South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
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From Calf Heath to Gailey 1964 - 1974

The History of Gailey Pools

by Eric Whittaker

The Upper and Lower Reservoirs, to use their official names, were constructed about 1847. Upper Reservoir is now the Trout Fisheries Pool next door and the Lower Pool has been home to the sailors of SSSC since June 1972. The pools were originally constructed to provide more water for the Staffs and Worcester Canal, which had become very busy at that time.
 
The Staffs and Worcester Canal and Calf Heath Reservoir had been built some 75 years earlier with a wharf at Gailey, which had become very important for three reasons.
 
The first is that at Gailey the canal is crossed by Watling Street, Britain's finest Roman road that sweeps across the country from Canterbury and London to Uricanium (the ruins of which are at Atcham near Shrewsbury) and then south to Hereford. It was an important thoroughfare until Telford engineered his Holyhead Road in the 1820s, but it again came into its own as the A5, when Telford's road through the Black Country became congested. Gailey was therefore an important wharf for the transit of goods for many years.
 
The second reason for Gailey's prominence is perhaps not un-connected with the first. It was the site chosen by Brindley for his Summit Lock and it was here that one of the main water supplies joined the canal. Water from Lower Pool entered the canal near the tail of Bogg's Lock. The feeder from it is now severed by the M6 motorway, but it had fallen into disuse long before the road was built. The Upper Reservoir connected with the Teddersley Hay feeder and received its supply from the Lower Pool partly by gravity and partly by means of a steam pump. The levels differed by about three feet and its engine house can still be seen on the bank between the two reservoirs.
 
The reservoirs no longer supply the canals. It is thought that the waste-treated water from Wolverhampton's sewerage works now supplies far more water to the canals than is actually required!
The third reason was coal. Coal had always been the main cargo carried by the Midlands Waterways, and in the early days, the Staffs and Worcs Company relied heavily on the Black Country canals for trade. Much of the coal carried was from Cannock and Littleton Coalfields.
 
The main source of all the water entering Lower Pool comes from the plateau of pebble beds on Cannock Chase, making its way from Springslades Pool, Mill Pond and Pottal Pool, then on to Hatherton picking up water from Littleton Colliery on the way.

A sight of the original contract for the construction of the reservoir makes very interesting reading, bearing in mind that the works were carried out in about 1847.
After excavating down to the required levels, the surface of the excavation was lined with 12 inches (300mm) of clay puddle and 9 inches (225mm) of furnace ash, well beaten into the puddle. The contract called for all works to be completed and ready to receive water WITHIN six months, which was not bad going, considering there were no JCBs about then, only shovels!