The Brindley Loops between Renishaw and Killamarsh were cut off out by the building of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway’s Derbyshire Lines in the 1890s. The following is an extract from Next Navigation West, 2013 Revision, by Dr Geraint Coles. It describes the issues pertaining to restoration of this stretch of canal.
Like the rest of Next Navigation West, it is available to download by clicking here and then clicking on Restoration Plans.
© Chesterfield Canal Partnership.
10.7 Options Appraisal: Brindley Line & Railway Diversions at Spinkhill
10.7.1 At the outset of the Next Navigation Study consideration was given to the use of the original 1777 canal route rather than those sections diverted in the late 1880’s during the construction of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railways “Derbyshire Lines” (the MS&LR was to rename itself the Great Central Railway on 1st August 1897).
10.7.2 Construction of the Derbyshire Lines had marked consequences for the Chesterfield Canal; the planned railway route south from Sheffield followed a straight course and was to cross and re-cross the original line of the canal. In order to avoid the cost of numerous bridges, a number of diversions were carried out. Two major diversions were carried out between Staveley and Killamarsh:
* Hague Lane to Renishaw; here the cut-off sections were largely removed or buried by the construction of the Goods Yard of Renishaw Central Station. A small fragment of the original line survives west of the former yard in Lower Clinker Wood.
* Renishaw to Killamarsh (the Long Straight or The Railway Mile); here the canal was diverted into the same cutting as the new railway and runs parallel to it and dead straight for nearly a mile. The cut-off loop of original canal to the west of the new railway was abandoned but can still be traced today.
10.7.3 The railway (and associated canal diversions) were authorised by Act of Parliament in 1889 and the new canal sections quickly constructed. All were in use by the opening of the railway from Beighton Junction to Staveley Central and thence to Chesterfield in June 1892. Eventually the Derbyshire Lines were to become part of a new route to London and today the disused trackbed forms the nucleus of the Trans Pennine Trail. To consider each diversion in turn:
Diversion One: Hague Lane to Renishaw
10.7.4 The Original Route followed the contours of the valley side. From Hague Lane Bridge the original route is extant until the point where it intersects the railway. At that point a new canal formation was created to the east of the railway and the original formation completely obliterated by the line of the GCR until the site of Renishaw Goods Yard.
10.7.5 At the former goods yard site, the original 1777 canal channel emerges from under the railway works on the west side of the yard opposite the Goods Shed. From there the line of the canal can be traced as a shallow wet depression and bank in the undergrowth of Lower Clinker Wood running northwards for about 120 metres before it turns east and is lost again under the railway formation. It should be noted that the ponds marked on the OS survey maps on the western edge of the goods yard are not part of the original route and post date the canal and railway.
10.7.6 From the western edge of the goods yard, the original line has been completely removed by the railway, Barlborough Road and the site of Renishaw Central Station. It is not possible at present to precisely discern where the railway diversion departs from the original line, but it must have been in the vicinity of the modern Barlborough Road Bridge (Bridge no.18).
10.7.7 Examination of the remains of the route on the ground demonstrated that insufficient of the original route remains to provide the basis for reinstatement or indeed for presentation as a significant heritage feature. Several practical problems were noted; Barlborough Road Bridge would need to be replaced and at least two additional accommodation bridges would be required to maintain the continuity of the Trans Pennine Trail (which is used by maintenance vehicles at this point and will also provide access to maintain the canal). Reinstatement on the 1777 line would cut through a former candidate wildlife site and an area of ancient woodland while providing no additional conservation benefits beyond that potentially achievable on the diversionary route.
10.7.8 It was therefore concluded that there was no case for reinstatement of the canal along the 1777 line at this point.
Diversion Two: Renishaw to Killamarsh
10.7.9 The 1777 route parts company with the railway diversion at Rabbit Lane near Birley Farm. It then follows the contours through Birley Wood past the site of Old Birley Bridge and then loops around the low hill on which stands Birley Farm, runs above the site of Chapel Wheel Forge, Dam and Pond before turning incredibly sharply to cross the Park Brook Valley on a stone sided embankment. It then turns again and loops around the second low hill on which Boiley Farm is situated. As it does so, it passes the site of Eckington Bridge and the Setcup Railway Wharf. The original line then rejoins the railway diversionary route near to the site of Boiley Old Bridge.
10.7.10 The original line is well preserved and easily traced on the ground; it has several interesting and clearly visible archaeological features and runs through semi-natural ancient woodland; it is an attractive route and is potentially more interesting to both walkers and boaters than the long straight railway diversion. Three key factors influenced the decision to use the railway route:
Nature Conservation and Ecology
10.7.12 The old route runs through a County Wildlife Site and is immediately adjacent to two others. Restoration on this route would result in the loss of mature trees and established woodland flora and potentially the disturbance of badger setts and bat roosts.
10.7.13 It was concluded that the stated aim of the Partnership to “protect, conserve and enhance the natural and built heritage of the canal” would not be served by the adoption of the original route.
Archaeology and Heritage
10.7.14 The restoration of the original route would damage one of the few surviving fragments of an original Brindley Canal. There are features on this section – such as the tramway wharf — which have not survived anywhere else on the Chesterfield Canal. They represent an ideal opportunity to investigate, interpret and present the industrial heritage of the canal.
10.7.15 To restore this section to navigation and meet modern safety standards would require complete reconstruction of some unique features (such as the Park Brook embankment) which would severely affect their archaeological integrity. The importance of this section is that it preserves a coherent group of features in situ and that the collective heritage value of this group is greater than the individual elements. It was felt that reinstatement would reduce the archaeological value of this important landscape fragment.
Pragmatism & Cost
10.7.16 The old route has several very sharp bends – notably at the ends of the stone embankment above Chapel Wheel Dam. These were designed for horse hauled boats and will pose problems for modern motorised boats.
10.7.17 The reinstatement of the original 1777 route will require the restoration or construction of five additional bridges; two bridges to take the Trans Pennine Trail over the canal (and since the TPT is used by maintenance vehicles these will have to be to appropriate vehicular standards), two bridges to maintain farm tracks within the Boiley Farm Estate — both rated to highest agricultural vehicle weight – and finally a single foot & cycle bridge. In addition reinstatement of the original route will also require the complete reconstruction of the Park Brook Embankment. All these major structures have obvious cost implications. In comparison, the railway diversion has all major (highway) bridges and structures intact, structurally sound and capable of re-use with the minimum of work.
10.7.18 It was concluded that the interests of preserving and interpreting the natural and built heritage of the canal will be best served through the development of on-site interpretation and controlled access on foot. The first stage in this process – the opening up of a walking route along the dry bed of the canal from Rabbit Lane to the site of the original Birley Farm Bridge was accomplished by the DCC led Three Valleys Project in 2005. Development of a new guided walk leaflet (“The Brindley Loop”) is planned in conjunction with the further reinstatement of the canal through the Renishaw and Sitwell Sections.
An 1892 map. N.B. North is to the right.
An 1890s map of the area.
A boundary stone on the Brindley Loops.