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Guide to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

The Worcester and Birmingham Canal is the short stretch of waterway that links these two great cities in the English Midlands. The canal takes you from the centre of Birmingham, through the beautiful countryside of Worcestershire, to the cathedral city of Worcester.

A brief history of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

The Worcester and Birmingham Canal was designed to provide a shorter link between Birmingham and the River Severn. Despite much opposition form the other canal companies of the time, an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1791 for the construction of the new canal. Famous names associated with the canal build were Josiah Clowes, John Snape and Thomas Cartwright.

Construction of the canal started a year later in 1792 and the plan was originally to build a double barge-width (14 ft) canal.  However, in 1807, when the canal reached Tardebigge, the construction company (or rather the financiers!) realised that Tardebigge posed a problem.

Tardebigge needed 56 locks to be able to descend down to Worcester and it was decided at this point that the the cost of building the double width 14-foot (4.3 m) locks was too great. Therefore the 56 locks down to Worcester were built to the narrow 7-foot (2.1 m) specification, with the final two locks connecting to the Severn in Worcester being 14-foot (4.3 m) to allow river craft access to Diglis Basin.  The final section of the canal was completed and opened in 1815.

Top Worcester and Birmingham Canal Facts

  • Main Line Canal Length

    30 Miles

  • Number of Locks

    58

  • Tardebigge Flight

    Tardebigge Flight contains 30 locks within a two and a quarter mile stretch.

  • Four tunnels

    There are four tunnels on this canal.

Route Overview

The canal starts from Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham in the Midlands, and heads south to the cathedral city of Worcester.

Gas Street Basin is a lively canal hub very close to the city centre of Birmingham. There is a popular mooring area for all types of canal boats and lots to visit from the Mailbox shopping centre to lots of cafes, bars and restaurants.

The canal heads south, lock free, towards Kings Norton Junction, past one of the most popular attractions in the UK – Cadbury World. The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal leads off the Birmingham and Worcester to the south east, but the B & W continues it’s journey south Alvechurch and Tardebigge.

All the 58 locks on this canal are in the second half of the canal, as the canal descends through rural Worcestershire. The Tardebigge lock flight is not for the faint-hearted, as it has 30 locks in just over two miles, making it the longest in the country!

Just past the Tardebigge lock flight is the Black Prince narrowboat hire base at Stoke Prior.

The canal continues on to Hanbury Junction, where it connects with the Droitwich Junction Canal which offers a route to the River Severn at Hawford, and continues south west to Worcester and Diglis Basin. Again, you can access the River Severn here.

River Severn, Worcester

Feats of Engineering on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal

Tardebigge Flight

These locks form the longest flight of locks in the UK, comprised of 30 locks over a two-and-a-quarter-mile stretch of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. It raises the waterway 220 feet (67 m), and lies between the Tardebigge tunnel to the north and the Stoke Prior flight of six narrow locks to the south.

Ariel Aqueduct

This new aqueduct opened in 2011 and named after the Ariel Factory on Grange Road that produced bicycles, motorcycles and cars, carries the Birmingham to Worcester Canal over the Selly Oak New Road development.

Tardebigge Flight

Did You Know?

  • Stourport Ring

    The canal forms part of the Stourport Ring, a popular cruising circuit for holiday boating. The ring takes in parts of four waterways, is 74 miles (119 km) long, and includes 105 locks.

  • A barrier to success

    For twenty years the Birmingham and Worcester Canal couldn’t connect directly to the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) because of the Worcester Bar. This physical barrier at the Gas Street Basin was designed so that the BCN would not lose water to the Worcester and Birmingham. Cargoes had to be carried by hand between boats on either side. In 1815 an Act allowed the creation of a stop lock and the Worcester and Birmingham raised their water level by six inches to minimise water loss.

  • Cadbury and Bournville

    Cadbury’s factory was built next to the Birmingham and Worcester Canal in 1824 and they built a fleet of narrowboats which carried their raw materials to the factory. The village of Bournville was also built by the firm for its workers, which can be seen today from the canal.

Black Prince Cruising Routes

You can cruise on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal 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 narrowboat boat holiday.

stoke prior narrowboat

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: