News article created on 13 February 2019

Works to repair famous Farmer's Bridge Flight locks start in Central Birmingham

Repair works have started on two locks on Farmer’s Bridge Flight in central Birmingham to ensure it continues to be enjoyed by the thousands of people who visit the city centre canal throughout the year.

Photo of Farmers Bridge Locks Farmers Bridge Locks

We will be replacing the gates at locks 1 and 2 on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal using a gantry, a crane which straddles the lock, as there isn’t enough space next to the locks for a larger crane. The two gates were handmade at Bradley workshop in Bilston and arrived at the locks via boat, as they would have done during the industrial revolution. The team will also be repairing the brickwork in and around the lock during the six-week programme of repairs.

The works on the locks, costing £126,000, are taking place during a six-month-long national programme of repairs to our waterways in England and Wales’. £2.5 million is being spent on repairs in the West Midlands this season, from new lock gates to repairing historic canal walls. 

The Farmer’s Bridge Flight, named after James Farmer who was a Birmingham landowner and gunmaker in the 1700s, is made up of the first 13 locks on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. Next to lock 1 is an old toll house where boaters used to pay the canal owners a toll based on the weight of their cargo.

Before the brick work can be repaired, the locks will be drained to allow the work to take place and fish will need to be safely removed from the water. The fish will be collected up in a net after being gently stunned by specialist fish experts – it doesn’t harm the fish and ensures that they are calm when they are safely released into another part of the canal.

Simon Turner, Canal & River Trust regional construction manager for the works, says: “Roughly 3,500 boats pass through these locks each year, so we need to make sure that they are working smoothly. Considering this section of the canal opened in 1789, it’s incredible to think that these two locks have been operating for 220 years. 

“After we’ve changed the gates, a fabric dam will hold back the water so that we can repair the brickwork inside the lock. There are over 50 miles of uninterrupted canal with no locks before this flight of locks so it’s a huge amount of water to hold back, and will be quite an experience to stand at the bottom of the drained lock during our open weekend.”

Open weekend

As part of this work, we are organising a free public open weekend on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th February between 10am and 4pm.  We are inviting the communities who use the lock or live and work alongside it to come and learn about its heritage and how we maintain it. There will be lots of things to do throughout the weekend:

  • Step into the drained lock
  • Exhibition of canal photographs
  • Children's activities
  • Free canoeing
  • Guided walk to Roundhouse Birmingham

Silent disco

We are so hosting the first ever floating silent disco on the canal on Friday 22nd February right next to the locks.  Held on 100 sturdy pontoons, people will be able to dance to music played by a live DJ at 45-minute sessions at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. The event is free but people are asked to book onto a time slot via EventBrite.

Adnan Saif, director for West Midlands for the Canal & River Trust, says: “We believe that waterways can make a real difference to people’s lives and for the millions of people living alongside them, can provide a boost to health, happiness and wellbeing, particularly in the middle of a busy city.  They are free to use and on people’s doorstep. By opening up our work to the public we can show the benefits they offer while explaining about the scale of the Trust’s work to care for them now.”

Find out more about the Birmingham Open Weekend.

Book your free ticket for the floating silent disco ‘Beats on the Water'.