In 1776 a turnpike trust was set up to raise money to build a new road through Moxley (High Street) to join the Wednesbury Road at its junction with Dangerfield Lane.

The new road allowed through coach traffic from Bilston to Wednesbury and the first mail coach ran in 1785.

A toll house was built by the trust at the top of Dangerfield Lane and survived until 1903.

The road was again upgraded in the 1820s when Telford built the Holyhead Road.

The toll house in Dangerfield Lane.

In 1787 Darlaston Road which goes from the
Bull Stake in Darlaston, to the High Bullen in Wednesbury opened.

It was built across open land by the Turnpike Act of 1787, but became unpopular with local people because of a steep gradient at Kings Hill that was known as 'Breakback Hill'. This has since been removed.

Another view of Dangerfield Lane toll house.

The toll house that stood on King's Hill.

Dangerfield Lane was also the site of an isolation hospital which opened in 1899 and had 28 beds. It could only treat one disease at a time and was only used occasionally between 1909 and 1913. Often there were no more than 4 patients being treated at any one time and so the hospital was never an economical proposition. In later years patients were eligible to enter Moxley Isolation Hospital and West Bromwich Isolation Hospital and so even fewer patients could be found at Dangerfield Lane. The hospital closed in 1929 and the building was used for a time as temporary housing accommodation.

The old James Bridge toll house that stood on Darlaston Road, next to the River Tame.

Another view of the toll house.

The Walsall Canal

In 1792 an An Act of Parliament was Passed to allow the building of a canal from Wolverhampton to Great Wyrley, and the Wyrley & Essington company decided to build an extension from the new canal to Walsall. When this was announced the Birmingham Canal Company began to think about building a canal from the end of the Broadwaters Extension to Walsall via Darlaston.

On 17th April, 1794 an Act of Parliament was Passed to allow the work to begin and in 1799 the Walsall Branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigation opened from Walsall to Moxley, which was used as a base for the many navvies that were involved in the work. The locals far from welcomed them except for the publicans and beer sellers. One of the larger features is James Bridge aqueduct which carries the canal over Bentley Mill Way and the River Tame. This was completed in 1799 and is now a listed building.

The Walsall Branch, the first through route between Walsall and the Birmingham main line was completed in 1809.

The second Darlaston canal, the Anson Branch, opened in 1830 to serve the coal mines and the limestone quarry at Bentley. The Birmingham Canal Company became the BCN and in 1841 an extension was built between the Walsall Canal and the Wyrley and Essington Canal. The third Darlaston canal, the Bentley Canal, running for 3 miles from the Anson Branch to Wednesfield also opened.

The Walsall Canal at Moxley.

An early photograph of James Bridge Aqueduct from an old postcard.

James Bridge Aqueduct in 2006 before Bentley Mill Way was widened. The front had been partly rebuilt with slightly different coloured bricks and the cast iron plate carrying the construction date in Roman numerals had been added.

Phil Clayton, who is researching the BCN has kindly informed me that the engineer in charge of building James Bridge Aqueduct was Samuel Bull, who was responsible for much of the BCN’s work at the time, along with James Bough, the Company’s ’Superintendent’ who died the year before the aqueduct was completed. Phil comments that it’s often the consulting engineer who gets the credit for works rather than the company’s men who actually carried out the work.

Jacob Twigg

The Walsall Canal from Broadwaters to Walsall was built by Jacob Twigg and Joseph Smith, in two parts. The first part from Broadwaters to Darlaston had been completed by May 1798. The company and their engineer, Mr. Hood, were happy with the standard of the work and so a second contract to build the canal to Walsall was issued to Twigg and Smith in April 1798. The work was to be completed by January 1799, but work on the wharf at Walsall did not begin until after 1800.

Jacob Twigg is described as a land surveyor in W. Parson and T. Bradshaw’s Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory for 1818. He lived at Bar Croft in Darlaston and did much of the construction work on the Birmingham Canal. He was given the contract for the cutting of the Toll End Branch in March 1800 and also worked on the Bilston Canal and the Willenhall Branch.

In 1824 he successfully tendered for the canal branch at West Bromwich, known as the Ridgeacre Cutting, easily beating the competition by bidding over £1,000 less. He was later allowed to increase his tender by £150 to pay for the hire of boats to remove the spoil. By December 1824, little progress had been made and the canal company’s surveyor and civil engineer, Thomas Telford, who had been engaged in March of that year, thought that spoil could be removed faster and more efficiently with a tramway.

Although a tramway was built, little work on the Ridgeacre Branch took place. Jacob Twigg complained about quicksand in some areas, but the canal company had had enough and decided that he had been negligent and had broken his contract. He was replaced by Hyde and Jackson, who had put-in the second cheapest tender for the work. In September 1825 Jacob Twigg was dismissed as an engineer to the BCN but was unable to find sufficient work elsewhere. He was declared to be an insolvent debtor and as such was imprisoned at Stafford. In those days an insolvent debtor could be kept indefinitely in a debtors’ prison if the creditors so wished. Imprisonment for debt didn't end until 1869.

From The London Gazette, December 23rd, 1828.

In 1833, Jacob Twigg’s property in Darlaston was auctioned off. This was a sad end to such an initially promising career.

An advert from 1922.

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