Black Country Landscapes - The Stourbridge Canal & Glass Works Walk

The Stourbridge Canal

Easily accessible and a pleasure to explore the Stourbridge Canal links the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal with the Dudley Canal to Birmingham and the Black Country.

Stourbridge, has a rich history in the glass industry, particularly in the production of high-quality crystal and glassware. While the industry has seen a decline over the years, there are still some companies and products associated with Stourbridge's glassmaking heritage.

Stourbridge Glass: Stourbridge Glass was a historic glassworks in the town, known for its production of fine crystal and glassware. Although it has closed down, its legacy lives on in the form of antique Stourbridge glass pieces, which are highly sought after by collectors.

Thomas Webb & Sons: Thomas Webb & Sons was one of the most famous glassmaking companies in Stourbridge. They were renowned for their high-quality crystal products, including vases, stemware, and decorative glass items. The company operated from the early 19th century until the late 20th century. Their glassware is highly collectible.

Royal Brierley Crystal: Royal Brierley Crystal is a contemporary British crystal and glassware company that carries on the tradition of glassmaking in Stourbridge. They produce a wide range of crystal items, including glassware, decanters, and decorative pieces. Royal Brierley is known for its quality and craftsmanship.The canal has always been associated with the glass making industry, once over twenty glass works thrived in this area.

Stourbridge Glass Museum

Caithness Glass: Caithness Glass is another contemporary glass company with a presence in Stourbridge. They produce a variety of glass products, including paperweights, vases, and decorative glassware. While they are not exclusive to Stourbridge, they continue the tradition of fine glass craftsmanship.

Whitefriars Glass: Whitefriars Glass was a prominent glassmaking company in London but had ties to Stourbridge as well. They were known for their coloured glass and innovative designs. Although the original company is no longer in operation, Whitefriars glass pieces are highly collectible.

Glass Museums: Stourbridge is home to the Ruskin Glass Centre and the Red House Glass Cone, both of which serve as museums and centers for promoting glass art and craftsmanship. They host exhibitions and workshops related to glassmaking. The canal was built in 1779 to transport coal into the region and then extended to help transport the world renowned Stourbridge glass out.

Stourbridge basin was enlarged in 1807 to cope with the sheer volume of traffic from this industrious area, even today its still busy, repurposed for pubs with outdoor dining and narrow boat moorings. 

Just off Stourbridge ringroad you will find the Old Wharf Inn. Its a great place to start your walk of the canal, about five miles with excellent towpaths and about fifteen locks. The landscape is quite varied with lots of glimpses into our industrial heritage along the way, theres a pub at each end so refreshments are plenty.

Black Country Landscapes - The Stourbridge Canal & Glass Works Walk

more Black Country Landscapes in the book "As If It Were Yesterday" now available in the store.

Photography by Simon Donnelly


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The Telegraph

Peter Donnelly's prize-winning essay offers a brilliant example of how local, and often unprepossessing, backgrounds can provide the material for an outstanding colour story. All his photographs were taken within a few miles of his home in Birmingham, Brierley Hill, at Blackheath, Bilston and Cradley Heath. He took them over a period of several months while on weekend walks along the deserted banks of the local canals. "Most evenings I never met a soul," Mr Donnelly recalls. "There was an air of isolation, and often desolation, over the whole scene, and this is what I have tried to capture in my photographs." The camera used was a Pentakon F and the film Agfa and Kodachrome.
by Dr Carl Chinn MBE
Peter Donnelly was born in Birmingham, educated at Corpus Christi junior school, Stechford and later at the holy rosary, Saltley. While at the Holy Rosary he took and passed a drawing examination for Moseley school of art at which he spent several years tuning his artistic talent.

On leaving the art school he joined Birmingham printers, Sam Currier & Son in brook street, St Pauls square, as an apprentice commercial artist. After completing his apprenticeship he left Sam Currier and worked at various printers and advertising agencies gaining valuable experience before starting with his working associate Bob Burns (typographer). Donnelly Burns Graphic Design studio was in Chapel Street, Lye before moving to larger premises in Cradley heath then Harborne.

Before starting the business Peter entered and won the Sunday Telegraph national photographic competition. He submitted an essay of photographs illustrating the demise of the Birmingham and Black Country canals with fellow photographer Norman Fletcher. To Peter and Norman, Midlands photographers and photographic societies seemingly had ignored the once great industrial arena that surrounded their everyday lives.

What an arena! what powerful exiting subjects for the camera; neglected canals, weed and web woven towpaths, old worn out narrow boats – redundant and half submerged in silted murky brown waters; steam trains rattling, hissing and bumping their waggons into line and the rail men who worked the line at that time.

Old foundries, run down factories and scrapyards – the industrial flotsam of a once great manufacturing region. Many six o’clock early morning starts were walked and many miles covered by Peter and his camera.

Now over 60 years later, photographs taken during those early excursions are being published - looking back at the time, long before the surge of change and reconstruction 1962 - 1965