The Lost Loops of the Birmingham Canal Navigations

Rediscovering the loop canals created by the building of Telford’s “New Main Line”, featuring the Soho Branch, Cape Arm, and Avery Arm

BCN Old and New Main Line

The original Birmingham Canal was a “contour canal”, following the twisting and turning contours of the land. This first canal was such a success that a “through route” was needed to cope with the traffic. This through route was Telford’s New Main Line. It cut right through, crossing the old canal at several places, and turning the remaining parts of the old canals into loops.

These loops were important, they still served the local industry. Many factories had their own canal arms for loading and unloading.

Andy Tidy starts this third part of the series at the Icknield Port Loop.

Icknield Port Loop

After Oozells Street Loop, the first loop, coming from Gas Street Basin, is Icknield Port Loop. An older name is “Icknield Port Road Wharf Loop”. The loop connects to Rotton Park Reservoir (Edgbaston Reservoir), and a large C&RT maintenance yard, now a listed building. Well wort a visit, by boat or on foot!

The area is now part of a huge redevelopment project. The crumbling red brick factories around the loop may have already gone by the time you read this. The planned houses might look nicer, but another part of the BCN’s industrial past will be gone forever.  

Icknield Port Look and Soho Branch

Icknield Port Look and Soho Branch

Soho (Winson Green) Loop

The next loop, after crossing the New Main Line, coming from Icknield Port Loop, is the Soho Loop. Another name for it is Winson Green Loop, and it’s right next to the probably better known Winson Green Prison.

Hockley Port

The Soho Loop leads to Hockley Port Junction and the Soho Branch. Another, older name is Birmingham Heath Branch. It is now a small branch with residential moorings, but it used to be a hive of activity. Matthew Bolton‘s huge Soho Factory (Soho Foundry), which pioneered mass manufacturing, was served by the canal. The IWA’s Blue Book describes it as a group of workshops where craftsmen produced jewellery and silverware in high quality. In later years, a railway interchange basin was built. The stables still stand, and are used by a youth centre.

Cape Arm

The Cape Arm is, unfortunately, one of the lost arms, although parts of it are still in water.


WORK IN PROGRESS – more to come!



Icknield Port Look and Soho Branch

Icknield Port Look and Soho Branch


BCN Soho Loop, from the Richard Dean map

BCN Soho Loop, from the Richard Dean map


The Avery Arm





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