The Tame basin is the most urbanised in Britain with 42% of it in built-up areas. This has had a dramatic effect on the river with it becoming notoriously polluted during the Industrial Revolution and was once regarded as one of Britain's dirtiest rivers. Although the river has never been made navigable (although there were proposals in the 19th century to use it and the Trent to link Birmingham to the Humber) it was heavily used for industrial and agricultural processes from as early as the 12th century.
However the nature of the river meant that this was later than in some other areas. A number of water mills were sited along the river in places such as Sandwell, Bromford and Minworth to grind wheat. Later on the power of water was used to drive bellows and hammers. Such was the demand of industry on the river and its feeding streams that there were often disputes between millers over water supply. Some furnaces in places like Hamstead had to be closed down due to insufficient water supply however by the 19th century steam was replacing water wheels as the primary source of power.
Much of the river's early course, especially in its Willenhall and Oldbury Arms have been modified by man. The construction of the motorways also meant that the course of the river had to be changed especially near the Gravelly Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction) in Northern Birmingham and near the M5 in Bescot.
More recent remodeling from the 1980s onwards has tried to prevent flooding and also improve the habitat for wildlife. Now much of the river is a haven for wildlife including geese and swans but flows quietly away from much attention as is winds its way through the big city and beyond.
|Alongside the Aston Expressway near Spaghetti Junction|
W.B. Stephens (Editor). "Economic and Social History: Mills." A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964): 253-269. British History Online. Web. 19 April 2012. <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22970>
Post Office Directory of Birmingham, 1867 p 359
History, Gazetteer & Directory of Warwickshire, 1850 p 84
Charles Anthony Vince, History of the Corporation of Birmingham Vol 3 1885-1899 (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers 1902), p 366