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The Dudley Canal is a canal passing though Dudley in the West Midlands of England. The canal is part of the English/Welsh connected network of navigable inland waterways, and in particular forms part of the popular Stourport Ring narrowboat cruising route.
From Tipton, the original canal ("Line no 1") passes through the Dudley Tunnel, then the short Grazebrook Arm leaves to the south-east. After Parkhead Locks, a later extension ("Line No 2") leaves at Park Head Junction, from where Line No 1 continues though the Merry Hill Shopping Centre (built on the site of the former Round Oak Steelworks) before meeting the Stourbridge Canal end-on at the bottom of the eight Delph Locks.
The first canal connecting Birmingham to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal (and hence the River Severn, River Trent, and River Mersey) was the Birmingham Canal. This joined the S&W at Aldersley, near Wolverhampton. The Dudley canal arose as a rival scheme to connect Birmingham to the Severn by a junction with the S&W much further south, near Stourbridge. Originally, the new link was to be a single canal. But eventually, the route was proposed to Parliament as two connected canals: the Stourbridge Canal at the southern end of the route and the Dudley Canal at the Birmingham end. The Acts of Parliament permitting the construction of the two canals were passed on the same day in 1776. The Dudley Canal would link the Birmingham Canal Navigations, at Tipton Junction, near Tipton to the Stourbridge Canal, thus completing the new link from Birmingham and the Black Country to the River Severn.
The original Dudley Canal was renamed "Line no 1" when it was extended by the new "Line no 2" linking the original canal at Park Head Junction (near Netherton), via Halesowen and the tunnel at Lapal, to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak, Birmingham, thereby bypassing the congested canals of central Birmingham.
In 1846 the Dudley Canal Company merged with the Birmingham Canal Navigations.
In 1858 the Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal made a connection through the Netherton Tunnel at Windmill End Junction. This bypassed a loop around Bumble Hole, and the cut-off loop became the Bumble Hole Branch Canal and Bushboil Arm after a collapse of the canal severed part of the loop.,br> Also in 1858, a short (0.5Km) canal, the Two Locks Line, was built to make a shortcut link between the No 1 Canal and No 2 Canal. A wharf was constructed for the Birmingham Battery and Metal Company in Selly Oak.
After repeated collapses, Lapal Tunnel was finally abandoned in 1917 leaving a short stretch navigable between Selly Oak and a brick works at California until 1953, after which it was drained and filled in. The two-locks line was filled in during the 1900s, due to mining subsidence. The line is now under a late 20th century industrial estate, and only the junctions, towpath bridges and a few yards of watered but unnavigable canal remain.
After a period of disuse following nationalisation in 1948, Line No 1 was rescued by the Dudley Canal Trust. The Dudley tunnel reopened in 1973, and a short arm north of the tunnel runs into what is now the Black Country Museum, from where visitors can take boat trips into the tunnel.
Part of the Lapal Tunnel was unearthed during the construction of the M5 motorway during the 1960s and the void was filled with concrete. The Lapal Canal Trust is working on the restoration of parts of the lost canal and to replace the tunnels with a completely new line, passing over the hill.