Norwood Tunnel

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Norwood Tunnel
Norwood Tunnel Eastern Portal.jpg
The Eastern Portal of Norwood Tunnel
Location Derbyshire / South Yorkshire
Coordinates 53°20′06″N 1°16′11″W / 53.33501°N 1.26971°W / 53.33501; -1.26971 (Mid-point)Coordinates: 53°20′06″N 1°16′11″W / 53.33501°N 1.26971°W / 53.33501; -1.26971 (Mid-point)
OS grid reference
Status collapsed Condition
Rebuilding Proposed
Waterway Chesterfield Canal
Start 53°20′15″N 1°15′01″W / 53.33748°N 1.25021°W / 53.33748; -1.25021 (Eastern)
End 53°19′57″N 1°17′21″W / 53.33253°N 1.28921°W / 53.33253; -1.28921 (Western)
Opened 9 May 1775
Closed 1907 Collapsed
Owner Chesterfield Canal Company
Design engineer James Brindley
Construction 1771-1775
Length 2,884 yards (2,637.1 m)
Tunnel clearance 12 ft (3.7 m)
Width 9 feet 3 inches (2.8 m)
Towpath No
Boat-passable No

Norwood Tunnel was a 2,884-yard-long (2,637 m), 9.25-foot-wide (2.82 m) and 12-foot-high (3.7 m) brick (3 million of them)[1] lined canal tunnel on the line of the Chesterfield Canal with its Western Portal in Norwood, Derbyshire and its Eastern Portal in Kiveton, South Yorkshire, England.[2]


The Chesterfield Canal's Act of Parliament was passed in 1771. James Brindley was the chief engineer and John Varley the Clerk of the Works. John Varley was left to continue alone as acting chief engineer after the death of James Brindley in 1772. In 1774, Hugh Henshall, James Brindley's brother-in-law was made chief engineer, with John Varley keeping the position of resident engineer. John Varley's father and brothers were implicated when Hugh Henshall discovered that some of the work on the Norwood Tunnel was sub-standard but John Varley avoided sharing the blame. The Norwood Tunnel was opened on 9 May 1775 and at the time held the record for Britain's longest canal tunnel jointly with James Brindley's Harecastle Tunnel.[3]

The Norwood Tunnel forms a large part of the summit pound of the canal, with Norwood Locks descending from the Western Portal and Thorpe Locks descending to the East of the Eastern Portal.

The tunnel does not have a towpath, therefore the narrowboats were pushed through the tunnel by their crews. This process of pushing against the walls or roof of a canal tunnel with one's legs in order to propel the narrowboat through the tunnel is called Legging.


The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) purchased the Chesterfield Canal in 1847. In order to accommodate its railway line the tunnel was (according to some sources and rejected by others) lengthened to 3102 yards (measuring the distance on a map suggests the tunnel was not extended, furthermore, the MSLR's line was some distance to the north and did not impinge on the line of the tunnel).

A large colliery was developed above the tunnel, operated by the Kiveton Park Colliery Company. The removal of coal from seams under the tunnel caused major subsidence problems - segments began to sink. As the water level was constant the roof became nearer to the water surface. In 1871 the MSLR started what would be twenty years of roof-raising to keep Norwood Tunnel passable.[4]

After days of heavy rain a 12–14 yard section of the tunnel collapsed on 18 October 1907, leaving a large hole in a field near the road to Harthill. With only minimal boat-traffic on the declining canal the cost of repairing the fall could not be justified and the tunnel has remained blocked ever since, splitting the Chesterfield Canal into two sections.

The tunnel today[edit]

The Western Portal of Norwood Tunnel in 2006

The Chesterfield Canal has been restored as far as the Eastern Portal of the Norwood Tunnel largely through the efforts of Chesterfield Canal Trust. Part of the canal West of the tunnel from Chesterfield to Staveley has also been restored. Further restoration is proceeding. Current plans for the tunnel include the opening up of the tunnel in the Kiveton Park area, creating a cutting followed by the restoration of the remaining tunnel to Norwood.

Portal Coordinates
Eastern 53°20′15″N 1°15′01″W / 53.33748°N 1.25021°W / 53.33748; -1.25021 (Eastern)
Midpoint 53°20′06″N 1°16′11″W / 53.33501°N 1.26971°W / 53.33501; -1.26971 (Mid-point)
Western 53°19′57″N 1°17′21″W / 53.33253°N 1.28921°W / 53.33253; -1.28921 (Western)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Whitwell Local History Group". 
  2. ^ "Chesterfield Canal Trust History". 
  3. ^ "British Waterways Archives". 
  4. ^ Richardson, Christine (2009). Norwood Tunnel: Four Centuries of Challenge. Richlow Histories. ISBN 978-0-9552609-6-4


  • De Salis, Henry Rodolph (1969). Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4689-X. 
  • Farey, John (1811). General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire. 
  • Richardson, Christine (2009). Norwood Tunnel: Four Centuries of Challenge. Richlow Histories. ISBN 978-0-9552609-6-4.
  • Richardson, Christine (1992). The Waterways Revolution: From the Peaks to the Trent 1768-1778. ISBN 1-85421-161-7.
  • Richardson, Christine (2004). James Brindley: Canal Pioneer. ISBN 1-870002-95-4.
  • Richardson, Christine (ed) (1996). Minutes of the Chesterfield Canal Company 1771-80. ISBN 0-946324-20-4.

External links[edit]