We are half way through a £500,000 project to repair and restore 13 historic cast iron bridges, along the canals in the Black Country.
The bridges, some of which are Grade II Listed, date back to the mid-19th Century and are among the most iconic symbols of the Birmingham Canal Navigation in the West Midlands. Built by Horseley Iron Works in Tipton, the bridges, with their characteristic ‘webs of iron’ and gothic style designs have, over the years, suffered from wear and tear and now need some major restoration.
Each of the bridges will have the old paint removed, the metalwork carefully repaired and then several coats of specialist paint applied. Once finished they should look like they would have done when they were first constructed over 210 years ago.
Elizabeth Thomson, heritage advisor for the Canal & River Trust, said: “These bridges are typical of the canals in the West Midlands and really help to bring the history of the waterways alive. The fact that they are still working as they were intended after all this time is a testament to the engineers who built them, but they are showing their age. The work we are doing will ensure people will be able to enjoy them for many years to come.
“We have over 100 miles of canal in the West Midlands and it is teeming with clues as to its past. If you look closely at some of the stonework and handrails you will see that they are scored and marked with rope marks caused by generations of working boat people using horses to tow barges along the canals. These unique markings will be preserved, allowing people literally to run their fingers across the imprints made by our ancestors.”
Seven bridges have so far been restored including the Boshboil Arm bridge in Dudley, the Gower Branch Turnover bridge and the Tame Valley No.1 bridge which are both along the canal in Walsall.