Steam, the canals and pollution

There are two views dating from 1847 and showing how polluting, steam-powered mills and factories clustered along the canal banks, causing the central area of Birmingham to become very polluted and leading to the flight of the middle class. The first, western, view shows the canals from the NIA to Snow Hill. The second, eastern, view shows the canals from Snow Hill to Aston, Ashted and the Warwick Bar down Digbeth. To aid interpretation the canals are highlighted in blue, whilst factory chimneys are marked in red. (NB. Should you wish to print out this page, you may need to set your printer to landscape mode.)

A. Site of the NIA.   B. This is where Centenary Square is now. Although it doesn't show up on the picture, there were two big canal basins in what is now Centenary Square.   C. Gas Street Basin.   D. These are the former basins that ran the full length of Broad Street from Gas Street to Suffolk Street, behind the modern TSB.   E. Worcester Wharf. The Mailbox is here now.   F. This is the former Newhall Wharf.   G. St Paul's Square.    H. The modern railway arch crosses the canal here.

A. Aston junction.   B. Site of the present-day Aston Science Park.   C. Ashted locks.   D. Curzon Street Station. The original northern terminus of the world's first trunk railway, the London & Birmingham, it opened on 9th April 1838. Although no longer connected to the railway network, the imposing main building still stands in New Canal Street, opposite Millennium Point. It is the world's oldest surviving main line railway terminus.  E. The bridge carrying the London railway over the canal. It is still there, though considerably widened to accommodate extra tracks.  F. The Gun Barrel Proof House. By law, since 1813 all guns made in Birmingham have had to be tested here. Visible from the train, it is a charming building, to be found at the bottom of Banbury Street.   G. The Typhoo basin behind the former Typhoo tea factory in Bordesley Street. The basin is accessible from Fazeley Street.   H. The Warwick Bar, where the Birmingham Canal met the Warwick & Birmingham, which in 1929 merged with several other canals to become the Grand Union Canal linking Birmingham and London.

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