Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hockley Port Interchange Basin

Itchy feet had us on the move, but not before an evening canal walk around the vicinity of Gas Street Basin.

We only moved 1.5 miles turning off the “Main Line” onto “Soho Loop”.  This area shows it’s industrial past.

Jan noticed all the vegetation sprouting from the chimney whilst the major cracks in the brickwork were my concern.  There is a short branch off the Soho Loop leading to Hockley Port where there are residential moorings, a dry dock and boater facilities.

Waiouru moored at the facilities block taking on water.

Now for the historical stuff….

Apparently Soho Loop is the path of the original canal but became a loop when the canal was straightened.  Hockley Port was a transport interchange point. It actually consist of three short arms which are now all residential moorings.

The port was adjacent to Mathew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory (built 1765).  Even before the age of canals Birmingham was a centre for making iron and steel.  Initially charcoal was used and as a consequence the surrounding countryside was deforested.  Then coal was discovered in Warwickshire and Staffordshire so coke was used in the process.  The Birmingham area became known as the “Black Country” because of the many forges, factories, and air pollution.  Mathew Boulton was the son of a metal smith and became a partner of James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine.  Between them they manufactured many steam engines.  Boulton built a Manufactory in the Soho area when he minted coins and pressed other small and semi valuable items such as belt buckles and snuffboxes. The items had to be small but valuable because the site was far from the main modes of transport.  The canals came later.  These small items were known as “toys” and their manufacturers were “toymakers”.  In 1779 the canal reach his Manufactory which increased his prosperity as goods could now be transported by water as far as Bristol and Hull.

Interestingly, Watt & Boulton didn’t actually manufacture their steam engines.  The purchaser had to buy the components from subcontractors and have it assembled on site under the supervision of a Watt & Boulton employee.  Watt and Boulton not only made their money from the sale of the engine but also received 25% of the savings that the purchaser made from the efficiency achieved in the reduced need for coal to drive the engine.


Steve Ayres said...

Tom, I enjoy reading your Blog but Birmingham has never been in the Black Country, I don't know where you got that information from. You will have upset both people from Birmingham and the Black Country. Better keep a low profile if your heading towards Tipton as that at is the center of the Black Counrty. If you go there pay a visit to Tipton Library and all will be explained

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Steve

I guess it comes down to the definition of "the Birmingham area". I'm used to vast distances between places and I could almost throw a rock between Birmingham and Tipton :-)