Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Grand Commercial Canal

Reading Sarah’s blog about the Sheffield and Tinsley canal about how abandoned it seemed and how little used it is, got me thinking about how different it would undoubtedly be if Sheffield Basin was not a “dead end” but was a through route. Now by car (or train) we live about 30 minutes from Sheffield, but to get our boat from Furness Vale would take around a fortnight (111 miles and 149 locks CanalPlan says). Actually at our usual pace, it would be much longer than that.

But there were, in the nineteenth century, various proposals to connect Sheffield by canal with Manchester. The first of these came in 1813 from a Mr Chapman. His idea was to leave Sheffield along the Sheaf valley, rising 440 feet in 6 miles. Then, at Strawberry Lea, the canal would enter a 2 ¾ mile tunnel, emerging at Padley Mill, near Grindleford. The canal would then join the proposed “High Peak Junction Canal” which in turn would join the Peak Forest canal at Bugsworth. The route proposed is almost identical to the Hope Valley railway line (apart from the Bugsworth end where the canal was to drop down quite quickly).

See Google Books for full text

Nothing became of this proposal, and it was not until 1824 that "The Grand Commercial Canal" was proposed by Joseph Hazlehurst. Again he would join onto the planned route of the High Peak Junction Canal near Grindleford/Padley (although the High Peak Junction Canal proposal, connecting Cromford to Bugsworth, was pretty well abandoned by this time), but then his route differed: The canal would enter a tunnel which would emerge much further south and take the canal past his own colliery at Unstone, and from there the canal would climb around a hundred feet, before descending into Sheffield.

There were further proposals in 1824: James Dean ambitiously proposed not only linking Manchester, and Sheffield, but also linking this canal to Chesterfield, via a branch near Dronfield, and then linking the Chesterfield Branch to the Cromford Canal via a branch between Cutthorpe and Pentrich. His Sheffield to Manchester canal revised the route from Bugsworth, keeping the canal lower, and the two tunnels much longer. He also called this The Grand Commercial Canal and there is more information on his proposed canals on this blog.

From The New Monthly Magazine, 1824
In the same year Thomas Telford joined the growing band of engineers to propose an idea. But this was very different. His canal would connect Sheffield and Manchester via a much more northerly route, following the course of the River Don, west out of Sheffield, and then the course of the River Etherow. This is roughly the routes of the A616 and A628 (Woodhead Pass). This canal was to join the Peak Forest Canal much nearer to Manchester, at Hyde Bridge (No 6). Telford's canal would have been cheaper to build, but in avoiding the longer expensive tunnels resulted in a canal of 39 ½ miles with 146 locks!

None of these proposals came to anything. Writing in 1826 Sanderson suggests that most of these proposals would have cost over £400,000, and with an estimated annual income of around £20,000 it is easy to see why this was unattractive to investors.

Shame though. It would have been nice to get to Sheffield in under a fortnight.


Sarah said...

Crumbs, you're putting me to shame with all this extensively researched and illustrated stuff. Haven't you got any marking to do :-)

Jemma said...

No ... Captain wrote that (with Jemma's help). The first mate is far too busy painting her nails!