Nottingham Canal

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Nottingham Canal
Nottingham Canal, Awsworth.JPG
Part of the Nottingham Canal is maintained for Fishing. Pictured in 2006.
Status parts in use / nature reserve / infilled
Principal engineer Benjamin Outram
Date of act 1792
Date completed 1796
Date closed 1937
Connects to River Trent
Nottingham Canal
Cromford Canal
Moorgreen Resr and feeder
Langley Mill basin
Langley Mill stop lock
Langley Bridge Lock
A608 Derby Road
Erewash Canal
(Some sections watered)
Bennerley Viaduct
Newtons Lane
A6096 road
Coronation Road
Robinettes Arm
A609 road
M1 Motorway
(City section destroyed)
A6002 road
Wollaton Locks (14)
Wollaton Road
Lenton Locks (3)
Lenton Chain
Beeston Cut
Castle Lock
A453 Wilford Street bridge
A60 road
A6011 road
A6011 road
Meadow Lane Lock
River Trent
Trent Bridge
Beeston Lock
Beeston Weir
River Trent

The Nottingham Canal was a 23.6 kilometres (14.7 mi) long canal between Langley Mill in Derbyshire and Nottingham, England. It opened in 1796, and most of it was closed in 1937. The southern section is now part of the River Trent Navigation, and the northern section is a Local Nature Reserve.[1][2]


The idea for the canal first rose in 1790. The opening of the Cromford Canal would favour coal transport from Pinxton over pits nearer Nottingham. Moreover transport to Nottingham itself was by the circuitous route down the Erewash Canal and along the River Trent. It was also felt that the canal proprietors would exploit their position.

In 1791 the charter group called in surveyor William Jessop, who had experience with the successful Cromford Canal. Jessop himself was ill at the time and employed James Green of Wollaton to carry out the actual survey, with Jessop preparing the report and assisting its passage through Parliament. The canal would begin at the Cromford Canal, just north of its junction with the Erewash, and proceed to the Trent at Nottingham with a branch to the river at Lenton

In 1792 the canal was promoted through Parliament, opposed vigorously by the Erewash owners who were fearful of possible loss of their water. Jessop proposed a reservoir at Butterley which would provide a sufficient supply (not mentioning that it would alleviate his own problems at Cromford).

Benjamin Outram was appointed engineer, with Green as superintendent and engineering began. Problems arose with the intended path of the canal (it flowed directly over the canal's chief financial sponsor's estate) and with Jessop, who became ill and was forced to give up his post as chief engineer.

During the winter of 1794–5, severe frosts were followed by floods which caused a great deal of damage. Despite the problems, the canal opened in 1796, having cost twice the initial estimate of £43,500 (£3,820,000 in 2015),[3](including the reservoirs).

In operation[edit]

When the canal was in use this bridge could be swung out of the canal's line. Pictured in 2006

At first, the canal was praised by the citizenry, who saw shipments of building materials, coal, and agricultural tools come into the area. However, the canal owners' tolls soon became excessive, and led to mass discontent. When the first railways arrived in the 1840s, a number of shippers quickly abandoned the canals. Throughout the 19th century the canal was in continuous decline as a transport route, and it was finally abandoned altogether in 1936. The following year the London and North Eastern Railway Company which owned it shut down the main stretch of the canal, with a portion of the Nottingham Canal (between Trent and Lenton) being transferred to the Trent Navigation Company, to officially become part of the River Trent Navigation.

Although abandoned, the canal still caused some problems. There were complaints that in times of heavy rainfall, the canal caused surrounding areas in the city to flood, and so Nottingham City Council bought the section running through the city. From 1955, a programme of filling in the canal began, and most of the route has subsequently been built over. The final section from Derby Road to Lenton Chain was, however, re-used as a new course for the River Leen, and so is still in water.[4]

The canal today[edit]

Since 1977, the Broxtowe Borough Council has owned and maintained the upstream sections from Wollaton to Langley Mill as a nature reserve and walking trail. On the Trowell section of the walk, remains one of the original stone bridges(Swansea bridge) Grade two listed built in 1793–95 with wooden keep gates. The view from the bridge overlooks Trowell Garden Centre where you can see the original stone built lock keepers cottages,1&2 Swansea Cottages,Trowell. built 1794–95. The name Swansea for bridge & cottages originates from the fact that this particular part of the canal is where large quantities of swans used to congregate. Due to the lack of water in 1980 a decision was taken by the garden centre & the RSPB to relocate them. Much of the route is in water, although water supply is a problem. The Robinettes Arm acts as a feeder, taking water from Oldmoor Wood, but beyond this, a 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) section has been destroyed by open cast mining at Awsworth, cutting off the original water supplies from Giltbrook and Moorgreen reservoir. Because of the rich habitat that the route provides, it was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1993.[5] The downstream section through Nottingham and connecting to the River Trent remains in use as part of the Beeston and Nottingham Canal.

The towpath of the canal through Nottingham city centre is also the route of Nottingham's Big Track, a 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) circular car free cycle and footpath, which follows the canal from the railway station in Nottingham to the Beeston locks, and then returns via the Trent riverside path.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Nottingham Canal". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. 
  2. ^ "Map of Nottingham Canal". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. 
  3. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  4. ^ "The Story of the Nottingham Canal". Lenton Times. May 1989. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Nottingham Canal Trail". Broxtowe Borough Council. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "Big Track Map" (PDF). The Big Wheel. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Get healthy on the Big Track". BBC. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Reginald Bryan Schofield (2000). Benjamin Outram, 1764–1805: an engineering biography. Merton Priory Press. ISBN 1898937427. 
  • Alan Henshaw and Alfred Henshaw (2000). Great Northern Railway in the East Midlands. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 090111586X. 
  • Bernard Chell (2006). Nottingham Canal: A History and Guide. History Press. ISBN 0752437593. 
  • De Salis, Henry Rodolph (1969). Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4689-X. 
  • Stephen Zaleski (2001). The Nottingham Canal, Past and Present. The Local History Press. 
  • Hadfield, Charles (1970). The Canals of the East Midlands (Second ed.). David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4871-X. 
  • Russell, Ronald (1971). Lost Canals of England and Wales (First ed.). David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-5417-5. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°57′18″N 1°16′43″W / 52.9550°N 1.2787°W / 52.9550; -1.2787