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Beginning with the early days of canals in the West Midlands, tracing the work of the Lunar Society, including members Boulton and Watt, and the Earls of Dudley, Robert Davies follows the changing patterns of these waterways over 200 years of history. This illustrated book tells the story of change across the generations through the experiences and voices of the people who lived and worked along the canal banks; some of the colourful local characters include Thomas Claytons' captain John Blunne, canal `Bevin Boy' Arthur Duffield, canal worker Hetty Seymour and the notorious towpath-trained `Tipton Slasher', bare-knuckle champion boxer and canal worker. Also looking at the boat builders, including Waltons Boatyard, the tub boat canals of Shropshire and the Ocker Hill BCN depot, the book brings the story up to date with the recent Dudley Canal celebrations, including the 150th anniversary at Netherton Tunnel, and the IWA National at Wolverhampton.
The Birmingham canals truly got underway following an advertisement in Birmingham's Aris's Gazette of 26 January 1767. The plan was to take a waterway from Wolverhampton to Birmingham with a branch to Lord Dudley's coal mines near Wednesbury, and this canal network continued to grow extensively until the 1860s. With the decline in the demand for coal after the Second World War, the BCN lost sixty of its miles, but it has nevertheless largely survived to the present day. R. H. Davies, author of Canal Crimes, takes the reader on a journey from Birmingham along the main line canal through Tipton and Oldbury, exploring the Dudley and Stourbridge canals, and continuing on to Walsall and Wolverhampton. He concludes with images of canals that have vanished over time and of the Black Country Living Museum, which preserves aspects of life in the Black Country that would otherwise be lost.
Covering an area from Liverpool to London, Canal Crimes explores the whole range of criminal activity on Britain's Waterways during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Criminal court cases range from the opportunistic sixteen-year-old who was transported for seven years for stealing a man's clothes whilst he went for a dip, to those who seem to have literally got away with murder, and those who were not so fortunate as to escape the hangman's noose. At Stafford County Courtroom, the judge stated, 'I cannot refrain from remarking that I am afraid no men in this country are so destitute of all moral culture as boatmen.' This was the response to the murder and rape of Christina Collins on the Trent & Mersey Canal in 1840. Between these pages, R. H. Davies provides a truly fascinating insight into the trials discussed, by reproducing the authentic transcripts from the Old Bailey and contemporary newspapers. Rape, murder, theft, prostitution, child abuse - the canals have seen it all, and this book gives the reader a chance to hear the voices of the witnesses, the legal teams, and the accused as they echo down through the decades. But is the twentieth and indeed the twenty-first century any better? This subject is discussed in the final chapter.
Robert Davies first went to China in 1988 as an overland backpacker and, after a hair-raising two months touring Pakistan, found himself in Kashgar, the fabled Silk Road city. Here his life was irrevocably changed when he fell head over heels in love with Sharapet, an Uighur lady who was already married with a ten-year-old daughter. Love made them blind to the bureaucracy they had to face, strong for the thousands of miles they had to travel to obtain permission to marry, and resolute against the rage of Sharapet's revenge-seeking ex-husband. But Robert became involved in the trafficking of hashish. Arrested and taken 2,500 miles across China to Shanghai, he was sentenced to eight and a half years behind bars in one of the largest, most overcrowded jails in Asia - fighting against a corrupt system in grim conditions, with death a constant threat. He had suffered a legal process where law was merely a word and justice was as elusive as the holy grail and he believed the Chinese authorities had blatantly used him and other foreigners as propaganda tools.