Coventry’s Canal History Coventry
The Coventry Canal was constructed between 1768 and 1790 to bring coal from the North Warwickshire coalfields to the manufacturing city of Coventry.
It was engineered by James Brindley whose statue overlooks the canal in the Coventry Canal Basin.
The low bridge at the entrance to the Basin was built in 1768 with the Weighbridge Office and the coal vaults built in 1837 (which have now been turned into a modern restaurant).
The canal runs 38 miles (61 km) to Fradley Junction near Burton-on-Trent. Although started in 1768, the final stages of the canal (Fazeley to Fradley) were not constructed until 1790.
Britain's First Production Car Built Here
Many of Coventry’s employers chose to build their factories beside the canal. The Daimler Car Factory built Britain’s first production car in 1897 - all that is left of the factory is the powerhouse, just north of Coventry Basin.
Further along the canal in Foleshill Industrial Park can be seen the Courthauld Clock Tower, all that remains of the site where the world’s first man-made fibres were developed and manufactured.
The Top Shops
Near the second bridge over the canal are the original Cash’s ‘Top Shops’ – these have now been turned into flats. The ‘Top Shops’ were built in 1857 by Quaker businessman Joseph Cash to house silk weavers.
John and Joseph Cash started manufacturing silk ribbons in the 1840s. Silk weaving was a cottage industry carried out by Huguenot refugees living in the countryside around Coventry. The weavers owned their own looms but the manufacturers provided the silk for them to turn into jacquard cloth. The manufacturers paid a fixed price for each piece of cloth woven.
The Cash brothers decided that their weavers could produce more cloth if their looms could be steam driven so they built a collection of cottages for the weavers to live in with well-lit workshops upstairs for the looms. A steam driven beam engine in a central courtyard powered the looms. The workshops were roofed with glass allowing the weavers to work from dawn to dusk thus increasing production.
Cheap imports caused a decline in the silk weaving industry so Cash’s turned to production of narrow frillings, Victorian silk commemoratives and woven nametapes. They earned a Royal Patent for their nametapes.
The further the canal travels north on its way to the coalfields, the more rural it becomes.
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Sutton Stop
The Oxford Canal joins at Hawkesbury Junction where there is a stop lock. The local name for this area is ‘Sutton Stop’. The Junction was constructed in 1802. The Pump House constructed in 1827 to pump water up a 114 foot (34.7 metre) shaft into the canal has been preserved.
Getting to Hawkesbury Junction
Walk along the towpath towards the Junction; or If driving from Coventry – take the B4113 Foleshill Road (north), turn right into Oakmoor Road, under the M6, then right into Sutton Stop before the canal bridge.
A companion article in this website is Coventry Canal Basin Walk.
Google Maps - Coventry Canal History



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