Have we really made progress…… ?


Cromford Canal, Derbyshire

It was the very late 1700’s that the Cromford Canal was dug to create one of many water highways that would crisscross the country… new super highways for horse drawn barges.  The Cromford Canal was built to transport goods from Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Spinning Mills.

Today the Canal is a peaceful location for a quiet walk through this part of the Derbyshire countryside, it also takes you past some other very significant indicators of our historical industrial progress.  It also made me ponder the question – have we really progressed.

Here in the Derwent Valley, much of what was soon to be taken as a given was created.  The Canal, a very environmentally means of transport was quickly overtaken by the arrival of the railways.  Indeed it is right here that rail transport was developed as a practical alternative…. not that Derbyshire was the ideal location to start the process.  Many geological and  geographical problems had to be overcome, but they were.

A good deal has vanished over the years, but much still remain, mainly the buildings.

Take the Leawood’s Pumphouse.  Built in 1845.  It is a solid stone construction with a massive smoke stack.

Within these stone walls is a Steam powered Beam Pump Engine.  It stands between the Canal and the River Derwent, the river  runs at a much lower level in the valley. The Canal was busy and lots of traffic created water loss. The pumphouse was built to ‘lift’ water from the River to top up the canal. The Beam Engine is very much still in working order.  Regular ‘In Steam’ weekends are organised across the summer months, a spectacular event to witness..

The legacies of the railway are many.  Gone are the rail tracks, but its supporting infrastructure is still very visible…. again some very solid buildings.  A Transit Shed and Warehouse, Linesmen’s sheds,  and Offices for the Managers…. it has to have been a very busy hub for canal, rail and road transport distribution.


The Locomotive Workshops, the second oldest in the Country are still maintained for visitors, a snapshot in time…  the workshops finally closed, along with the rail line in 1967, and the contents preserved as they were left.

The canal and its water are the most obvious reminders of just how busy the birthplace of the industrial revolution once was.

Back to my opening question… have we really made progress ?

Of the very many industrial and commercial buildings I passed on my way home, mostly were new builds ( What I call Tin Sheds –  skeletons clad in aluminium panels ). Will any be able to stand the same test of time _ I doubt it.

As for the Cromford Canal, I am sure it will be with us for may generations to come.


Lets all please….

Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

26th October

(C) David Oakes 2021

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