Mad Pies and The Tipton Slasher

The next day, the rest of the group were returning through Netherton Tunnel to join us at Tipton. But they had to take a slight detour via the Gower Branch to make sure the boats were pointing in the right direction for the following day.

Fortunately, we did not have to move our boats very far at all to moor up with the others in Tipton which is just around the corner from the Black Country Museum

Moored near the Fountain Inn, Tipton

Moored near the Fountain Inn, Tipton

That evening we went out for a meal at the nearby (and famous) Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory …… which does have a veggie option, just the one!

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g187065-d1077385-i57495722-Mad_O_Rourkes_Pie_Factory-Dudley_West_Midlands_England.html#last

There are quite a few other notable phenomena for which Tipton is famous.

  • The Tipton Slasher is the most spoken about, and no he was not a mass murderer but a bare knuckle boxing champ called William Perry. He was Champion of England from 1850-57. Perry’s most famous bout was against American Charles Freeman on December 6, 1842.The Tipton Slasher was a big man in the 19th century, but he was dwarfed by his US opponent. The fight which ended in a draw after 74 rounds.

There is a statue to Perry, known as ‘the Tipton Slasher’ which can be found in the Coronation Gardens – not far from our moorings.

The statue of Wm Perry in Tipton

The statue of Wm Perry in Tipton

Perry was born in Park Lane, Tipton, of canal narrowboat parents Timothy and Sarah Perry, the third of five children, who regularly fought fellow boatmen on the many local canals in order to be first through the lock gates.

  • The Fountain Inn received Grade II listed building status in 1984 on recognition of its association with Perry as it was there that he had his headquarters.
  • James Watt built his first steam engine [2] in or very near Tipton in the 1770s, which was used to pump water from the mines. In 1780, James Keir and Alexander Blair set up a chemical works there, making vast quantities of alkali and soap.
  • Tipton was one of the key towns in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, and even during the 18th century it had established its first key industries. This included the world’s first successful steam pumping engine, which was erected at Conygre Coalworks in 1712 by industrialist Thomas Newcomen. The working replica engine is at the Black Country Museum

The massive expansion in iron and coal industries led to the population of Tipton expanding rapidly through the 19th century, going from 4,000 at the beginning of the century to 30,000 at the end. Tipton gained a reputation as being “the quintessence of the Black Country” because chimneys of local factories belched heavy pollution into the air, whilst houses and factories were built side by side. Most of the traditional industries which once dominated the town have since disappeared.

“Yet what appears to be impoverished and dreary, Tipton is an area of Inexhaustible wealth – iron and steel” ……Rev Luke Booker, the vicar of Dudley

From :-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean_Cars

For an old film of Tipton and loads of other facts, visit – https://inlanding.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/sighting-the-old-boat/

  • St Martin’s Parish Church was opened on Lower Church Lane in 1797, but closed in 1988 after nearly 200 years in use. The church was known locally as the “Pepperbox” due to the dome shaped top of its tower; however this feature was lost when the tower was rebuilt in 1963. It replaced the medieval church at Summerhill. It was converted to a house and featured in one of the Grand Designs programmes on ITV 4.

Once recovered from our pie suppers at O’Rourkes we set off the next morning to join the New Main Line at Factory Jct. It was a lovely morning and a good chance to look at the area before bringing the boat through.

Malthouse Stables at Factory Junction

Malthouse Stables at Factory Junction

Malthouse Stables was built in 1845 and consisted of 14 cobbled stables with storage on the floor above. Use as stables ceased in the 1920’s and the building fell into disrepair. Restored in the 1980’s it is now a Community Recreation Centre.

At Factory Juncton, Factory Locks are a group of 3 locks which mark the start of Thomas Telford’s younger and straighter New Main Line. The locks raise the canal 20ft’ to the Wolverhampton ‘Level’. Their name refers to the James Keir Alkali Works which ran adjacent to the canal. Locks 2 and 3 are unusual in that the large pounds are offset to the side to alleviate the volume of traffic by allowing boats to pass each other between locks.

