The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal is relatively short, at just under 15 miles in length, but its importance lay in the vital inland waterways connections it provided between larger West Midlands canal networks. The canal itself links the Birmingham Canal at Farmers Bridge with the Coventry Canal at Fazeley and is made up of two branches, the Main Canal and the Digbeth Branch.
A brief history of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Before the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was built, there was only one route for canal navigations that linked the north and south canal networks and the whole waterways system in Birmingham was held in a monopoly by the Birmingham Canal Company.
The construction of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company made waterways history by getting cooperation from three other canal companies to develop routes and within eight years Fazeley had become a busy entrance to Birmingham.
The plans for the Birmingham to Fazeley Canal were authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1784. Work began 1786 and was completed in 1789, with many delays on the way. The success of the new route lead to a dramatic increase in canal traffic, which in turn caused problems because of congestion at the flights of locks at Aston and Farmer’s Bridge. The Farmers Bridge locks became the busiest flight on the Birmingham system and was provided with gas light for night working, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The canal now forms part of the Black Country Ring with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal and forms part of the Warwickshire Ring with the Coventry Canal and sections of the Grand Union and Oxford Canals.
Top Birmingham & Fazeley Canal Facts
The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal links the heart of urban Birmingham, through the open countryside along rivers and canals to the historic town of Coventry.
It begins at Gas Street Basin in Birmingham city centre, a fascinating canal hub with a marina and lots of eateries and shops, along with other key attractions like the jewellery quarter, Newhall Street and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery nearby. The canal heads northeast, taking takes you past many central Birmingham landmarks, including the Post Office Tower.
You’ll pass through the Curdworth Tunnel and underneath the M6 toll bridge on your way out of the city.
The Farmer’s Bridge Lock Flight is an amazing sight on Birmingham’s canal network. There are two flights of locks that drop the canal and water levels down 150 feet in less than three miles across the city. The thirteen Farmers Bridge locks are tightly squeezed amongst city buildings and factories.
The canal continues its route north, through the eleven Aston locks and on to Salford Junction, where the Grand Union Canal joins the Birmingham and Fazeley to continue eastwards. Just two more locks at Minworth and the surroundings now change from industrial city to open countryside after the Minworth bottom lock.
After passing an unusual footbridge with Gothic-style towers near Drayton Bassett (signalling the entrance to Drayton Manor Theme Park) you’ll soon arrive at Fazeley Junction near the Fazeley Mill Marina and the Coventry Canal, which is connected to the Ashby Canal.
Feats of Engineering on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Farmers Bridge Flight
The canal passes through a flight of 13 locks as it heads west away from Gas Street Basin. It has a rise of 81 feet and is interesting for passing between and under various town centre buildings.
After being derelict for many years, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal became the first of Birmingham’s successful regeneration schemes and rejoin the Birmingham Canal Navigations when in 1984 Farmer’s Bridge Locks were cleaned up, lit and landscaped and towpath accesses were created through the walls. The towpaths now offer a great place for walking and exploring alongside a lesser-known UK canal.
Did You Know?
Black Prince Cruising Routes
You can cruise on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal on a West Midlands canal holiday, starting from our narrowboat hire base at Stoke Prior in Worcestershire. Check out our canal maps and cruise guides on our base page for more information about canal walks, cycle routes, canals and river safety and the details of your canal boat holiday.