The Transport Trust have just awarded their 26th Red Wheel plaque for a waterways site with outstanding heritage to Tardebigge Locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
Tardebigge’s claim to fame is for its flight of thirty locks, the longest in the country and also as the site of Mr Woodhouse’s early experimental boat lift. The lift only operated for some four years during the construction of the canal, but was a ground-breaking alternative to raising or lowering boats in a lock. However, judging by contemporary accounts using the lift could be a literally hair-raising experience!
Despite vigorous campaigning by its supporters the boat lift proved just too hazardous and it was converted into what is now the top lock of the flight when the canal was completed in 1815.
There is a lot more to the small community of Tardebigge than the locks. It’s well worth a visit to see the wharf with its listed warehouse and the large limekilns built to supply lime mortar for the brickwork in Tardebigge tunnel. On display beside the wharf is the Birmingham, a former steam tug used to tow trains of boats through the canal tunnels.
There is one more very special reason for Tardebigge’s importance, it’s the birthplace of the Inland Waterway Association. In 1946 Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman met there and agreed to form this campaigning organisation to save the declining canals. Thanks to the IWA many closures were averted and over the last seventy years many abandoned canals have been restored. Without that meeting it would be a very different picture today. Tardebigge is where it all turned round.
David Viner, heritage adviser
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from this author