The prosaically named Dudley No 1 and Dudley No 2 canals are often thought of as part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations system. Until amalgamation in the early 19th century, though, they were its great rivals.
With the first canal around Dudley already a success, the No 2 was built as a southern bypass to the BCN network. It would take traffic past the Birmingham behemoth to the Dudley’s allies on the Worcester & Birmingham. But nothing ever succeeds as planned where canal engineers are concerned. The great tunnel along the way, at Lapal, was so narrow and low that boats were flushed through. In 1917, the subsidence became too bad even for that and it was abandoned.
So much for the history. Today the Dudley effectively forms one through-route with the Stourbridge Canal and the BCN’s great Netherton Tunnel, linking the Staffs & Worcs Canal with Birmingham. There are entertaining diversions to the old Dudley Tunnel (navigable in a low boat with the engine switched off) and along the stub of the old Lapal line. The great old steelworks at Round Oak has been razed, and the Merry Hill shopping centre set up beside it.