The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal winds past red sandstone cliffs above the little River Stour as it potters uphill from the inland port of Stourport on the River Severn to the outskirts of Wolverhampton. It crosses the more open woodland and heaths of ancient Cannock Chase before a slow descent to join the Trent and Mersey Canal at Great Haywood. Commonly called the ‘Staffs and Worcs’ (pronounced ‘Wusts’) it never takes the straight road, always choosing an unhurried route through some fine English scenery and heritage.

Stourport Basin and clock tower

Stourport is a fascinating inland port, much of it little changed from the eighteenth century. The four interlinked basins and warehouses are where cargoes would be moved between coastal sailing boats (‘trows’) and narrowboats, with a collection of narrow and broad locks to the river.

The old Tontine Hotel on a prime spot overlooking the Severn (now apartments) was built by the Canal Company in 1788 for the comfort of their directors and to impress their competitors! The famous clock tower atop one of the many fine old surrounding buildings has a pleasant quarterly chime which doesn’t always please moorers who are light sleepers! Multimillion pound developments include the reopening of the infilled Mart Lane basin, albeit as a smaller ‘Lichfield basin’ surrounded by 4 storey apartments.

Kidderminster was a centre for carpet production and is now the terminus of the Severn Valley Railway, watch out for steam locomotives crossing the viaduct below the town. Kinver village and the surrounding sandstone hills get many visitors, as does the Vine pub which sits right alongside the lock at Kinver. The short Cookley tunnel between Kinver and Kidderminster is unusual with part of the village sitting right on top. There is an even shorter tunnel at Dunsley. North of Kinver at Stewponney the Stourbridge Canal branches off to the east, immediately beginning its steep climb of nearly 30 locks to get onto the Birmingham Canal Navigation through the Netherton Tunnel.

Bratch locksThe Staffs and Worcs has two sets of unusual locks, at Bratch and Botterham. The two locks at Botterham locks are a staircase, locks placed close together which share gates. The Bratch locks are not a staircase but there is only a few feet between them. There are side ponds which take the water which empties from the upper lock. There is an fine old octagonal toll house where the lock keeper is based. Both sets of locks can be confusing to work through for the first time but there are instructions posted and Bratch normally has a lock-keeper and volunteers on hand to help during the summer.

Kidderminster linocut by Eric Gaskell

Canal Rings

The Four Counties Ring includes the northern section of the Staffs & Worcs and links to the Trent & Mersey Canal and Shropshire Union Canal. 1 or 2 weeks to cruise. See our Four Counties Ring Cruising Guide.

The Stourport Ring includes the southern section of the Staffs & Worcs and links to the River SevernWorcester & Birmingham Canal and BCN. 1 week to cruise. See our Stourport Ring Cruising Guide.

At Aldersley Junction there is another entrance to the BCN, this one climbing the Woverhampton 21 flight. Immediately afterwards comes Autherley Junction where the Shropshire Union Canal takes its (almost) straight line over embankments and through cuttings to Chester and the north west. In contrast the Staffs and Worcs continues meandering and enters a half mile narrow cutting where the rock was too hard for the early builders to excavate more than a single boat’s width! Boats have to pass in a few passing places. The canal now skirts the edge of suburban Wolverhampton and then enters the wide open Staffordshire farmland of Cannock Chase, often accompanied by the noisy M6 motorway. At Hatherton junction there was another link to the BCN, there are restoration plans. At Gailey there’s an unusual lock keeper’s tower and the old A5 ‘Watling Street’ from London to Holyhead crosses the canal. This is the end of the summit level and it is now downhill for the rest of the way.

Stafford which has many fine old buildings and is worth a visit. At Tixall Wide the canal opens out to become more like a tree lined lake with views of Tixall Gatehouse, a very popular overnight mooring. The Shugborough Estate is nearby. The Trent & Mersey canal is joined at Great Haywood, built in 1772 at the same time as the Staffs and Worcs, both part of Brindley’s ‘Grand Cross’ of canals connecting the rivers Severn, Trent, Mersey and Thames. The Staffs and Worcs was originally very successful but lost traffic to newer canals like the Shropshire Union and Worcester and Birmingham built to give more direct routes. However the canal was one of very few still making a profit when nationalized in 1948, run from the same Wolverhampton offices for over 170 years!

Key Facts

Narrow Canal: 46 miles, 45 locks, 1 week to cruise

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

Facebook | Twitter

About | Terms | Privacy| Refunds & Returns| Sitemap | Contact Us

With over 800 pages, this website uses cookies to record visitor behaviour using Google Analytics. More information on Privacy Page. Page last updated: 17/08/2023.