History Of Shardlow Canal Port
The inland port of Shardlow is arguably best known as the site of the Sharlow Canal and one of Derbyshire’s most important trading grounds in the 1770s but the history and significance of this port goes much further than the glory years of the Soresbys and the numerous businesses on the wharf. The River Trent, which runs beside Shardlow, has always been the ideal route for trading and transport in the area because its waters are traversable from this point, in the heart of the country, right out to the sea at the Humber Estuary. Local inhabitants have taken advantage of this crucial resource for centuries, evidence of which can be seen in the Bronze Age log boat that was found in the area and is displayed in the Derby museum, and vital links between the river and the turnpike meant that it became a river port in the 18th century. It did not take long, however, until the area evolved once more and Shardlow became a hive of activity.
The development of the port and canal at Shardlow in the 1770s.
From 1760 onwards, the area around Shardlow and the Trent river began to change dramatically with the development of the Trent and Mersey canal. This new stretch of water, with its increased potential for transporting goods and close proximity to the river, made Shardlow the ideal place for a canal port and over the following decade the area grew with wharfs, warehouses and other businesses and the county took full advantage of what was now on offer. This connection between the two channels became the perfect place to store and transport a range of goods, from raw materials like coal and iron to cheeses and other produce. The Sharlow Basin section of the canal was completed in 1770, the whole route was opened up in 1777 and the famous Salt and Clock Warehouses were completed between 1778-80. The Clock Warehouse is a particularly interesting design because its distinctive arch meant that barges could pass underneath to be loaded or unloaded. For approximately 70 years, this port continued to expand and thrive and offered plenty of opportunities for local businesses.
Shardlow canal port at the turn of the 19th century and its more famous inhabitants.
By the turn of the century, the Shardlow canal and port was developing into a even more dynamic centre for trade and business as the popularity of the canal grew and more companies established themselves on the wharf. The population of three hundred local residents soon grew to over a thousand and by 1816 a dozen warehouses had been built and the port held a range of buildings. This included offices and stores for the goods, breweries and inns, boat builders and workshops for the vessels and adequate housing for the owners, workers and their horses. Two families in particular made a fantastic living from the port and built fine houses on the banks – the Soresbys and the Suttons. Both families make their fortunes from the boats rather than the goods, the former providing horse-drawn fly boats on the river and the latter producing narrow boats for the canal. Eventually, as the country’s focus switched to the railways, the Soresbys saw the way the wind was blowing and turned away from the port towards cotton and corn mills – a move that that would prove to be wise as the area went into decline.
The closure of the port and its modern status.
Today the Shardlow canal port is no longer a working wharf but more of a relaxing place to have a drink and enjoy the memories of the past because the buildings and warehouses have been preserved and restored as places of historical importance.The hectic
breweries and inns have been replaced by pubs and scenic spots that make the inland port at Shardlow an ideal tourist spot – the Mansfield Brewery going a step further and providing the home for the heritage centre – and many of the old buildings, such as the Soresby’s home and the cottages, can be seen by walking through the town with a guide and a map. Once the railways came to Derbyshire in the 1840s the requirement for barges and transportation via the water was reduced significantly and the area could only retain its former glory by preserving the buildings and relics from this more vibrant period – an act that has been carried out with ease and skill and shows off the history and importance of this inland port for new generations.