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Derby Canal Company


Records of Derby Canal Company: share transfers and sketch of a crane 1850-1875, statement of accounts 1960.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

In about 1771 James Brindley proposed a canal to join the Trent and Mersey to the Chesterfield via Derby, however the roots of the Derby Canal can really be found at a meeting in 1791 where a canal from Derby to the Trent and Mersey at Swarkestone was proposed; a canal from Derby to Shardlow was also suggested around the same time. Benjamin Outram was commissioned to undertake surveys for a broad canal from the Trent to the Trent and Mersey at Swarkestone then on to Derby, with a line up the Derwent to Denby, and a branch to Sandiacre on the Erewash. Also at this time the Trent and Mersey proposed a Trent Canal to Nottingham with a branch to Derby. William Jessop resurveyed Benjamin Outram's route, altering the Denby line to stop at Little Eaton. Bills for both the Derby Canal and the Derby and Nottingham Canal went to Parliament in 1793. The Derby Act passed on 7 May 1793, the Derby and Nottingham Act was dropped. Benjamin Outram became engineer. In 1795 the lines from Derby to Little Eaton and to Sandiacre on the Erewash were complete. In 1796 the construction of a 300 foot long weir, which was to give sufficient depth to a level-crossing in Derby, together with the country's first iron aqueduct over a small tributary of the Derwent at The Holmes, were complete. In 1796 the canal was open and was a total of 14 1/2 miles in length: 3/8 mile from the Trent to the Trent and Mersey at Swarkestone, 5 3/8 miles from the Trent and Mersey to the Derwent in Derby, then on to Sandiacre. From Swarkestone to Sandiacre there were 8 broad locks and a flood lock, from the Trent to the Trent and Mersey there were 4 locks. There was also the Phoenix Branch off the Derwent-Sandiacre section, which was a furlong in length and returned to the river at Phoenix Lock. The line to Little Eaton was 38 miles long with 4 locks and a 4-mile continuation via tramroad (locally known as Little Eaton Gangway) to Smithy Houses. This was owned by the Derby Canal Company. Every lock could take craft 72 feet by 14 feet. For the Derby-Trent section and the Little Eaton and Sandiacre lines water came from the Derwent via a feeder. In 1816 a passenger boat was running on the canal. Due to the payment of a compensation toll to the Trent and Mersey the line from the Trent to the Trent and Mersey at Swarkestone was a failure. It is believed that traffic on it ended in 1817 and by 1837 it was dry. Coal traffic was heavy. In 1820 the Denby pottery traffic came on the tramroad. The canal cut tolls to fight the railways. However in 1855 the Midland Railway opened a branch to Ripley which ran parallel with the canal to Little Eaton. In 1872 the Derby Canal was offered to the Midland Railway and the London & North Western Railway, but both refused the offer. Little Eaton Gangway was closed in 1908, ending traffic on the branch canal. By 1927 there was very little traffic anywhere on the canal. In 1935 the Little Eaton Branch was abandoned. The canal was never nationalized. In 1964 the canal was completely abandoned and the company was wound up in 1974. For further information on Derby Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and Charles Hadfield's 'The Canals of the East Midlands'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.