Factory Lock 1. The first time I have seen a bridge over a lock with a gap between the end of the bridge and the top of the lock walls  to pass the towline through. Brilliant!

Factory Lock 1. The first time I have seen a bridge over a lock with a gap between the end of the bridge and the top of the lock walls to pass the towline through. Brilliant!

And another gem. Boatman's steps on the way in to or out of the lock

And another gem. Boatman’s steps on the way in to or out of the lock

Back past the old stable block in the early morning sunshine

Back past the old stable block in the early morning sunshine

And a much faded advertisement  for boaters accommodation not far from Mad O'Rourkes

And a much faded advertisement for accommodation for boaters and their horses not far from Mad O’Rourkes

The entrance to Caggy's Boatyard on the New Main Line

The entrance to Caggy’s Boatyard on the New Main Line

Caggy Stevens was the last BCN working boatman and one of the last people to work with horses. When asked what size were his animals? “dunno” he said “they was just ‘osses”.

BCN canal carrying in later years was often reduced to movements of spoil and rubbish. Caggy Stevens contnued this trade long after other commercial carriers had transferred to road haulage or given up carrying altogether. He used a varied collection of boats, many short-term leases from others, and were usually tugged by ‘Caggy’, however he also arranged the odd horse boat movement from time to time.

For some photos of Caggy Stevens : https://inlanding.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/bcn-tugs-series-caggy/

This cute boat was noored outside Caggy's

This cute boat was noored outside Caggy’s

One of the local characters

One of the local characters

Aqueduct

Dudley Port Station Aqueduct

The New Main Line.... a long straight, as far as the eye can see

The New Main Line…. a long straight, as far as the eye can see

Landscape view of the New Main Line

Landscape view of the New Main Line

Dudley Port Junction looking down the Netherton Tunnel Branch

Dudley Port Junction looking down the Netherton Tunnel Branch. Netherton Tunnel was the last tunnel to be cut in the UK

A Dudley heron

A Dudley heron

At Pudding Green Junction we turned off the New Main Line and onto The Old Main Line to head north east through Ryders Green Locks. At Ocker Hill the Tame Valley Canal turns easterly and I would join it at the end of the week to descend through the Perry Bar locks on my way back to Fazeley. But today I carried straight on up the Walsall Canal for our mooring destination near Moorcroft Junction. The Walsall Canal passes around the eastern side of Ocker Hill. Ocker Hill is referred to as “Ocker Bonk” in local dialect, the word “bonk” meaning “bank.”

Ocker Hill seems to be an area for a cycle development and then demolition with an ever changing skyline …….

A landmark water pumping station, one of the first of its kind, was opened at Ocker Hill in 1784 to re-circulate water from the nearby Walsall Canal. The Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch brought water to the pumps through a tunnel. It was then pumped up the Ocker Hill Branch of the Birmingham Canal (the Wednesbury Oak Loop). It was in use for 164 years, finally closing in 1948.

This was replaced by a development of three multi-storey tower blocks as well as two maisonette blocks in 1964. Over a period of time from 1990 to 2011 these were demolished and replaced by low rise housing.

A landmark in Ocker Hill was the Ocker Hill Power Station electric power station, which included three cooling towers. These were levelled in 1985. Housing has since been built on the site.

But the church lives on! St Mark’s parish church was built in 1849 to serve the newly developed area, and is still in existence today.

At the end of the day we all gathered close to Moorcroft Junction on the Walsall Canal

At the end of the day we all gathered close to Moorcroft Junction on the Walsall Canal

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One thought on “Mad Pies and The Tipton Slasher

  1. Only going on what the others said and having to take a bike off the roof in the tunnel I thought. They couldn’t moor in Bumble Hole and had to go further. Maybe it was somewhere else. I’ll contact them and find out. The blog will of course be amended!

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