The Coventry Canal is a navigable narrow canal in the Midlands of England. It starts in Coventry and ends 38 miles (65 km) north at Fradley Junction, just north of Lichfield, where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal. It also has connections with the Oxford Canal, the Ashby Canal, and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.
Some maps show the canal as a northern and a southern section, connected by a stretch of the Birmingham And Fazeley Canal, but others show the through route all as the Coventry Canal. This reflects a complicated period of ownership and re-leasing when the Coventry Canal company was in financial difficulties during construction. It runs through or past the towns of Bedworth, Nuneaton, Atherstone, Polesworth and Tamworth. It is navigable for boats up to 21.9 m (72 ft) length, 2.1 m (7 ft) beam and 1.98 m (6 ft 6) headroom. It forms part of the Warwickshire ring.
The Coventry Canal Company was formed in 1768. James Brindley was commissioned to build the canal, and work started on it in December that year. Due to the high standards of construction demanded by Brindley, the canal company ran out of money by the time the canal had reached Atherstone in 1769, and Brindley was replaced by Thomas Yeoman.
Thomas Dadford advised on the Canal's aqueduct over The River Tame (now known as Tame Aqueduct) in 1784 and in June 1785, Thomas Sheasby was awarded the contract to connect the Coventry Canal to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Although the canal reached the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at Fazeley, the final Parliament-approved stretch to the Trent and Mersey at Fradley was not finished until 1789.
The Trent and Mersey company, and the Birmingham and Fazeley company, anxious to allow through traffic from Birmingham to the Trent and Mersey canal, gained permission to complete and operate the approved but unbuilt section from Fazeley to Fradley. The B&F worked North from Fazeley, and the T&M worked south from Fradley. The full length from Coventry to Fradley was opened in 1789.
The Coventry canal was a vital trade artery for many years. In particular, it was part of the Birmingham-London route via the B&F Canal, Coventry Canal, Oxford Canal, and River Thames. When the Grand Junction Canal and some smaller companies (which much later merged to form the Grand Union Canal company) opened a direct rival route from Birmingham to London, via Warwick, Napton, Braunston, and Bletchley, trade still remained high on the Coventry. This was partly because of the work done by the Oxford company to shorten its route north of Braunston, and because Grand Junction traffic using the Braunston/Fazeley route avoided the high tolls charged by the Oxford canal company on its Braunston-Napton section (which was also part of the new route).
The Coventry paid a dividend right up to 1947, and remained navigable to the present day. It was nationalised in 1948 being operated first by the British Transport Board and then by the British Waterways Board, the forerunners of British Waterways. In 1957, Coventry Canal Society was established to promote the proper use and maintenance of the canal, and to protect its interests. The canal acts as a base to Mercia Canoe Club, which is part of Coventry Canal Society.