchtime show, when home from school for dinner, saying a mine collapse had happened and the canal had burst onto farmland. I wanted to go and look, but had to go back to school. I remember that evening, it was light (so not in the winter as I falsely recalled) and men in waders were collecting floundering fish from the mud of the canal near the Anchor bridge. I’d never seen so many fish. I think, to be honest, they were being taken illegally, as they were loaded into vans. I also remember crayfish struggling in the black mud.
I recall walking past the works on a winters snowy day sometime – must have been winter of 82-83, and the work was still ongoing. You can, of course, still see the length of rebuilt canal – it narrows slightly and has different bank construction.
I can now see a further reason for the creation of the new storm drain at Chasewater – it may have been to reduce incidental load on the canal. It’s possible, I guess, that if Chasewater had recently overflowed, that the existing overflow system on the canal itself into the Crane Brook had not been able to dissipate the surge quickly, and caused loading further down. I have no evidence for this, it’s pure speculation.
David sent the following message:
Dear Brownhills Bob,
I have found a few photos of the rebuilding of the canal after the leak. These were taken August 1983. There were three or four actual cave-ins covering both sides of the canal, in a line crossing at an angle. I thought that the problem was put down to mine workings but can’t remember any more at the moment. I may have some cuttings from the local papers of the time if I can find them.
I have done some scans of the prints from a not very good 35MM camera (I thought it was wonderful at the time but looking back cheap camera and cheap processing equals fuzzy results). I have scanned at 600dpi.
(I am now looking for a photo I took of the actual breach at the back of the school.)
All the best,
PS – Are you allowed to use “Mum” in Brownhills! I search high and low to find birthday cards using “Mom” (but I’ve got nothing better to do with my time!)
I say, that old Mom/Mum question is a linguistic nightmare. Prepare for comment incoming!
I have found the photo taken on 12 September 1982 that would have been soon after the breach occurred. I have not found a picture of any of the other nearby collapses.
Taken with a Kodak 126 Film Instamatic so square photo.
I have found my note from 12 Sept 1982. At the time I marked three cave-ins as shown on the sketch. One at the back of the school field, one on the towpath and one in the farmland beyond.
From the photos it looks as if the canal was being pumped out just before the junction with the Rushall branch and although blocked at Lichfield Road (Anglesey Bridge) was in low water all the way back to Chasewater.
Yet again I can’t remember the exact details. I think in court it’s called “Not A Credible Witness”!
David, I can assure you, you’re a wonderful witness, and thanks for adding so much history to the blog. Cheers, you’ll always have a beer in with me, old chap.