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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.