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
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!
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.
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  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
- Bean Cars were made in factories in Dudley, Worcestershire, and Coseley, Staffordshire, England, between 1919 and 1929. For a few years in the early 1920s Bean outsold Austin and Morris although their success was not sustainable.
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 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.
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/
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.