The Dudley Canal is a canal passing though Dudley in the West Midlands of England. The canal is part of the English and Welsh connected network of navigable inland waterways, and in particular forms part of the popular Stourport Ring narrowboat cruising route. The first short section, which connected to the Stourbridge Canal, opened in 1779, and this was connected through the Dudley Tunnel to the Birmingham Canal system in 1792.
Almost immediately, work started on an extension, called Line No. 2, which ran through another long tunnel at Lapal, to reach the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. This was completed in 1798, but significant trade had to wait until the Worcester and Birmingham was completed in 1802. In 1846, the company amalgamated with the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and various improvements followed, including the Netherton Tunnel, of a similar length to the Dudley Tunnel, but much bigger, with towpaths on both sides and gas lighting. It was the last canal tunnel built in England.
The original line at Bumble Hole became the Bumble Hole Branch Canal and Boshboil Arm after a collapse of the canal severed part of the loop. Having suffered from mining subsidence for years, the two-locks line was closed in March 1909 and later filled in. The line is now under a late 20th century industrial estate, and only the junctions, towpath bridges and a few yards of watered but unnavigable canal remain. After repeated collapses, Lapal Tunnel was abandoned in June 1917 leaving a short stretch navigable between Selly Oak and a brick works at California until 1953, after which it was drained and filled in.
After a period of disuse following nationalisation in 1948, the first suggestions that the canal and others should be restored were made by the newly formed Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) in 1959. However, the British Transport Commission presented their annual Bill in 1961, in which the Dudley Canal and Tunnel were scheduled to be closed immediately, with no provision to safeguard the route for future restoration. Both the Inland Waterways Association and the IWPS protested, but the protests were ignored, and closure occurred in 1962. Despite this, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society explored the tunnel in mid-1963, after which a Dudley Tunnel Committee began running boat trips through it. These proved popular, and the Committee became the Dudley Canal Tunnel Preservation Society on 1 January 1964, eventually becoming the Dudley Canal Trust in 1970.
The canal forms an end-on junction with the Stourbridge Canal at the foot of the eight Delph Locks. These are usually known as the Nine Locks, even though they were rebuilt in 1858 as a flight of eight. There is a well-restored stable block by lock 3, and a grade II listed lock keepers house near the line of the old locks, which was built in 1779, probably to a standard design by Thomas Dadford. Above the locks, the canal passes Merry Hill Shopping Centre, built on the site of Round Oak Steelworks after its closure in 1983.
Although it has been closed for more than 100 years, a cast-iron footbridge, built in 1858, still carries the towpath over the former entrance to the Two Locks Line. An embankment on the side of a hill carries the canal on to Blowers Green Lock, which is the deepest lock on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, as it replaced two earlier locks which were affected by subsidence. Nearby is a pumphouse, managed by the Dudley Canal Trust. At Park Head Junction, Line No. 2 turns off to the south-east, but the original line continues through three locks to a junction with the remains of the Pensnett Canal and the Grazebrook Arm, and into the southern portal of Dudley Tunnel. At the far end is the Black Country Museum, which offers boat trips into the tunnel and associated mines.