The Derby Canal

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Winter 2021

Bobby Cowling

Bobby Cowling studies the history of a once-busy East Midlands route, and its failure to survive into the leisure-boating era

Perhaps more than any other city in the UK, Derby suffered particularly badly from the negligent attitudes of authorities towards inland waterways in the mid-20th century. Its canal, once a vital amenity for this industrial town (later a city) right in the heart of the country, had the great misfortune of being overlooked when the waterways were nationalised after World War II. This, combined with an obstinate canal company and a particularly short-sighted local council, meant that a hard-fought campaign to save it proved unsuccessful, and in the mid1960s much of it was infilled. Today, the majority of the 14 mile canal can be traced on a multipurpose pathway. But its inner-city sections, including a large basin, various canal arms and its once-iconic ‘Long Bridge’, have been wiped from the landscape. Dual carriageways, office blocks and car parks occupy the place of a waterway route that, if it were still in existence, would be busy with boaters coming from the heavily pl…

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