The development of the Canal Network
The canals of the Birmingham district were designed and constructed with two purposes in view, firstly to provide a cheap means of transport for coal, iron, limestone, etc. and heavy manufactured goods. Secondly, to connect the rising manufacturing district of the Midlands with the chief sea routes.
The Birmingham Canal was begun in 1766 and completed in 1769, and by 1772, had joined the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal near Wolverhampton, thus linking Birmingham with the coal fields of the Black Country. This canal through, Smethwick and Oldbury, came very near to Handsworth. Immediately after the opening of the canal the local price of coal fell by half.
The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal joined the River Severn at Stourport for transport of goods on the river to Bristol.
The Trent and Mersey Canal was completed in 1777. Many factories were constructed along the canal banks, many with their own loading basins. By 1855, many canals had been opened over the whole area of the Midlands and the Birmingham Canal Navigations had become the centre of the national canals system. The canal network, easily available for Handsworth, Smethwick, Oldbury and West Bromwich, contributed greatly to the prosperity of the whole Midland area.