|From New Cross bridge there were bridges at Rookery
with a wharf between. Then Church bridge, Barn bridge,
Pinfold or Gregorys, Wards bridge, Moat House where
there was a wharf. Moat Green bridge, Devils Elbow and
wharf. Next was Olinthus bridge and Ashmore Park Coal
wharf, Castle bridge and Perry Hall bridge.
After this was an arm to Perry Hall colliery . The
canal left Wednesfield, through Sneyd where there was a
junction, a pumping station from 1854 to 1939 and to the
west of the canal was Sneyd Reservoir built about 1789,
its purpose to supply water to the 5 locks nearby and
possibly to fill the canal system south wards
Further north from this area the canal came to Wyrley
Bank and the colliery which started the system’s
The authorising act was passed in
1840 and the canal was opened in 1843. Considering the
way the ground sloped and the need to build a number of
locks, this was a remarkable achievement.
turned off at what is now known as Wednesfield Junction
and went under a cast iron roving bridge. There was a
Toll Office before the first lock and the first bridge
was New Cross bridge. There were 6 locks in the
Wednesfield section. The Toll Office or Lock House, BCN
number 245, appeared to be a bungalow but had a lower
storey built in to the bank. The first lock had ground
paddles at both ends originally, but was modified at a
later date with gate paddles at the lower end. Locks 2
and 3 followed, and lock 4 came after the brick and
girder bridge with a lock house number 246. Well Lane
bridge was next.
The Neachells Branch opened in 1845
and left after the bottom lock in a southerly direction
and was 3 Furlongs long.
The next bridge on the
Bentley Canal was Hill’s Bridge which is “preserved” in
the Corus Works Complex. There was another small bridge
next called Fly bridge, probably named after the Blue
A short distance away running south was a basin for
loading coal. With the Willenhall boundary crossing
parts of this area we cannot help but mention items of
history relevant to this article. The next bridge was
Fibbersley with many small coal mines nearby.
To return to New Cross bridge, and
after that the second lock, an old map shows a Manure
and Acid factory near the canal. Lock 3 had a chocolate
and confectionery works nearby. This is particularly
interesting as about 1904 they were taken over by the
Patent Axle Box Foundry. About 1939 the site held
Brockhouse Castings. On a 1901 map of Wednesfield
Station area, a line to the west leaves it and crosses
the canal near lock 4 and passes through the previously
mentioned Chocolate works, and terminates close to
Also in this canalside area was The
Phosphorus Company Wednesfield. This was set up by the
Manager of The Electric Construction Company, around
1890 and along with his chemist patented a process to
produce phosphorus from electricity. At this time
phosphorus was used in matches, weapons and as a poison.
To test the process, works were built in Wednesfield
near the Railway and Canal. Steam driven electric
furnaces drove a huge alternator which produced 400
units of electricity. The heat for the furnaces was
provided by carbon arcs. The furnaces had apertures at
the top where phosphates and coke were poured in to
produce liquid phosphorus. This was condensed in water
to form 50lb blocks. Production lasted only 2 years. The
rights and patents were sold to Albright and Wilson Ltd.
Coal Mining in the
Wednesfield and Willenhall Area
The movement of coal was the reason for many canal
branches, yet many were engineered to cut through as
many coalfields as possible. Other materials which were
carried in Wolverhampton area were Smethwick sand and
Rowley ragstone. In the very early days a freight charge
was as low as 1.5d per ton per mile. The canals provided
many local firms with prosperity from their inception.
Railways unfortunately brought
about the demise of the canals of the area and by 1860
some branches and wharves were closed. Also leaking
canals entered former mine workings. Some coal traffic
returned to the canals during World War 1 but by 1920 a
lot of mines were exhausted and iron works closed as
well. They were also suffering the competition from road
transport as well.
South of the Bentley Canal where it approaches
Fibbersley bridge there were many mine shafts shown on
the 1901 map as “old shafts”. Just off Noose Lane before
it crossed the Wolverhampton to Walsall line was
Trentham colliery next to the Wellington Brick works.
Further along was was the Bull Plack colliery. North of
this was Merril’s Hole Colliery marked disused. The
whole of this area riddled with old shafts.
Another old map showed a tramway of what is now
Neachell,s Lane bridge and joining up with with
Merrill’s Hall Colliery (note difference in spelling).
The original Merril’s Hall was situated between the
Falcon Inn and the canal and enclosed by a moat. The
Merril family were well known in Wednesfield in the 17th
From the records of the South Staffordshire Collieries
dated 1896 are listed mines in the area showing the
number of workers both underground and surface.
Barnfield, Heath Town
Mabbs Bank, Bilston Rd,Willenhall
Moseley hole, Moseley Village
Neachells, Heath Town
Norton, Cannock, Bloxwich
Stringes Lane, Willenhall
Neachells Branch opened in 1845 and linked the Bentley
Canal to Neachells Colliery. It branched off the Bentley
canal towards the western end. Fell into disuse in
1960,s and closed to commercial traffic 1953
The Bentley Canal was abandoned in 1961 and it is
believed to have been filled in and had the Waddens
Brook diverted along its route in 1970-71.