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Guide to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal is relatively short, at just under 15 miles in length, but its importance lay in the vital connections it provided between larger 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 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

  • Main Line Canal Length

    16 Miles

  • Number of Locks

    38

  • Date of completion

    1789

  • Principle Engineer

    John Smeaton

Route Overview

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal links the heart of urban Birmingham, through open countryside to the historic town of Coventry.

It begins at Gas Street Basin, a fascinating canal hub with a marina and lots of eateries and shops. The canal heads north-east, taking takes you past many central Birmingham landmarks, including the Post Office Tower.

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 150 feet in less than three miles in the city and 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 Birmingham and Fazeley continues eastwards. Just two more locks at Minworth and the surroundings now changes from industrial city to open countryside.

After passing an unusual footbridge with Gothic-style towers (signalling the entrance to Drayton Manor Theme Park) you’ll soon arrive at Fazeley Junction and the Coventry Canal.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at Drayton

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 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.

Birmingham-Gas-Street-Basin

Did You Know?

  • Tiny inscription

    At Common lock 10, on the lower lock tail, an inscription can be found in the stonework. It reads: “Pax Missa Per Orbem, Pax Quaeritur Bello”, which translates as “Peace Is Sent Throughout The World, Peace Is Sought Through War”.

  • Warwickshire Ring

    The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal forms part of the Warwickshire ring.

  • Undercover route

    The canal passes underneath Brindley House, part of the BT Tower complex in central Birmingham.

Black Prince Cruising Routes

You can cruise on the Leeds Liverpool Canal in East Lancashire to Albert Dock on a Liverpool 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 for your canal boat holiday.

Coventry Cathedral

Black Prince Canal Guides

Below are links to a few of our other canal specific guides to help inspire you on your next canal holiday: