News and information for our Members, Moorers and Friends




A Rough History of Hawne Basin, our neighbours and our Canal

Researched and presented by Roy Kenn

As part of the process of creating an Archive for our Trust, I realised that a large amount of historical information was being collected. All of the information is available in one form or another but no-one, as far as I know, has collated it into an easily-followed format.


So I found myself doing something which was completely unplanned, but which I believe to be of interest. I will do it in the old-fashioned (but better!) way and leave it to others to ‘electronify’ it if they so choose.


April 1798

The Earl of Dudley’s second canal was opened. It


linked with his original canal at Parkhead and


joined a newly-opened section of the Worcester


and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak. It passes


through Halesowen between Gosty Hill and Lapal


tunnels and its main cargoes were coal and lime. It


became known as the Dudley No. 2 Canal.


   Hawn Colliery was opened. The colliery was


situated on the western side of the River Stour and


access to the Dudley No. 2 was by means of a


horse-drawn tramway. A basin was built to allow


the coal to be loaded on the boats, and the basin


was known as Hawn Colliery Basin. At various


times the basin was known as Coombeswood


Basin, Heywood Basin and, by the railway,


Halesowen Basin. Around the turn of the century


an ‘e’ was added to the original ‘Hawn’. The basin


has been extended once, possibly twice, since it


was originally built and has evolved into the


Hawne Basin we have today.


A scoop wheel was installed on the western side of Lapal Tunnel. It was driven by a steam engine removed from Coombeswood, and this assisted passage through the tunnel. This engine operated until 1883 when it was replaced by a new engine which, in turn, operated until 1912


Dudley No. 2 Canal amalgamated with the Birmingham Canal Navigations.


A trial took place using a steam-driven tug in order


to tow boats through Gosty tunnel. The experiment


failed. Later, in 1913, a paraffin-fuelled Bolinder-


driven tug was trialled, this time successfully, and


this operated until the late 1930s. The tug was


named George and, unusually, it had two bows


and no stern thus eliminating the need to wind


after each trip through the tunnel. The remains of


the Tug House can still be seen at the northern


end of the tunnel.


The arrival of Industry. Abraham Barnsley opened


the first ironworks. Two years later Coombeswood


was bought by Noah Hingley from Lord Lyttleton,


and the land was used to extend the Ironworks


and the Rolling Mills. A series of amalgamations


ended in 1903 with the company becoming known


as Stewarts and Lloyds. In 1967 S & L was


nationalised and became the British Steel


Corporation, which was privatised again in 1988


and closed in 1996.


Haywood Forge opened. It was taken over in 1866


by Walter Somers. At first forgings were


transported by canal but they eventually became


too big for the boats and transferred to rail. The


anchor shank for Titanic was forged by Somers. In


April 1990 the Company were involved in the


infamous episode of Saddam Hussein’s


“supergun”, in which Company Directors were


arrested and wrongfully charged with breaking UN


sanctions. It took until November 1990 for the


Government of the time to admit their




New Hawn Colliery opened


The first railway arrived in Halesowen.


Old Hawn Colliery closed down.


Our Basin was bought by the Great Western Railway Company and the Halesowen Basin (Hawne) branch railway line was opened. Note the GWR boundary post just inside our entrance gates. This was when our basin became an Interchange Basin.

1876 A triple murder took place at a cottage in Coombeswood A man killed his wife and two young daughters with an axe. Luckily for him, or perhaps not, he was found Not Guilty due to insanity, and spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum.

1917 Lapal Tunnel closed due to roof fall. At least one more major roof fall has occurred since then and parts of the> tunnel were infilled when the M5 was built.

March 1929 A disaster occurred at Coombeswood Colliery in which eight men were killed. They were Edward Barnsley, Joseph Chance, Harry Edwards, John Hargreaves, James Harris, Edward Jukes, George Parkes and John Westward. Just eight men out of the tensof thousands who died in this country digging for coal, the coal which created our canal and then our Basin. May they all rest in peace.

1944 The original Coombs Bridge was demolished, allegedly due to the threat of invasion by German troops. I find this theory hard to accept because, by 1944, the threat of invasion had been overcome. So, what was the real reason?

1963 Lapal section of the Dudley No. 2 Canal was formally abandoned .

1964 Dudley No. 2 Canal from Hawne Basin to Windmill End, designated a water supply channel only i.e. giving the potential to infill or to pipe sections of the canal.

1965 Canal infilled west of Lapal Tunnel when Manor Way was upgraded.

1971-72 Canal east of Lapal Tunnel infilled

Back to top of page


Coombeswood Canal Trust, a Company limited by Guarantee
Hawne Basin, Hereward Rise, Halesowen, West Midlands, B62 8AW.
Telephone: 0121 550 1355   
Skype Name: coombeswood
Registered Charity No. 1088978