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Cromford Canal Company (see also D7824; D9036)


Records of the Cromford Canal Company: William Jessop's report on the design of the canal 1789, canal permits 1844-1849.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Cromford Canal was proposed in 1787 to open up more coalfields in the Erewash Valley. William Jessop surveyed the route from Langley Mill to Cromford in 1788 and the Act was passed the year after. The 9 committee members came from prominent local families and clergymen. Five clergymen were committee members in 1809 and three in 1829. William Jessop was appointed engineer and was to spend 1/3 of his time working on the scheme. He was to be assisted by Benjamin Outram. After the Amber Aqueduct partially failed in 1792, William Jessop's offer to pay the costs of repairs was accepted. Clearly, he had problems with the Cromford aqueducts, as the next year the Derwent Aqueduct cracked. The canal was completed in August 1794. Although less than 15 miles long, the canal had 14 locks, 2 aqueducts and 4 tunnels, including the 1.7-mile-long Butterley Tunnel. Locks above Butterley Tunnel, and the tunnel itself, were narrow; the rest were originally built wide. The Pinxton branch was almost 2 1/2 miles long. Another branch, the privately owned Lea Wood branch, was 1/3 mile in length and opened in 1802 to serve the quarries and lead works in that area. Trade was good. The Grand Union Canal opened up the market and the Cromford benefited from it. Construction materials for the London & Birmingham Railway were also carried on the Cromford Canal. Short tramroads, the longest no more than 1 1/2 miles, connected the canal to collieries, quarries and works. The three most important were the Ambergate to Crich limestone quarries tramroad, the Fritchley to Bullbridge wharf and Mansfield & Pinxton line. Tolls were reduced at the Grand Union's request in 1831, rescinded in 1834 after there was no appreciable increase in traffic. Further requests by various canal companies were met with refusal until 1841. Revenue fell in the 1840s due to competition with the railways. Cromford Canal Company received two offers from railways to purchase their canal. In August 1852 the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midlands Junction Railway bought the canal. The canal's decline had begun before the 1889 Butterley Tunnel collapse, caused by subsidence. It was repaired and reopened, only to close permanently in 1900, again due to subsidence. In 1936 the Lea Wood branch became disused and within two years the last traffic had passed on the upper section. All but the last 1/2 mile to Langley Mill was officially abandoned in 1944, and that last section survived until 1962. There had been no traffic since 1952. Some of the canal was filled in, but other parts were simply left. Since 1974 the canal and towpath have been gradually restored, bit by bit. Severla miles are now fully restored and work is underway on the rest. For further information on Cromford 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.