Stourbridge Locomotives Tour
This has the potential to be a very big tour because much of the history of the Stourbridge Lion can be found in museums in the USA, where the Lion is celebrated for being the first locomotive to run in America. Please see our Stourbridge Lion page for more information. Also, the other famous Stourbridge locomotive, the Agenoria, which can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York, so be prepared to travel! But the main purpose of this page is to suggest places you can visit to learn more about these extraordinary machines in and around the immediate Stourbridge area, and the obvious starting point has to be the foundry where they were built. We are no experts here at stourbridge.com so if anyone knows of any other places of interest do let us know and we will include it in the site.
If you are making a special journey to the area, hopefully the map below will help you to find the foundry. You can get within yards of it from Lowndes road, off Enville Street but there is also a great view of it from the canal towpath, there is normally plenty of parking in Canal Street by the Bonded Warehouse and the foundry is a couple of hundred metres along the path, see map below. Be prepared for a sorry sight though, the building is now very delapidated and this website along with lots of local individuals have been campaigning to save the building for years, it really is my fear that one day we will wake up and find a pile of rubble and a major piece of industrial history gone forever. From there you can continue along the towpath to the Ruskin glass Centre (about half an hour to walk) or even continue to the Red House Cone museum (50 min to 1 hour).
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View of the foundry from the canal towpath
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View of the foundry from Lowndes Road
(click photo for larger version)
But as this is the locomotives page you can jump back in the car (or better still get on your bike!) and head up to Pensnett to find the remaining bits of the Shutt End railway where the Agenoria loco was in service from 1829 to 1864, but it has to be said there is little to see these days, as most of the area around the line has been redeveloped. Alternatively you could head for Ashwood Marina, which is where the line ended at the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. Click here for the Shutt End page
1 - Canal Company Offices Dating from 1849, this imposing building probably replaced an earlier, smaller structure. It was constructed for the Stourbridge Canal Company, who had owned the canal and adjacent land since the 1770s. The company would have been particularly busy and prosperous in 1829, before competition from the railways began in ernest. Behind the offices ran a railway line from Stourbridge Town Station serving the iron works.
2 - Weighbridge Situated outside the offices, this is where the company would have weighted loads before they were allowed on to boats. Every company had its own scale of charges. Before this weighbridge was installed, more primitive methods were used. The weight of a vehicle and its load would be shown on a scale inside the weighbridge office.
3 - The Bonded Warehouse Originally built in 1779 and extended in 1849, the Bonded Warehouse is a robust canalside building with walls up to 18 inches in thickness and with internal beams supported on cast iron columns. In 1829 it was a simple, two storey building with no arcading on to the wharf. Hoists within the "lucams" at fromt and rear of the building originally lifted goods to all levels. Virtually derelict in the 1970s, the Bonded Warehouse has been fully restored and is now a successful centre for leisure activities and the arts.
4 - Wharfside crane This crane is of a standard waterside pattern whose design probably hasn't chnaged much since Rastrick's time. It was erected on the site of a former crane.
5 - Former canal tunnel The canal once continued a further 230 yards to a Great Western Railway transhipment basin, through a low tunnel. A railway branch line from Stourbridge Station decended steeply to the basin, with a spur along the canal bank to John Bradley & Co's works.
6 - Old wharf remains By repute, the Stour was the first West Midlands waterway to be made navigable, when in 1665 Andrew Yarranton "improved" it by building "flash" locks, some of which are still visible along the Dick Brook. By means of these inefficient locks, navigation was possible up to Stourbridge town for about 20 years untill floods in the 1680s destroyed much of the work, and funds couldn't be raised for repair. "I made the river navigable from Stourbridge to Kidderminster and carried down many hundred tons of coales, and I laid out near one thousand pounds in scheme for making the Stour navigable, and there it was obstructed for want of money." according to Yarranton. A recent archaeological dig has uncovered what could be those of Yarranton's town wharf.
7 - Site of Young's steel manufactory This was the site where, as early as 1835, one Joseph Young was manufacturing steel. This site is therefore important to the history of metal production in Stourbridge.
8 - The Narrows In order to avoid the terminal basin being left high and dry should a breach occur elsewhere on the canal branch, "stop planks" were inserted in grooves at this narrow point.
9 - The "New" Foundry, Lowndes Road From this point on the trail can be seen the "New Foundry", described as such in 1821. Built in 1820 by John Urpeth Rastrick himself, and thus of historical and architectural significance, it replaced an earlier octagonal foundry and was listed in 1983. It is a rectangular, two storey building enclosing a working space 100 feet by 45 feet, this being made possible by Rastrick's pioneering wrought iron roof trusses, more fireproof and stronger than wooden beams. Although now surrounded by more modern buildings, its decorative features are still apparent. Here, in 1828, were built the Stourbridge Lion and the Agenoria, the former destined for Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the latter for the Shutt End Railway, a few miles away.
10 - Cast iron plates By the canal side at this point are recently uncovered iron plates, described as being former boiler plating probably from the ironworks, a useful by-product of iron production.
11, 12 Ironworks bridges At the bend where two basins leading into the ironworks, each entered beneath a bridge. The first bridge is a cast iron structure, cast at Coalbrookdale because Bradley's was, at the time, primarily a manufacturer of iron bars and hoops. It is most unusual for castings to bear the name of their customer as well as manufacturer. The second bridge is a brick roving bridge with iron plates along the parapet and enclosing a barge arch into the works.
13 - Ironworks railway The plan above shows the route of a railway from the New Foundry to the canalside, from where iron products were loaded onto boats by crane. This railway is shown on 1885 OS maps, but had gone by 1903. A small section of track still remains. It seems possible that both the Lion and the Agenoria began their journeys from Stourbridge along this track to be loaded onto boats on the canal.
14 - Riverside This early nineteen century house was built for the manager of the Stourbridge ironworks, later John Bradley & Co. Its "blind" windows are notable as is the size of the roof slates. Untill recently it even had an iron linepost in the garden. The only access to the house is through the ironworks, hence the lack of appeal as a dwelling today and its deterioration. If fully restored, it and its outbuildings and garden could have formed the nucleus of a permanent Bradley, Foster and Rastrick heritage centre, but the building is in such a poor state now that is now highly unlikely.
15 - Ironworks wharf crane John Bradley's 1800 lease of land from the Stourbridge Canal company was "in order that they might erect a forge, steam engine, workshops and other buildings thereon". A further lease in 1808 was conditional on all supplies of coal to the ironworks being brought by canal, very lucrative for the Canal Company in that at least 10,000 tons of coal a year would have been unloaded at the ironworks wharf. A crane base remains, having been uncovered as part of an M.S.C. scheme.
16 - Dry Dock The wooden narrowboats that served the ironworks were probably built and repaired here, in fact the old workshops, now in ruins and with an early iron roof structure can be seen to the rear. A large anvil was set in part of the workshops, confirming their role. Water flow into or out of the dry dock was controlled by a system of sluices.
17 - Overflow channel when the level of water in the canal rises, usually after heavy rain, the overflow runs over the weir and down the overflow channel into the lower level of the River Stour. Water from the Dry Dock was also drained into this channel. Across the River Stour from the western end of the overflow channel, 160 maple trees have been planted, to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the American connection (c 1989).
Special thanks to Dudley Planning Services for providing this information