Canal lock with an integral tail bridge and a ‘morning glory’ by-weir of c.1770, designed by the engineer, James Brindley, for the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Company.
Reason for Listing
Compton Lock, by-weir and Bridge 60, on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, which date from 1770, are recommended for listing at Grade II for the principal reasons:
* Historic interest: considered to be James Brindley’s first operational lock that acted as a prototype design for narrow canal locks throughout the Midlands;
* Historic association: the lock is constructed to a design by James Brindley who is widely perceived as the most important canal engineer of the C18;
* Intactness: despite repair and restoration, the lock, by-weir and bridge retain a significant proportion of their original historic fabric;
* Functional relationship: they form a cogent and functionally-related group that demonstrates how such structures operated together;
* Group value: as a good group of contemporary canal structures that includes less common features such as the ‘morning-glory’ by-weir and the integral accommodation bridge;
The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was designed by the engineer James Brindley, assisted by Samuel Simcock, and Thomas Dadford the elder. Brindley had made his name as an engineer on the Bridgewater Canal 1761. The Act of Parliament giving approval for the construction of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was passed on 14 May 1766, the same year that work commenced on the Trent and Mersey Canal; this was no coincidence, as James Brindley was the engineer on both projects and the two canals were part of his ‘Grand Cross’ scheme, a proposal to build an interconnected system of canals linking the burgeoning industrial areas of the Midlands with the four main river estuaries of England - Mersey, Trent, Severn, and the Thames.
Work on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal commenced at Compton in 1770, it was completed in 1771 and opened to traffic during the following year; it was an immediate success with substantial volumes of trade passing to and from the Potteries and the Black Country. A further Act of Parliament was obtained in June 1790 to raise funds to improve the access to the canal along the River Severn. Trade declined once the more direct Worcester and Birmingham Canal opened in 1815. Remarkably, even with increased competition from other canal companies and the eventual loss of the majority of bulk traffic to the railways, the company managed to remain independent until nationalisation in 1947. The fortunes of the canal rapidly declined after 1949 when coal traffic was withdrawn, but it was later restored and is used by pleasure craft.
At one time, it was thought that James Brindley’s first lock was built in the grounds of his home at Turnhurst, Newcastle Under Lyme, but archaeological investigations in 1993 revealed that the structure was most likely a pre-existing water feature that was adapted by Brindley to serve as a water tank for canal experiments. Given the construction work on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal commenced at Compton, it is considered that Compton Lock is one of James Brindley’s first operational locks and may have provided the prototype design for the narrow canal locks which characterise most of the canals of the Midlands.
MATERIALS: the lock chamber and tail bridge are constructed of weathered orange brick with blue brick and ashlar dressings; timber gates with balance beams hinged from concrete collar blocks.
PLAN: the lock chamber has a rectangular plan with splayed flanking walls at either end.
DESCRIPTION: the lock chamber is closed at the head by a top gate equipped with a single gate paddle. The gate is flanked on either side by paddle posts that control the main flow of water through culverts into the lock chamber. The curved stone cill beneath the gate is laid on a scalloped brick base. The pair of mitred lower gates are each equipped with a gate paddle and the balance beams are provided with a modern brick-paved ginny ring. A tubular metal water depth gauge is attached to the western wall of the chamber; three secondary square timber bollards and two cast iron button-topped bollards remain to either side.
The top pound narrows rapidly on the eastern side of the approach to the lock and is faced with a brick flanking wall with a cast-iron rubbing strake attached. On the opposite side, a brick-lined overflow culvert directs water to a circular ‘morning glory’ by-weir, built of brick with sandstone capping stones. The drain in the centre of the by-weir has a modern grill, and it is protected from the towpath by a low brick parapet wall. A secondary rectangular concrete spill weir is situated between the brick-lined culvert and the short flanking wall that leads to the top gate. Slots for a temporary timber coffer dam exist in the splayed flanking walls of the top gate. The lower flanking walls splay at slightly different angles, the eastern wall has old brick coping and a cast iron rubbing strake, while the western wall was re-built and paved in 1986 using blue brick.
The lock tail bridge is integral to the lock structure, situated directly above the tail of the lock chamber. The top (northern) side of the bridge has a low parapet wall with stone end blocks. The southern elevation of the bridge is battered and waisted with some secondary brick patching on the eastern side. The three-centre brick arch has ashlar jambs, springers, and a drip mould above the brick voussoirs. Above the level of the arch, the face of the wall is carried up vertically to form the bottom parapet with large semi-circular blue brick coping stones, some of which have been replaced in sandstone. The carriage way that originally allowed access to a lock keeper’s cottage (now demolished), has been partially re-laid in brick paving; a concrete date stone set into the paving reads - ‘Rebuilt 1986 British Waterways Board’. The western end of the bottom parapet wall plunges in a curve to a flight of steps leading down to the bottom pound. Beyond the steps, a re-built retaining wall supports the towpath as it descends to the lower level, and the spill weir culvert emerges from beneath in the canal wall.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.