The Chesterfield Canal by Alan Rowles
Conceived in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, the 46 mile Chesterfield Canal stretched from Chesterfield in the West to the village of West Stockwith, on the River Trent near Gainsborough, in the east. The original surveys were carried out by the celebrated Derbyshire engineer James Brindley. The canal was opened throughout on June 4th 1777.
The 2,880 yard Norwood Tunnel and the large staircase of locks at Thorpe Salvin were the main engineering features of the route. At nine feet wide, the tunnel was low enough to allow the bargees to ‘leg’ the boats through by walking on the roof whilst lying on their backs.
As elsewhere on the canal network, decline came with the arrival of the railways, and when, in 1907, a section of the tunnel collapsed yet again, traffic west of Kiveton soon ceased.
In this neck of the woods, the Canal traversed the hillside on the eastern edge of the valley and ran alongside the old Great Central Railway (now the Trans-Pennine Trail) all the way from Killamarsh to Renishaw.
The last commercial traffic on the canal came to an end on the truncated Nottinghamshire section in the 1950s.
Today, restoration has seen the canal reopened as far as the eastern portal of Norwood Tunnel and from Stavely to Chesterfield. This just leaves the demanding and expensive 7 mile stretch from Kiveton to Stavely to complete the link.