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Monday, 28 April 2014

Going over the top.

We decided to have a look to see what we were missing by walking to the east portal of the Norwood Tunnel and then over the boat horse path to the west entrance and see the Norwood Locks, or remains of them.

The visitor moorings for the summit pound are just by the winding hole and that is about 600m from the tunnel entrance. The winding hole is actually where the main feeder for the canal summit comes in from Hartshill and Pebley reservoirs.

The Hartshill feeder entering the canal.

The eastern entrance of the Norwood Tunnel. It is in water right up to the entrance.

James Brindley had several thoughts about the tunnel, whether to have a shorter tunnel with locks or a longer tunnel and less locks. In the end the length was decided so as to make as long a summit pound as possible and reduce the amount of water required. The limestone ridge it tunnels through is the watershed between the Trent and the Ouse. It was 2880 yds which is the same length as the Harecastle tunnel north of Stoke on Trent. Work started in 1772 with shafts being sunk along the route and work moving in each direction. Near the eastern end above is disturbed land that apparently was where the bricks were made and the kilns fired by local coal. Several deaths occurred and financial irregularities were discovered later as the work was carried out by several subcontractors. The tunnel was completed in May 1775 and great ceremony was involved with a trip through taking 61 minutes. As you can see by the photo the tunnel was only wide enough for one boat and no tow path so the boats had to be 'legged' through. The routine was for boats from either direction to have passage on alternate days. This also made more efficient use of water down the staircase locks at either end of the tunnel.

The western entrance of the Norwood Tunnel. The hole in the wall is to allow bats to access their roost.

Coals was being mined from beneath the canal tunnel and as these mines progressed in the 19th century sections began to subside. As there were locks at each end this had the effect of making the roof lower making life very difficult for the passage of boats. in 1871 work started in raising the roof for the complete length but there were complaints from the colliery. As the surface was not too far above there were several examples of collapses right through to the surface. There was disagreement between who would have to pay, the canal company and/or the colliery. When the colliery were let of the writing was on the wall. The alternate days working then changed to three hours each way from  0600 to 2100. The end came in 1907 after heavy rain for several days the tunnel collapsed leaving a big hole on the surface. As there was very little traffic at that stage and the railways had more or less taken over it was left and has been closed since.

There are plans for the future to open up the line of the tunnel to the surface for part of the way and added some locks to take it up and over the west side. On the west side were Norwood locks. These consisted of three sets of triple staircase locks and on quadruple set of locks.

The site of the quadruple staircase locks. There is evidence of each chamber but obviously extensive work will be required.

Side ponds were added at a later date to maintain water supplies a little better. The building in the photo maybe the old canal company sawmill that was water powered. The canal continues just to the right of the building.

There are several house next to the route of the canal and I'm not sure how they will feel about having boats once again going up and down right next to them. There doesn't seem an area for boats to wait for the locks or the tunnels and maintain the houses privacy, but I'm sure something could be worked out.

After the four sets of locks of the Norwood flight is the Norwood Bridge that is still standing proud. This length is still in water.

This is the lowest set of locks and the buildings on the right are on the site of the Boatman Inn.

The weather was lovely and the walk was very pleasant largely over the site of the old Kiveton Park Colliery and its spoil heaps. It also passed under the M1. After getting back to the boat we were later joined by another intrepid explorer as a another boat arrived on the moorings.

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