Dudley Tunnels get award

Published: Thursday, 24 March 2011

ONE of the Midlands canals' hidden treasures is to be recognised as being amongst the most significant sites of Britain's transport heritage.

Dudley Tunnels have been awarded a Red Wheel plaque by the Transport Trust in recognition of their status as ‘a unique complex of tunnels developed since 1778 for limestone and coal mining, for through navigation and increasingly for tourism'.

Most important

The most important locations are being marked on site by the award of special commemorative plaques, known as 'Red Wheels'—with Dudley Canal Tunnels being the first 'Red Wheel' site in the West Midlands.  Above picture by permission of www.upthecut.co.uk

The plaque at Dudley will be unveiled by British Waterways Chairman Tony Hales, on Friday 1st April, supported by Transport Trust President Sir William McAlpine, the Mayor of Dudley Cllr. Peter Miller and Dudley Canals Trust Chairman Vic Smallshire.

The ceremony will also be attended by members of the Dudley Canal Trust, restorers and custodians of the site, together with representatives of local tourism bodies and canal societies.

Transport limestone

The tunnel system under Castle Hill was originally constructed to help transport limestone from the mines. The main Dudley Tunnel was completed in 1792 to link Lord Dudley's limestone mines with the Birmingham Canal network and was subsequently extended to meet the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. By 1840 the tunnel was carrying 41,000 boats a year.

With the development of the railways the canal fell into decline, and the tunnel was closed in 1962. Local campaigners including the Dudley Canal Trust stepped in to dredge the canal and reopen the tunnel.

Today the Dudley Canal Trust offers daily trips through the tunnel system giving a unique insight into the history of Dudley and the limestone mines. The main tunnel still sees some boat traffic but the majority of pleasure boats now use the wider Netherton Tunnel