In 1962 volunteers defeated the Government in the “Battle of Stourbridge” and held the annual National Rally of Canal Boats on the Stourbridge Town Canal Arm bringing national recognition of this bit of the canal system. The local Urban District Council decided that the line of the canal would be ideally suited to becoming a relief road but ignored the embryonic canal volunteers who defeated officialdom to save the line of the canal.
Attention of the volunteers then turned to the full restoration of the main Stourbridge Canal including the flight of 16 locks. This was successfully completed in 1967 and then volunteers cast their eyes round for another canal based restoration. A small group of members of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society re-discovered the near derelict Bonded Warehouse alongside the canal. The canal by then had become choked with vegetation and rubbish so much so that it was possible in places to walk from bank to bank without get wet feet. The Warehouse had become the home of hundreds of pigeons, dead and alive, and the building was slowly rotting away due to water ingress. A sub-committee was formed and with the agreement of British Waterways, who owned the building, set about restoring the building and making the canal into a waterway again. Assisted by a grant in 1979 the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society sub-committee became the Stourbridge Navigation Trust, taking on a 50 year lease of much of the surrounding area and buildings. The Bonded Warehouse was re-opened for community use in 1986, and the present Trust is the culmination of decades of voluntary effort and continues the ethos of volunteering and sees volunteering as the way forward.
Fundraising remained essential to the existence of the Trust and in 1995 the decision was taken to apply for a Heritage Lottery Grant to continue restoration, extend our realm of activity and make the Trust financially sustainable. In 1997 the lottery awarded the Trust a grant of almost £750,000. In partnership with the Council and British Waterways the work was completed in 2000, to budget and to time. This involved the renovation of the old Stourbridge Canal Company Offices and workshop building to the rear, the new dry dock, the bridge over the narrows, an extension of the permanent moorings and reconstruction of the tow path from Stourbridge to Wordsley Junction. Since 2000 the Trust has been financially self-sufficient and all the targets set in the lottery bid have been exceeded.
The Trust now has a responsibility to maintain the standard of the area they control and maintain the community use.
The Trust is a multi-facetted organisation. The Board of 12 consists of members with service ranging from 40 years to 3 years, all are active working volunteers, and they determine future strategy and control finances. The Board is supported by a band of volunteers, the core being the Tuesday Club but with many more who volunteer for particular events such as the Santa visits when we have up to 40 volunteers running the event. The Trust is ably assisted by paid staff consisting of the Trust Manager, Caretaker and Cleaner. The Board has a volunteer Secretary who is a qualified Solicitor. Alongside the Trust is the wholly owned trip boat company, Fellows, Morton and Clayton Ltd., with a manager and its own Board of Directors.
We are always on the look-out for new volunteers with any skills and new volunteers are made welcome by the team of enthusiasts who aren’t necessarily canal boaters but merely wish to get involved with a community asset in some way that aligns to their skills/experience.
Chairman, Stourbridge Navigation Trust