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The Boat Gauging House, Tipton Canal Basin (Off Factory Road) Birmingham Canal Birmingham Level, Tipton

Description: The Boat Gauging House, Tipton Canal Basin (Off Factory Road) Birmingham Canal Birmingham Level

Grade: II
Date Listed: 12 June 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 219202

OS Grid Reference: SO9512992650
OS Grid Coordinates: 395129, 292649
Latitude/Longitude: 52.5317, -2.0732

Location: Factory Road, West Bromwich, Sandwell DY4 9DJ

Locality: Tipton
County: Sandwell
Country: England
Postcode: DY4 9DJ

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Listing Text


A boat gauging house built in 1873 for the Birmingham Navigation Company.

Reason for Listing

The Boat Gauging house, Tipton Canal Basin, Sandwell is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural: the building has gravity and architectural presence due to its careful use of materials and proportions.
* Setting: The building is sited near to the Birmingham Canal Navigation and the Factory Locks in Tipton, which continue to operate.
* Historic interest: The gauging house and its docks were deliberately large to accommodate long, 'Hampton' boats.


The boat gauging house at Tipton was built in 1873 in response to a desire for greater accuracy in weighing the cargo carried by canal boats. Canal companies made a significant part of their income from charging a lading fee and two distinct methods had developed during the C18 and C19 for assessing the weight of cargo carried. The 'wet' method depended on copper strips attached to the boat at the time of their building, which recorded weights at the waterline. The alternative 'dry' method, used a more complex system that was individual to the boat, whereby they were filled from empty with ton weights and the water levels were either marked on the side, or the vertical distance from the gunwale to the water surface was recorded in a log which then accompanied the boat. Canal companies tended to favour one method or the other, but the 'dry' system was considered more accurate and was favoured by the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN).
New boats were measured in this way, as were any boats which had undergone a refit. Also, timber boats were required to be gauged every few years as their hulls gradually became saturated and they sat lower in the water.
The Birmingham Canal Navigation had traditionally favoured weighing individual cargoes and the passing of the 1811 Birmingham Canal Act allowed for the use of gauging. Coal owners, led by the Earl of Dudley's agent, argued for greater accuracy in weighing cargo and matters came to a head with a series of deputations in 1869.
The Tipton Gauging House was designed to measure boats across the BCN network according to the dry method. Three gauging stations were planned at Smethwick, Tipton and Salford Bridge. The last was not built, but Smethwick was completed by December 1872 and Tipton opened the following year.
The building is shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1887, and on the OS map of 1904 it is shown with the small wing projecting from its southern flank. It could accommodate large boats of the 'Hampton' type, which were 80 feet in length and designed to carry coal. Over 10,000 boats were gauged and registered at Tipton in the period between 1873 and 1900 and boats were still being gauged there in 1950 (see SOURCE, Chaplin).


A boat gauging house built in 1873 for the Birmingham Navigation Company. The building is sited alongside the Factory Locks at Tipton and is of red and blue bricks, laid in alternatively coloured bands of English bond, with a stepped brick cornice to the top of the walls. It has a hipped, slate roof with a cast iron decorative cresting to the ridge.
EXTERIOR: The single-storey building has eight, evenly distributed, bays to the northern flank, with round-arched windows which have blue brick surrounds. The south flank is similar, save that there is a doorway with C20 sliding door to the second and third bays from the right and a gabled projecting wing to the second bay from the left. This has a window with cambered head to its west flank and a blocked doorway to its east flank. The eastern end has a central outshut which has lost its roof. It has an arched doorway at right, an arched window to the left and a central chimney stack. At right and left of this outshut are arched windows, the left hand one of which is blocked. The west end has two, large, arched openings to the lower body, which previously led to the gauging docks, but which are now blocked with C20 brickwork. Above these, at the centre of the front are two small arched windows, set at either side of a date stone which reads '1873'. Above this is a chimney stack with splayed top.
INTERIOR: The building originally held two docks which ran west-east, with boats entering from the western end. These docks have now been infilled and made level with the surrounding dockside. The lock gates which would have been set inside the western doorways and the internal cranes, which were supplied by Tangye Brothers of Smethwick, have now been removed, as has the boiler from the lean-to boiler house at the eastern end.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.