in search of nottingham’s lost canal part 1

I’d love to be a history blogger, or even just an infrastructure blogger I’m endlessly interested in the story of the things around me, why are buildings, roads and walls in the places they are? When I first moved to Nottingham I often cycled along the Nottingham-Beeston Canal and wondered why it didn’t really go anywhere joining back into a river that was navigable more or less along the entire length of the canal part of it. I simply assumed it was to get goods nearer to the populated part of Nottingham. I was wrong.

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This is Lenton Chain where the Nottingham Canal joined the Beeston Canal. Today the Environment Agency channel the River Leen under the canal and off to the Trent
looking along today's River Leen from the Johnson Arms, this used to be the Nottingham Canal
looking along today’s River Leen from the Johnson Arms, this used to be the Nottingham Canal

About halfway along after Sainsbury’s and just past Trevithick’s boat yard, the canal you may know today joined the old Nottingham canal. The Nottingham canal built in 1796 and goes to Langley Mill, joining with the Cromford canal and taking coal from Nottingham’s many mines to Derbyshire’s mills. It was properly filled in in 1977. The canal starts where today you can see an Environment Agency caisson wall and some dredging gear. This is where the course of the River Leen ducks under the canal and goes on towards the Trent. The River Leen deserves it’s own blog post and is as important to the geography and history of Nottingham as the Trent is, probably more so. One day I hope to be able to pull some loose ideas about the Leen together and say something meaningful about it.

Some of the River Leen bubbling up under Lenton Lane near the old course of the River?
Some of the River Leen bubbling up under Lenton Lane near the old course of the River?

 

The Boat Inn on Priory Street. Almost certainly nothing to do with the canal but it does have a boat on it.
The Boat Inn on Priory Street. Almost certainly nothing to do with the canal but it does have a boat on it.

The River Leen was diverted and used to run along the cut through between Lenton Lane and Abbey Bridge (Grove Road), the railway bridge that spanned it is now a bridge over a cycle track. The wetness of the ground around this area was evident by the puddles and pumps around the NET Tram Phase 2 works in the area. More evidence of the areas canal history can be found on the old Shipstones “The Boat Inn” on  Priory Street. I headed along to the canal bridge next to the Johnson Arms on Abbey Street. You can see the course of the River Leen today which is little more than a drain at this point. This is the route of the old canal. The bridge here is clearly high enough for boats to go under and there is a tow path clearly visible too. The first proper evidence of the canal having existed.

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A Victorian bridge over the canal with the Johnson Arms next to it.
The canal tow path under the bridge.
The canal tow path under the bridge.

The River Leen follows the eastern edge of the University hospital and Queens Medical Centre QMC as far as Derby Road where the River Leen emerges out of drain and off along it’s original course. The canal went through a tunnel like bridge here that you can still see clearly on Derby Road. It’s been bricked up and the canal itself filled in. There is an interesting iron door here and it’d be interesting to see what is inside as I suspect that this tunnel runs across to the other side of Derby Road.

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Filled in and bricked up the route of the canal at Derby Road. Lenton Lodge in the back-ground.
The children on the right are more or less stood in the same place as my modern picture above.
The canal in water photo is possibly from the 40s or 50s

Just outside Lenton Lodge, a 17th Century gatehouse for Wollaton Hall, you can find neglected railings that ran along beside the road keeping the public away from the canal’s Wollaton lock. This is now a car park and I was able to take a photo showing how little things had changed since 1925. Sadly a better picture from 1930 has all sorts of silly restrictions on it, but you can see it here. Gill who was with me pointed out the bow arch peeping out of the tarmac where the canal used to be.

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Wollaton lock was more or less where the “one way” arrow is. The railings used to be at the edge of the tow path.
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These bowed archway stones give away where the canal came out into the lock.
Another view of the railings that make little sense without the canal there to protect.
Another view of the railings that make little sense without the canal there to protect.
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another view of the railings that stood beside the now removed lock.

Poking about a bit in the university park woods behind what looked like a bricked up grand Lenton Lodge public toilet I surprised to find a WWII Pillbox or similar structure though a search of the Defense of Britain database has drawn a blank. Behind this a big pile of dressed stones, which I’d like to think is part of the removed canal, but that’s probably a bit fanciful. There is a water pump in a small enclosure too! Lots of hidden interest here if you take only a little time to look.

Water pump in a little enclosure
Water pump in a little enclosure
Probably a WWII "Pillbox" a hardened defensive structure, if it is a pillbox it would have been strategically positioned to look down Derby Road and defend the crossing of the canal, a natural barrier for tanks, though this far inland it is an unusual example. It might be an air raid shelter or  just be something to do with water pumping or even just an uninteresting structure built with similar material and technique in the 40s?
Probably a WWII “Pillbox” a hardened defensive structure, if it is a pillbox it would have been strategically positioned to look down Derby Road and defend the crossing of the canal, a natural barrier for tanks, though this far inland it is an unusual example. It might be an air raid shelter or just be something to do with water pumping or even just an uninteresting structure built with similar material and technique in the 40s?
Piles of dressed stone all over the place near by. I'd like to think they are parts of the lock. They certainly look like it.
Piles of dressed stone all over the place near by. I’d like to think they are parts of the lock. They certainly look like it.

I’ll continue my exploration along the canal soon. Next it skirts the edge of the Wollaton estate and past the old tobacco bonded warehouses which now form the corner of University land.

You can read ore about the Nottingham Canal on Wikipedia…