Old maps of the BCN toxic trail

Some time ago I put in some freedom of information requests to the former British Waterways, now The Canal and Rivers Trust, and in some of these responses came upon a collection of historic deed maps that they held. These are a fascinating collection of local history and how the areas have changed over time, factories and contractors who worked alongside these waterways and how many of them are no longer in existence, such as “The Oldbury loop”. Much of this hand written information dates from the 19th Century and tracks some of the changes that occurred and when.

A more modern view of the toxic trail between the chemical arm and Rattlechain lagoon, via the Gower branch.

Specifically I obtained maps of the majority of the journey of the toxic trail between Albright and Wilson’s Chemical arm and Rattlechain- the end point of their waste tipping operations. In this post I have attempted to put these maps together for the first time to show this route. The only one that I am missing appears to be sheet 26 between The Gower Branch junction and Rattlechain, which can be viewed on a more modern map HERE. Click on each picture below to trace the journey and zoom in on the info recorded.

 rattlechain  missing sheet          


Top of Gower branchHoughton arm from ICI

From Bottom right to left, then top right to left

Entrance from Houghton chemical arm going left onto Birmingham Old mainline canal. sheet no 50

Continuation towards Oldbury under Seven Stars Road the entrance to the filled in Churchbridge branch and associated basins up to Highbridge at Furnace Street/ now in the Rounds Green Road area.Sheet no 49 

Sheet 48 shows the rest of the Oldbury loop, not taken by the Matty boats.

Continuation of old mainline canal, showing several pieces of land were subsequently bought by Accles and Pollocks. Also showing a part of the filled in Oldbury loop  and The Oldbury brickworks.Sheet 47

Continuation of canal through Brades Bridge area towards Gower Branch. Sheet 46

Gower basin and entrance to the Gower Branch. Also shows Brades Hall colliery, the boiler works and the Hange Furnaces and associated basins further on. Sheet 45

Gower branch/Monks Tip to the junction of mainline canal. Sheet ?

RATTLECHAIN Brickworks/lagoon areaSheet  25

Final destination!

Netherton Branch/Stour Valley brickworks area . Sheet 24

When one considers that British waterways and Alfred Matty’s used the lagoon for a dredging tip from the BCN network and all of the industries that are shown along this network, as well as the white phosphorus of Albright and Wilson that would have polluted this canal, one can perhaps appreciate that this truly was a toxic trail with a poison apple at the end of it.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.