Dudley Tunnel Hoseasons Boating Holidays Dudley may have a unique visitor attraction in Castle Hill. It is the site of Dudley Zoo, which includes for the entrance price access to the remains of a Norman style Castle built in 1071 and which during the Civil War, was a Royalist stronghold but surrendered in 1646 following the defeat of Charles I at Naseby.

Many people explore the Zoo without realising that under the hill lies The Dudley Tunnel and a network of caverns and canals,and thanks to volunteers, can be visited by an organised boat.

The origin of the tunnels lies at the heart of the Industrial Revolution. Limestone was needed for Iron production (as a flux to remove impurities as a slag)

Two neighbouring hills, Castle Hill and Wrens Nest Hill, each had surface access to two beds of limestone with, thanks to folding of the rock strata, made two vertical access points on each hill to each bed. This meant that the beds could be mined at four points on each hill.

The obvious drawback was transporting the Limestone from the mines to the furnaces and the brilliant solution which solved several problems at once, was to drive the Dudley Tunnel under the hills, giving further access into the beds of Limestone, but also a means of transporting the rock in boats. Work began in 1775 and work on an almost two mile through route began in 1785 with the drawing up of plans. Over a period a most of the mines were added to the network and caverns were opened up.

The tunnel was popular and in 1853 it is said that 41000 boats passed through, which considering that boats had to be “legged” or poled through meant considerable congestion so that in 1875 a parallel route through the Netherton Tunnel (with Towing Paths) was opened. This latter tunnel celebrates its 150 year anniversary in August 2008.

The mines were abandoned, but in 1964 the Dudley Canal Preservation Society was formed and under its current title of Dudley Canal Trust, runs electrically powered boats into the complex and also has a diesel electric tug for towing through traffic under the hill.

The boat trip starts from the northern end of the tunnel and the site has access from Birmingham New Road and also from the Black Country Living Museum (Future pages will be dedicated to the museum to which real buildings have been relocated to give a feel of how “The Black Country” used to be in the not too distant past)

Under Castle Hill are two major caverns, Dark Cavern and the smaller Singing Cavern, which are linked by canal tunnels, there is an audio visual show in the Singing Cavern, which in years gone by has seen performances of music, and by arrangement there are even a number of weddings each year.

Dudley Tunnel

Dudley Tunnel

Dudley Tunnel

Dudley Tunnel