Saturday, 22 December 2012

The High Peak Junction Canal

Sschhhh! Jemma (the dog) is sleeping and I have taken this opportunity to post a blog. 

Now, I have been wondering for an hour or so how to weave in some publicity for my books, into a blog that ought to be about all things canal.

Then it came to me, one of my books does include some notes on a canal:  The High Peak Junction Canal. Now, you won’t have an iron plaque for this one as it was never built, and had it been built (and still been open) you might have had second thoughts tackling locks that would raise you over 500 feet! But the idea, sponsored by The Grand Junction Canal Company, got as far as far as obtaining its Act of Parliament, and during the period when this seemed a possibility, further connecting canals were proposed, most notably, The Sheffield and Manchester Junction Canal, which hoped to connect to the High Peak Junction Canal near Grindleford, and provide a much needed link from Sheffield to Manchester. But all of these routes came to nothing. There remained though a need for a route cutting across the Derbyshire peak district. The Cromford canal had opened in 1794, and that provide good routes for the cotton mills in the Derbyshire peaks, to the south east, but there remained no canal route north, to the mills’ chief markets in Manchester.
Butterley Tunnel on the Cromford Canal
Closed, due to subsidence, since 1900

The following is taken from Robert Blincoe and the Cotton Trade.

‘In 1802 there was a proposal for an extension of the Cromford Canal to take it ten miles to Bakewell, but this came to nothing. Then in 1810 there was a proposal for “The High Peak Junction Canal” sponsored by The Grand Junction Canal Company. This was to connect the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal near Whaley Bridge. The route presented to Parliament [around 33 miles] was from Chapel Milton through a three mile tunnel to Edale [more or less following the route of the existing Hope Valley railway line to just beyond Hathersage], then down the Hope and Derwent valleys. It would cross the Derwent near Baslow and then pass through a one mile tunnel to the Wye valley near Bakewell. After Rowsley, it would follow the Derwent to Matlock, and then through a one and a half mile tunnel through to the Derwent aqueduct on the Cromford Canal. The canal was never built as it would have been too expensive with so many tunnels, and dozens of locks would have been needed to raise it over 500 feet above the Cromford level. [Cromford is around 300 feet above sea level, and Edale around 800 feet.]

Robert Blincoe and the Cotton Trade by Stuart Courtman
Click on the above image for more information
Eventually a link was established between the two canals, but this was a railway: “The Cromford and High Peak Railway.” The idea was put to Parliament in 1825 and by 1830, the railway was partly operational. The route was very different from the proposed canal, although its engineering complications were similarly challenging. 

The first part of the line was from the wharf at the Cromford Canal to Hurdlow near Buxton. From the canal it climbed over a thousand feet in five miles using four inclines ranging from 1 in 14 to 1 in 8. The line then proceeded up the relatively gentle Hurdlow incline at 1 in 16. The second half from Hurdlow to Whaley Bridge opened in 1832 descending through four more inclines, the steepest being 1 in 7. On the steep inclines the trains were hauled by ropes operated by winding engines.’

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