Skip to main content

Site record MDR4689 - The Openwoodgate Branch Lines of the Little Eaton Gangway

Type and Period (2)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1815 AD? to 1855 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1815 AD to 1855 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

The Openwoodgate Incline of circa 1795 was on the branch of the Little Eaton Gangway connecting with Belper. The course of the incline is preserved between two hedges but little remains of its winding pit and engine house. (1) Remains of the tramway were seen, partly on a public footpath passing through Hill Top Farm, Openwoodgate. A few stones remain above ground and more seem likely to be buried. The farmer had a piece of the rail which was dug out of the foundations for his (new) house. The farmyard was apparently the coal wharf. (2) A series of railway lines were built over a period of some 40 years from the Little Eaton Gangway to various pits and landsales situated between the railway and Belper. The lines were constructed by the owners of Denby Colliery, commencing around 1815 and lasting until the second half of the 19th century. The first line made seems to have run from the Little Eaton Gangway to Henmoor, where a landsale wharf was established, as well as serving two pits. The route of this line is still visible in parts, although it has been severed by the A61 bypass. Later the line was extended to Openwoodgate and the wharf at Henmoor closed. From Openwoodgate the coal was carried down the road to Belper in carts. An extension from Openwoodgate to near Pottery Farm at Belper was definitely in situ by the 1840s, although the pottery had probably closed while the extension was being planned. Sometime prior to the building of the Belper extension, the line had been realigned and a steam winding engine from Morley park was installed at Hill Top to serve an incline. When the A61 bypass was constructed, the old winding engine house slipped and had to be demolished. During the work of rebuilding Hill Top Farm several stone sleepers and an odd length of rail were found. A 'wheel pit' was also located and under this a large tank which had contained water to feed the winding engine. Today few traces remain of the lines although the route can be made out in some places, and some stone sleepers remain in situ. (3, 6) The Belper and Morley Park Railway was initially proposed by William Drury-Lowe in 1804. He was the proprietor of coal mines as well as the leading landowner in Denby at the time. He already had a private plateway to link his coal workings to the Little Eaton Gangroad terminus at Smithy Houses and his idea was to extend his line into Belper to supply coal to the town. It was finally opened in c. 1817, with a terminus on the east side of the turnpike at Openwoodgate, where a wharf was established. Around 1830 the railway was substantially rebuilt and re-routed. An incline worked by the winding engine at the Hill Top Colliery replaced the old route up to Openwoodgate. In 1842 the line was finally extended to a coal wharf in Belper located where the Pottery School now stands. By this time the main line railway had reached Belper, but the coal wharf and the railway from Denby seems to have stayed in use until around 1860. After that it was progressively cut back to serve simply as sidings to connect collieries to the Little Eaton Gangroad. The last short section lasted until 1908. A number of features survive. These include stretches of embankment, a length of track with stone sleepers in situ, a stone bridge that carried the old road and the railway over a stream, remains of two further bridges across streams, platforms from which brick and tile products were loaded onto the railway wagons, and a low bridge that carried the Ripley branch of the Midland Railway over the earlier railway - the last survival of several such 'tramway' bridges. (4)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • --- Unpublished document: Griffin, T. 2020. Archaeology at Openwoodgate on the former Belper and Morley Park Railway.
  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). 1975. Council for British Archaeology (CBA) Panel on Industrial Monuments, 1975.
  • <2> Unpublished document: County Treasure Recording Form. 11.1, with photos (Denby).
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Ripley, D. 1993. The Little Eaton Gangway and Derby Canal, (Second Edition). Appendix 6.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Griffin, T. 2012. Major Consultation on Proposals for a New Local Settlement at Denby, Additional Comments to Amber Valley Borough Council.. HER Doc. No. 1507.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 2011. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology: A Gazetteer of Sites, Part III, Borough of Amber Valley (second edition). p. 10.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Ripley, D. 1971. The Little Eaton Gangway, (First Edition).



Grid reference Centred SK 373 471 (1837m by 1084m) (3 map features)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR5042
  • EDR4649

Please contact the HER for details.

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Apr 20 2023 10:20AM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.