Wednesday , 20 September 2017
Wow .. Look What's Happening...


What is the Heritage?

The Derby Canal was opened in 1796. It consisted of three arms that ran from the centre of Derby to Swarkestone, Sandiacre and Little Eaton. The first two started from locks on the River Derwent at what is now the southern end of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

 The objective of our project is to restore canal boat navigation to this Site by restoring the arms of the canal to Swarkestone and Sandiacre. It will focus on the heritage of the canal as represented by its bridges, locks, cottages, waterway and hedgerows.

 Features of heritage interest along the restored canal include, starting from Swarkestone:

  • Swarkestone –the junction with Trent & Mersey Canal. There is a restored Georgian bridge used for agricultural access and the original lock-keeper’s cottage.
  • Chellaston – a brick culvert that carried Cuttle Brook under the canal.
  • Chellaston – a bridge carries the A514 over the canal.
  • Chellaston – Fullens Lock requires excavating and new gates, its stone work and brick work are intact.
  • Chellaston – Shelton Lock requires excavating and new gates making, its stone work and brick work are intact. The remains of the lock cottage were probably used to infill the lock.
  • Wilmorton – a bridge, rebuilt in the 1920s carries the A6 over the canal.
  • Spondon – a 1930s bridge which carries the A5111 over the canal and the Midland Railway.
  • Spondon – a winding hole together with a canal wharf which requires restoration.
  • Spondon – a 1927 bridge that carries a road over the canal. It was re-decked in 1995.
  • Borrowash – Ullickers Bridge is a restored Georgian bridge used for agricultural access.
  • Borrowash – the Top Lock requires excavating and new gates, its stone work and brick work are mostly intact. The remains of the lock cottage, for which we have the plans, were used to infill the lock.
  • Borrowash – the Bottom Lock has been excavated and had most of its brick work and stone work restored. It awaits new lock gates and water.
  • Draycott – A replacement 1930s bridge carries the A6005 over the canal.
  • Draycott – A late 18th – early 19th century building, now known as the Co-op Cottages, which was originally a winding house for an adjacent, now demolished, silk mill.
  • Breaston – the canal side Navigation Inn, contemporary with the canal, with an adjacent winding hole.
  • Sandiacre – Cockayne’s Bridge, rebuilt in Art Deco style, which carries the B6002 over the canal.
  • Sandiacre – the Top Lock requires excavating and new gates, its stone work and brick work are intact.
  • Sandiacre – the remains of the Boat Inn, accessible only by boat.
  • Sandiacre – the Bottom Lock requires excavating and new gates, its stone work and brick work are intact.
  • Sandiacre – Lock Lane Bridge is an original canal bridge taking a lane over the canal to the lock-keepers cottage.
  • Sandiacre – a lock-keepers cottage, built in 1777 to serve the Trent & Mersey and subsequently the Derby Canal, now a canal museum.
  • The original hawthorn tow-path hedge, of which there are substantial stretches along the whole route, and which is being maintained and restored by the Trust.
  • The excavated canal bed, most of which will be the original clay lining, will, when refilled with water, form a substantial aquatic ecosystem.

The canal is the site of the first known example of containerised transport. Coal, limestone and ironstone, loaded in wooden skips, were carried south to Little Eaton on a horse drawn railway. The railway wagons carried the detachable skips which were lifted by crane directly from the wagons into the canal barges. On other canals, materials had to be loaded and unloaded by hand.


 Why is the Heritage Important?

This heritage is important because:

  • Canals were the means of transport that fuelled the industrial revolution prior to the development of the railway. They enabled raw materials to be brought to, and manufactured goods to be transported from, towns much more cheaply than by road using horses and carts.
  • The Derby Canal initiated Derby’s transition from a market town to a world centre of engineering excellence.
  • It has a very strong linkage to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, in particular to the Silk Mill, the site of the world’s first industrial factory.
  • A restored canal will re-connect a number of isolated heritage features into one functioning historical asset for the benefit of local residents and visitors.

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  1. Do you have any information about the Lock Keepers at Sandiacre Lock in the 1800’s I’ve tried everywhere and cannot find out about my ancestors….the Shaw family except on census forms and the BDM records.

    • The Sandiacre Lock Cottage was actually on the Erewash Canal adjacent to the junction with the Derby Canal. The Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association have restored the lock cottage and now run it as a small museum that opens one Sunday a month, they may have more information, you can link to their website here. We have also searched through a published history of the Derby Canal and can find no reference to the name “Shaw” in that.

  2. Do records show the last time boats used the Little Eaton branch? I have a vague recollection that, as a small boy, I saw one locking into the river near what used to be the cattle market, near where the bus station is now. This could have been at the end of WW11

    I’m considering joining your society, but I wonder if I could be of any use as my age precludes heavy manual work. Most of my work was administrative with financial involvement.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for contacting us, I am sure we could find something for you to do – we are always looking for supporters in all areas.

      If you want to contact Chris Madge, or Chair, I am sure he will be happy to discuss the various possibilities.

      Email:, Mob: 07827 946444, Home: 01332 840502



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