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Monument record MDR4798 - Little Eaton Tramway (Gangway or Gangroad), or, Derby Canal Tramroad (route of), Little Eaton

Type and Period (1)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1793 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

At the suggestion of William Jessop, the northward spur of Benjamin Outram's Derby Canal was terminated at Little Eaton and transport continued on to Smithy Houses, Denby, by railway. At least six branches ran from the main line to stone quarries and coal mines. In the 1960s its track could still be followed along a footpath from the filled-in terminal basin and stone sleepers and cast-iron rails were still found occasionally, the former sometimes being seen in walls of buildings. This railway was probably the first to be designed by Outram, and had flanged rails and plain wheels. It was in operation from 1795 until 1908, when fortunately many photographs were taken of the last run and it was described in detail by a local historian, Mark Fryar. Two of the original wagons have been preserved. (1) Approximately 200 yards from the Street Lane crossroads on the A61 trunk road, lies the line of the Little Eaton tramway, (opened in 1793 and closed in 1908). The tramway diverges from the line of the A61 road heading NW towards Salterwood on a clearly visible raised embankment. The tramway linked the many collieries in Denby, Kilburn and Morehay with the Derby Canal. The wharf at Little Eaton and the present day A61 follows the line of the tramway between Smithy Houses and Little Eaton. On this small section of the line there are many stone sleepers lining the track bed, all standard millstone grit sleepers pierced with a simple hole. There is no evidence of any surviving rails. (2) The Little Eaton Tramway of 1795-1908 carried goods, chiefly coal, from Denby and Kilburn pits to the Derby Canal Wharf. There is still (1986-2005) considerable evidence of the line of the tramway, notably under Jack O'Darley Bridge and the section which runs parallel with Main Street, Little Eaton, behind the Post Office and the Queen's Head to the vicinity of the Clock House. (3, 5) The Little Eaton Gangway, as it was known locally, consisted of a main line from the wharf at Little Eaton to the pits at Smithy Houses. It had a single set of lines with numerous passing places or crossings and remains so until its closure in 1908. As traffic grew, the number of passing places was increased and by 1825 there were nine crossings in use. The original rails or plates were supplied by Joseph Butler of Wingerworth Iron Furnace and Killamarsh Forge; the stone blocks to which they were fastened were of gritstone, obtained from one of the quarries adjacent to the line. Over the years several additional branch lines were constructed as the coalfield was developed and also as other industries made full use of the railway. While some of these lines were private, built by the colliery owners, it appears that in the main they were worked by the canal company. Today the remains of the railway are hard to find. A small industrial estate now occupies most of the old wharf area where the lines once converged. The route is easy to follow as it passes behind the 'Queen's Head Inn' then by the green on to Jack O'Darley's Bridge. One may still go through the bridge, where the stones are dressed in a herringbone pattern. Then the route begins to fade away, lost under road improvements. (4, 6) The Derby Canal crossed the River Derwent by a 'tumbling bay', refering to the weir and long bridge at Derby, whereas the Derby Canal Tramroad was no more than a proposed branch from Little Eaton tramroad to the water driven mill at Smalley. The 'road' is now (circa 1955) completely abandoned except for one or two instances where it is in use as part of colliery sidings or the London & Midland Railway system, laid with modern rails and chairs. This can be seen at Denby Station, where many of the stone sleepers can also be traced in the station platform. The Act of Parliament of 1793, for the making of a navigable canal from the Trent through Derby and Little Eaton included the making of a rail or wagon way from Little Eaton to Smithy Houses in the Parish of Denby, a wagon way to Smalley Mill and a branch wagon way to Horsleley Colliery for the sole use of the Earl of Chersterfield; the rails of which were to be made of 'good and sound heart of oak of the dimensions of 6" by 4".' Outram himself engineered a rail network for the tramway, however the system inventor was probably John Curr of Sheffield, Mineral Agent to the Duke of Norfolk's Collieries from about 1774 to 1820. At this time, the rails were probably wood and later converted to cast iron. (7) 'Smithy Houses (Little Eaton Gangroad), from termination of canal at Little Eaton, north to Smithy Houses. Continuation north to Denby Hall Colliery and extension to Godbers Lum with sub-branch south to Salterwood North Colliery near Marehay Hall, also branch at Smithy Houses, north west then west to Henmoor Colliery. Opened, 1795. Track, 3ft 6". Engine, outram. Owner, Derby Canal Co. Traffic, stone, coal, pottery. Closed in 1908.' (8)

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Nixon, F. 1969. The Industrial Archaeology of Derbyshire. pp 153-54, p 263.
  • <2> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Little Eaton Tramway.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D. 1986. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology - A Gazetteer of Sites. Part II - Borough of Erewash. p 21.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Ripley, D. 1993. The Little Eaton Gangway and Derby Canal, (Second Edition).
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 2005. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology: Gazetteer of Sites, Part II, Borough of Erewash (second edition). p. 21.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Ripley, D. 1971. The Little Eaton Gangway, (First Edition).
  • <7> Article in serial: Potter, E. 1955. Through the Butterley country, in search of Outram's Railway, Butterley Company House Magazine.
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Baxter, B. 1966. Stone Blocks and Iron Rails.



Grid reference Centred SK 369 440 (2579m by 6162m) Approximate

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Record last edited

Nov 21 2022 12:54PM

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