Crossing the Trent

Traditional Techniques: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2015

Christopher M Jones

How horse-boats tackled a tricky river junction

From about 1780 boats have been able to navigate a 1,000 yard stretch of water connecting the Erewash Canal with the navigable River Soar at Redhill Lock by crossing the River Trent. This enabled large amounts of coal to be transported south from the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire collieries to destinations in Leicestershire and beyond, and goods to be taken north to Nottingham, Derby, Shardlow and various other places. In normal conditions and in motorised craft, crossing the Trent from the Soar to Trent Lock, and vice versa, is fairly straightforward. But how did unpowered boats negotiate the same stretch, dependent as they were on motive power from the bank? As well as having a strong current, the river is also prone to flooding, so several techniques had to be employed by the working boatmen. Many years ago the late ex-boatman Ike Argent described the practice of taking a horse-drawn boat across this wide expanse of water, and the following descriptions and illustrations are base…

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