Posted by: lensweb | April 26, 2016

Shivering in Shardlow

Mon Apr 25,  Shardlow Canal Walk around 18th Century Inland Port with visit to Heritage Centre (£3 per person, includes entry to canal museum)

Meet 6.30pm at Clock Warehouse Car Park, London Road, Shardlow.

Grid ref    SK 440 303                    Postcode   DE72 2GA

Leader:  Sheila Cooke


Ignoring dire weather predictions we gathered at Shardlow Wharf admiring Gorgeous George, the goose that got away. The Clock Warehouse at Shardlow is one of the most beautiful buildings on the canal system, the Heritage Centre is nearby in an old salt warehouse.clock meme


Listening to Sheila relating tales of old Shardlow, you can drift away to the seventeenth century when 300 villagers operated a 4 field system in rural harmony, coping with flooded fields, stripping willows, gathering osiers from by the river for basket weaving. Shardlow was already a River Port but the Trent Navigation was often closed because of fluctuating water levels and dangerous currents.  In the mid eighteenth century navvies came with their wheelbarrows and shovels and started to dig the Trent and Mersey Canal to link the River Trent at Derwent Mouth (Lock No 1 at Shardlow) to the River Mersey. James Brindley completed the 93 miles with 76 locks in 1771. This was 40 years before the Grand Union Canal was in operation.

clock meme (2)

Progress means change. Villagers were uprooted, bemused, and amazed as the population of the village swole to 1300 and services strained. Cheap housing and a school was built and there was a workhouse or orphanage at the Grove. There were 3 main families in the village, the Soresbys, the Suttons and the Salts, and they intermarried to keep the social order.. The village of Shardlow was split into 2 parts; the upper part was posh with big houses (it has St James Church) the lower half was full of working families (but they were earning a lot of money) and they had a modest Baptist Chapel (later Methodist). In the rough low end of the village, prize fights took place, heartrendingly the newspapers reported a fighter urged on to fight beyond his strength by his mother til he died in her arms.

Shardlow’s inland port became one of the busiest in the UK. The canal warehouses were built with bricks manufactured locally, circa 1780 but the sunburst windows are on warehouses built in1820. The River warehouse predates the canal, it was moved from the river and rebuilt by the canal. Loading and unloading took place at Lock No 2. Building stone, timber and Staffordshire pottery, salt for food preservation, pottery, beer and cheese went to London via the coast. There was a large coal wharf. Grain was inbound from Gainsborough for storage and transhipment.  At times the guard was called in to protect the stored grain from starving rioters.

3 boatyards were kept busy, one building the large 80’ x 15’ river boats for the Trent Navigation, others building all sorts of craft including the narrower canal boats. Fly boats were express carriers given priority for delivery of perishable goods. Villagers were able to travel to Derby on market day via the Derby Canal, a good day out. The canal boats were horsedrawn, one stable block alone housed 100 horses. The Shoeing Smith was dedicated to making horseshoes and there was a saddlery. The huge brick warehouses had a huge painted letter of the alphabet on the side to help target deliveries. They had cranes and winches for loading and unloading, some such as the Clock Warehouse had channels underneath the building to deliver heavy goods. Canal workers used to idle by Bridge No 3 where the turnpike road crosses the canal, touting for work.

The canal company sponsored public houses so as navvies were paid the money came back into the canal company coffers. The New Inn is the oldest inn. The Malt Shovel was the Manager’s House, he was a devout Christian, his son converted the house to a beerhouse and also developed the first brewery at the Maltings. Other pubs such as the Dog and Duck and the Navigation were coaching inns.

The canal lost trade to the Cromford Canal, which closed down the Stone Sawmill.  A lot of business was taken by the Grand Union Canal but the port was kept alive by FE Stevens, a reknowned retailer of animal feedstuffs. Huge advertising letters, CORN, FERTILISER, MEAL AND GRAIN could be seen from miles away. Coal and steam powered the mill.

For many years Dickinson’s glasshouses covered acres of fields around Shardlow and their tomatoes and other fresh produce supplied Transatlantic liners, all transhipped by canal.

In our youth we cycled to Shardlow past fields of primroses it was mecca for beer drinkers as it was rumoured to have more pubs than houses. Now between Shardlow and Long Eaton there are gravel pits and the M1 feeder lanes and the balance of houses to pubs has been redressed, but the old Shardlow is still there, there are numerous heritage buildings each with its own story, the old Iron Warehouse tests rail calibration equipment and other old industries live on in the street names and in the numerous heritage items displayed in the Shardlow Heritage Centre.  Sheila tells us (confidentially) the village is still split.

Unfortunately you cannot fault the weather forecast for last night, it was very cold, down to 4C by the time we left. The rain came down in icy sheets but by judicious use of Sheila’s top gear and idly sheltering under bridges, followed by the warm welcome at the Heritage Centre, I believe we still had the same number of enthusiastic members by the end of the evening.

Marion Bryce 25 April 2016



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