More weirstones

Continuing my exploration of locks and weirs on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  Last time I left off above Bratch Locks.  I may do something about that flight another time, but here I take up the story at Bumblehole Lock, in Wombourne, Staffordshire, including some cautionary tales about Botterham Staircase Locks.


Note that the weir is more of a kite shape.  These things really do look quite vicious.

Botterham Staircase Locks

Botterham Staircase Locks, south of Wombourne, take the level down in two steps, by 20 ft 3 inches (about 6.17 metres).  The principle is the same as Bedford Street Locks at Etruria, which I covered in Uppards!

Clockwise from top left:  When I arrived at the locks there was a boat in the bottom lock (out of view), and the lady in blue (far right) was working the paddles.  The weir is another circular one with a wall all around.  When water is let out from the top to the bottom lock, the bottom lock overflows, so you know when the middle gate will open. Viewed from below the outlet of water for the bottom lock is the channel on the right.

When I came back the other way, someone on a hire boat asked if time could be saved by letting water through both locks, but the answer is NO!!!!!  There is a video on YouTube about someone trying this and almost coming to grief – I suspect a less experienced boater would have been sunk.  (Move the slider to 6:00.)  So, don’t be like the stereotyped man trying to assemble a flatpack without reading the instructions – this really could sink your boat (or worse, it could kill someone you care about).

I will say it again:  the quickest way to get through locks is slowly.

Nb Fred Bingham moving into the top lock.  Nb Whiskey Mac in, and leaving, bottom lock.

On the way back I did this staircase on my own, which I was quite pleased about, but my thanks to the ladies who helped me down.  (The leakage onto my foredeck actually filled a 15 litre bucket.)

Wedged:  An anecdote.

Sadly no pictures – there was much to do.  Last summer, I passed this way and, when I had tied up at the upstream lock landing and stepped off with my windlass, an agitated man appeared and said:  “You can’t come through, I’m stuck”.  He was a single-hander, too.  And there was his boat, wedged in the middle gate.  He explained that he had opened the middle gate, gone back to his boat, cast off, and then realised the gate was not fully open.  It is quite common that lock gates swing open, especially when it is windy, so, he had reasoned (and I must say that I would probably have done the same in those circumstances), that the boat would ease the gate open.  But no.  He got stuck and was unable to reverse.  He said the CRT were on their way.  I suggested he jumped back on his boat (a short step for man) and put the engine in reverse while I leaned on the gate.  Well, I am not the world’s strongest man, and nothing happened.  Then another boater turned up, and our combined muscle released his boat, just as the CRT chaps arrived.  Somehow – they weren’t sure how – the gate opened and all was well.

After that is Swindon where there are two locks: Marsh Lock and Swindon Lock.

Marsh Lock and weir
Whiskey Mac going down Marsh Lock, Swindon.  Note oblong weir.

I don’t have a usable image of Swindon Lock, but here is a picture of the shops.  Mr Smith’s Chip Shop is not the cheapest, but my fish, chips and mushy peas was very nice.  Swindon Convenience Store is also useful for top up shopping.

Swindon Shops
Shops in Swindon, Staffordshire.

Travelling on is Hinksford Lock

And there is another pumping station nearby.

Hinksford Pumping Station was built in 1900 (according to the plaque above the doors) for the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company.  However, the company’s online history tells: “The South Staffordshire Water Order of 1901 further allowed it to build pumping stations and other works at Hinksford, Trent Valley, Brindley Bank, Pipe Hill and Maple Brook. It extended its supply to more than 117,000 houses, all under the care of the company’s watermen, or “turncocks” as they were called.”

Clearly, this was part of a massive investment in the water supply infrastructure as sanitary conditions began to improve in the Black Country.  I have found nothing more about this pumping station online.

To view the front of the pumping station requires a short excursion from the canal at bridge 38, Hinksford Bridge.  There are moorings opposite Hinksford Wharf, upstream of the bridge.

Greensforge Lock

Another circular weir, only partly enclosed.

Gothersley Lock

Another shape for the weir, and another vicious current.

Stewpony Lock

Just beyond Stourton Junction, where the Stourbridge Canal begins, lies Stewpony Lock, where the change in levels is ten feet.

Stewpony Lock weir 190803
Stewpony Lock weir

Another circular, fully walled weir.

Well, that’s it for now.  Most of the weirs are circular, but there are some other shapes, and less elegant channels.  Perhaps they were still experimenting to come up with the best design.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s