About this image
Looking north across the Bennerley open-cast site from the parapet of the disused Great Northern Railway viaduct. A canal from Cromford along the Derwent Valley to connect up with the Erewash canal at Langley Mill was given parliamentary approval in 1789. This meant further markets for Erewash Valley coal were opening up. Increasingly Nottingham collieries looked as though they were going to be at a disadvantage and it seemed that the Erewash pits would flourish at their expense. Eager to ensure the town didn't miss out, a number of Nottingham men called a public meeting in October 1790 to discuss the possibility of constructing a rival to the Erewash which would run from the Cromford canal to Nottingham and on into the Trent. Those at the meeting apparently thought the proposal highly beneficial and elected a committee of nine to pursue the matter. William Jessop was asked to act as engineer and select the best route between Nottingham and Langley Mill. He was also requested to survey the land across Beeston Meadows for a branch canal to the Trent from Lenton. Lord Middleton (descendent of the Willoughby family, of Wollaton Hall) evidently had his own ideas on the way that the canal should go. It is not clear what these were but we do know that Jessop considered they would be impractical on account of the need for deep cutting and tunnelling. His own proposed line, however, didn't meet with Lord Middleton's approval. Jessop had suggested that the canal go round the western side of Wollaton Park. Lord Middleton said he would oppose the whole venture unless the canal was made to run along the eastern boundary (co-incidentally past his own colliery!), even though this would mean an additional expense of about £2,500. The line of the canal was moved accordingly. Work on the canal's construction began on July 30th 1792. Jessop became ill and so a local man from Wollaton, James Green, took over the job, with Jessop acting as a supervisor. Exactly one year later the first section of the canal from Trent Bridge up to the town wharves was officially opened. By April 1796 the entire length of the canal had been completed. From the river Trent, through Nottingham to Lenton, then running northwards towards Wollaton Colliery. It then turned westwards towards Trowell and Cossall up to Langley Mill, where it joined the Cromford just above that canal's junction with the Erewash, the Nottingham canal was fourteen and three quarter miles long. The route selected required the construction of twenty locks. The first was at the Trent and the second just below the Castle Rock. The next three were in Lenton - one by Abbey Street, the second just beyond Derby Road and third positioned half way between the Derby and Wollaton Roads. On the far side of Wollaton Road was the sixth lock, the first in a flight of fourteen which took boats up to the summit of the canal just beyond Wollaton, after which it ran level all the way to Langley Mill where a set of stop locks were positioned. By latter part of the 19th century the canal could no longer compete financially with the railways. In 1928 the company announced that commercial traffic would cease on all but the City section of the canal and in 1937 it finally abandoned the canal. With no one to care for it, the Nottingham canal became overgrown and gradually silted up. The Water level was prone to rise after heavy rain and that on occasion that would flood the adjoining land. After receiving frequent complaints, Nottingham City Council agreed in 1952 to purchase that portion of the disused canal that came within the City boundary. Infilling and culverting began in 1955. The section of canal from Lenton Chain to Derby Road was eventually commandeered for the re-routing of the river Leen. Elsewhere, once it was filled, the land was built upon and virtually nothing now remains to indicate where the Canal used to run, apart from small sections around Awsworth, Trowell and Cossall which are maintained as nature reserves and for fishing.