Dearne and Dove Canal
The Dearne & Dove took considerably longer to complete than the Barnsley Canal, which had been partly open since 1799 and had been fully opened in 1802, two years before the Dearne & Dove. Both routes had cost just under £100,000 each to build.
By the 1830s The Dearne & Dove was a successful canal. This was it's peak, before the railways arrived.
When the railway competition arrived in 1846 it was the Don Navigation who faced the biggest losses. To counter this they leased the Dearne & Dove Canal and took over the running of its route. Although this meant they could make sure they made best use of the canal, it did not stop the railway competition.
In 1850 The Don Navigation Company amalgamated with the Doncaster & Goole Railway Company and the two concerns became one under the name of the South Yorkshire & River Dun Company. (Dun being the alternative name for Don). The new company continued to lease the Dearne & Dove Canal throughout this period.
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Later, in 1857, The SY&RD company bought the Dearne & Dove Canal outright for £210,000. They already owned the Stainforth & Keadby Canal so this meant they now owned the whole waterway route from the River Trent to Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield and Barnsley, in other words, monopolising the waterway traffic form South Yorkshire to the Humber estuary. A few years later the SY&RD company was itself leased to the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company but the new controllers had little interest in water bound trade. Bit by bit the Dearne & Dove was used by less and less traffic.
The ownership changed again in 1894 when all the waterways owned by the SY&RD company were bought up by the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation Company as part of a project to build better communication between Sheffield and the Humber. However, the MS&LR company still held the lease on these waterways and therefore maintained control over finances. This meant that the new owners found it almost impossible to develop the routes. Being in a heavy mining area the Dearne & Dove Canal had always suffered from subsidence. Because the railway lessees would not finance the necessary repairs the canal soon deteriorated.
In 1906 The canal branch to Worsbrough was the first part of the Dearne & Dove Canal to be closed to navigation, although it was kept open as a feeder from the reservoir on its line.
The second branch, to Elsecar, was also closed to navigation in 1928.
In 1934 The S&SYN company decided to close the Dearne & Dove Canal and the last boat to travel the full route from the River Don to Barnsley past through during this year. The canal was not closed completely however and many short-haul journeys continued for another 18 years. It was was nationalised along with the rest of Britain's canal network in 1948.
The British Transport Commission officially closed the whole of the Dearne & Dove Canal in 1961. Only the first half mile was kept open to allow access to Canning Town Glassworks at Swinton.
Major restoration began in 1994 on the Elsecar Branch of the canal. Alongside the canal a new heritage centre including a pumping engine, steam trains and cottages was built. Nearby, the canal itself was dredged and filled-in locks were excavated.
The Dearne & Dove Canal, along with its rival the Barnsley Canal, is now supported by the Barnsley and Dearne & Dove Trust. who hope to fully restore both waterways.
The canal headed north west towards Wath upon Dearne but the route is completely filled in after the top surviving lock (about half a mile from Swinton Junction). About one mile further on, near Wath and Adwick, there was a 472 yard tunnel though a bypass was constructed when the railway was built in the mid 1800's. The original tunnel still survives and could still be found in the undergrowth to the south of the railway. Past Adwick the course of the canal followed the railway on its south side. The minor road heading north off the A633 and other lanes off the same road all lead to the canal but most bridges have been flattened. On Westmoor Lane there was a good stone bridge crossing the filled in route.
At Brampton the canal route came alongside the A633 but there is little trace of it today. It was here that the Elsecar Branch left heading south west. The branch was also used as a feeder and is still in water today. It is marked on my road atlas from the main line very close to the junction of the A633 & the B6089. There were 6 locks on the branch though all were converted into weirs. The top part of the branch runs alongside the B6097 between Hemmingfield and Elsecar. However, the mines are now closed so the area may be subject to redevelopment or landscaping. The small Elsecar Reservoir is situated a few hundred yards south west of the end of the branch in Elsecar.
A short stretch could still be found in water between Wombwell and Barnsley where the canal passed under the A633 though it is exteremely overgrown . Just past here there were 7 locks and a junction with the Worsbrough Branch, some of which could still be detected in the early 1970's. Worsbrough reservoir is situated to the west of the village between Worsbrough Hall and the M1. There was a basin at the end of the Worsbrough Branch. Today, the area around the reservoir has become Worsbrough County Park, which has 200 acres of footpaths, fishing areas, a working farm and a mill museum. At the bottom of the overflow car park is a path which leads to the canal branch. There is a short stretch still in water, with well kept grass banks. The head of this branch was a very busy transhipment wharf, the neighbouring A61 formerly being an important turnpike road.
The junction with the Barnsley Canal can still be seen in the town centre, the area around the junction was fully restored in the 1990s. Just before the junction is a stop lock which marks the official end of the Dearne & Dove Canal, at the junction the preserved foundations of Aqueduct House (a canal cottage) can be seen and there are some rare pulley-stones, devices which helped horse-drawn boats to negotiate tight bends without the towrope going slack. The Barnsley Canal heads north west towards Barugh and north east towards Wakefield. Both directions are part of a Waterside Walk.
For more information on the Dearne & Dove Canal and details of its proposed restoration see the Barnsley and Dearne & Dove Trust website.
Calder Navigation (Archive Photographs: Images of England )
see also The Canals of the Aire & Calder Navigation (Transport through the ages)
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