The Cromford Canal

This ruined cottage is listed as a lock keepers cottage in old photograghs. It sits at the junction of the Nightingale Arm, near the Leawood Aqueduct on The Cromford Canal ran 14.5 miles (23 km) from Cromford to the Erewash Canal in Derbyshire, England with a branch to Pinxton. Built by William Jessop with the assistance of Benjamin Outram, its alignment included four tunnels and 14 locks.

From Cromford it ran south following the 300-foot (91 m) contour line along the east side of the valley of the Derwent to Ambergate, where it turned eastwards along the Amber valley. It turned sharply to cross the valley, crossing the river and the Ambergate to Nottingham road, by means of an aqueduct at Bullbridge, before turning towards Ripley. From there the Butterley Tunnel took it through to the Erewash Valley.

From the tunnel it continued to Pye Hill, near Ironville, the junction for the branch to Pinxton, and then descended through fourteen locks to meet the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The Pinxton Branch became important as a route for Nottinghamshire coal, via the Erewash, to the River Trent and Leicester and was a terminus of the Mansfield and Pinxton Railway.

A 6-mile (9.7 km) long section of the Cromford canal between Cromford and Ambergate is listed as a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In addition to purely canal traffic, there was a lively freight interchange with the Cromford and High Peak Railway, which traversed the plateau of the Peak District from Whaley Bridge in the north west, and which descended to the canal at High Peak Junction by means of an inclined plane. Decline In 1802 the canal had carried over 150,000 tons and by 1842 nearly 300,000, then in 1849, the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway was built alongside as far as Ambergate, which reached Manchester in 1867. A further line to Pye Bridge was built in 1875. By 1888 trade had shrunk to 45,000 tons a year. In 1846, Parliamentary assent was granted to merge with the MBM&MJR. The sale was not carried through until 1852 by which time the Midland Railway and the LNWR had assumed joint control and, with railway lines from Rowsley through Ambergate to the north and south, it was being used for little more than local traffic. In 1889, subsidence closed the 3,063 yard (2801m) Butterley Tunnel for four years, and further subsidence in 1900 closed the Tunnel permanently. Most of the canal was abandoned in 1944 with the exception of a half-mile (800m) stretch to Langley Mill which was abandoned in 1962. The Bullbridge Aqueduct was removed in 1968 when the Ripley road was widened. In 1985 the Codnor Park Reservoir was lowered by 6 feet (1.8 m) and a lock was removed as part of a flood prevention scheme.


After closure, the canal was taken over by the British Waterways Board and sold to the Derbyshire County Council in 1974. Attempts are being made to restore the canal and about 5 miles (8km) of it remains in water.

The towpath from Ambergate to Cromford is now a very popular walking route, with the Derwent Valley Line adjacent, Leawood Pumping House and the High Peak Junction of the Cromford and High Peak Railway.

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One response to “The Cromford Canal

  1. wildnorthlands

    The towpath of the Cromford Canal is cyclable between Trent Junction and Langley Mill, and if the canal was restored would provide a sustainable route from the Trent Valley to Matlock and into the Peak District, with the High Peak trail already in existence and the Matlock – Buxton route earmarked for conversion in full to a walking and cycling route. It could also form part of the missing link between Langlet Mill and Chesterfield, using the canal route in part and the various trails that have been created from disused pit railways in NE Derbyshire.

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