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Nottingham Canal Company


Records of Nottingham Canal Company: a receipt 1837, canal notice 1839, boat permit 1855, correspondence early 19th century.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /​ Biographical history

Promoted in 1790, the Nottingham Canal was intended to provide a direct route for transporting coal to Nottingham. Since the Cromford Canal Act had been passed it was apparent that collieries in that area would see their trade boosted at the expense of Nottingham's. James Green completed the initial survey, six months after William Jessop had had to stop work due to ill health. The Bill proposed a broad canal from Cromford at Langley Mill to meet the Trent at Nottingham. The scheme faced some opposition because it was initially proposed to build a branch to Beeston, which the Trent Navigation wanted to build. Any mention of such a branch was dropped from the Bill to placate the Trent Navigation, and it was passed in May 1792. James Green was employed as resident engineer under William Jessop. The first section was opened in 1793, but then there were delays whilst more money was raised. The committee complained to William Jessop that he was neglecting the canal. Bad weather and flooding further delayed work and damaged that already done. Finally in 1796 the whole 14 3/4 mile canal was available for use, although by this time virtually the entire committee had resigned and had had to be replaced. The junction with Beeston Cut, part of the Trent Navigation, meant that the Nottingham Canal was part of the through-river navigation. Each of the twenty locks was 75 feet by 14 feet, and there was a flight of 14 locks to Wollaton. Many of the surrounding collieries and some businesses in Nottingham had branches cut. Private cuts included the 1 5/8 mile-long Bilborough Cut and its tram roads linking it to Bilborough and Strelley collieries, which were completed in 1799 and mostly disused by 1813. The Westcroft branch, in Nottingham was built in 1846 to loop round various coal wharves. Robinett's Cut and Greasley Cut, built 1796 and 1800 respectively, were both short branches of under 1/2 mile and also served local collieries. Nottingham Castle and Sneinton had branches. In the 1830s the Earl of Manvers doubled the length of Sneinton's Poplar Arm to 1/4 mile. From Poplar Arm ran a 1/8 mile Brewery branch. There may even have been a link to Trent Bridge. The initial returns were satisfactory, especially once rates agreements with the Cromford and Erewash navigations were in place. Relations with the Grantham Canal had always been good and even those with navigations in direct competition with the Nottingham were cordial. At least three packet boat services for passengers and small parcels were running by 1800 between various points. The worst disaster to befall the company occurred in September 1818 when twenty-one barrels of gunpowder exploded as they were being unloaded at a warehouse in Nottingham, destroying the building, several vessels and killing two men. Nottingham Boat Company, who had employed the man who sparked the explosion, were held responsible for the damage to Nottingham Canal Company's property and ordered to pay compensation and costs; however they did not have the money and only paid half the £1000 compensation. The canal company still considered other canals to be their biggest rivals, and not the railways, and in many respects they were right. Serious railway competition arrived in 1840 in the form of the Midland Counties Railway's Nottingham to Leicester line. Nottingham Canal Company was already acquainted with the company, having applied for an injunction against the railway in 1837 as its construction was interfering with the Nottingham Canal. By 1842 revenue was falling and by 1844 cost-cutting measures were in place. These included further toll reductions to encourage trade, wage reductions and four redundancies. Perhaps the most unpopular measure was the severe limitations placed on the free ale provided to workers. In 1845 they agreed to sell to the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston & Eastern Junction Railway as soon as the latter had completed their railway line. The railway's chairman, W F N Norton, had recently joined the Nottingham Canal Company's committee. The railway was duly finished in 1850 but the six-month period the railway company had to purchase the canal came and went. As well as a shortage of money, the railway no longer had any interest in the canal. The Nottingham Canal and the Grantham Canal companies, which the railway had also agreed to purchase, began legal proceedings. At the same time they jointly opposed any Bills the railway company submitted and managed to prevent any from becoming Acts. After five years the railway company unwillingly agreed to honour the original agreement and the control of the Nottingham Canal formally transferred to them in January 1855. For further information on Nottingham 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.

Associated material

[See also: BW63 and BW93 for records of Nottingham Canal during other periods of ownership]