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A boat horse passes the lock cottage at Lock 12 in the Perry Bar flight on the Tame Valley Canal. A coal-carrying day boat is bringing a load to the GEC works at Witton. (Photo from the collection of George Dale, also pg. 58 in Birmingham Canals by Ray Shill)

The Tame Valley Canal was a relatively late (1844) addition to the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

The canal runs from Tame Valley Junction where it joins the Walsall Canal (near Ocker Hill and Toll End), and terminates at Salford Junction where it meets the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and the Grand Union Canal. It is 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long and has twin towpaths throughout.

The thirteen Perry Barr Locks, where the level drops 106 feet, starts just beyond the A34. Many of the original lock keepers cottages remain.

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As this much more recent photo of Lock 12 shows. The lock is now dominated by the huge industrial complex behind it.

The day boat was heading for GEC, or General Electric Company Ltd Witton Works.

GEC was incorporated as a private company in the late 19th C. The company expanded rapidly, opening new branches and factories and trading in ‘Everything Electrical’, a phrase that was to become synonymous with GEC. In 1893 GEC decided to invest in lamp manufacture. The resulting company, to become Osram in 1909, was to lead the way in lamp design and the burgeoning demand for electric lighting was to make GEC’s fortune.

In 1900 GEC was incorporated as a public limited company, The General Electric Company (1900) Ltd, (the ‘1900’ was dropped three years later). In 1902, GEC’s first purpose-built factory, the Witton Engineering Works was opened near Birmingham.

It would, by the 1960’s, employ 19,000 employees.

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The huge scale of the GEC Works is apparent from this aerial photo of the site.

 

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GEC Works from canalside. Between 1000 and 2000 tons of coal and slack were brought each month by boat to these works.

 

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Photograph of G.E.C., in Electric Avenue, Witton. The photograph was taken in early 1968. Electric Avenue led off from Deykin Avenue. The image shows the level of industrialisation surrounding the canal. (Image courtesy of e-papers Repository http://epapers.bham.ac.uk)

 

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Thanks to Google Earth & Google Maps it’s now relatively easy to locate a historic photograph in it’s modern day context, as this series of three aerial images show…

 

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Lock 12 and Deykin Avenue are in the bottom right hand corner…

 

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Just a little closer and the detail of the lock surroundings become clearer…
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2 thoughts on “Horse Boating on the BCN – Tame Valley Canal

  1. Last load to the GEC was in 1967 by a T&S Element boat, strictly speaking GEC had ended the contract 12 months earlier but kept taking the loads to keep the boatmen working but by 67 theyd removed the unloading equipment.

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