Simon Stoker Archive - Building Bridge 6
This photo gallery and accompanying commentary form a part of the Simon Stoker Archive, a collection of images shared by the former General Manager of the Cromford Canal, Simon Stoker. The captions are his own.
Images marked (ADS) were taken by his late father, Dr. Desmond Stoker.
Images of the building of bridge 6 are on the next page, but below is a commentary given by Simon Stoker on the project.
"We had no idea at the time, but the construction of Bridge 6 marked the beginning of the end of a considerable amount of restoration work on the Cromford Canal which started way back in 1969.
For some 20 years the work had progressed steadily, latterly with the considerable help from Job Creation teams. Through the efforts of these teams, combined with our own work as volunteers and full-time staff, many thousands of visitors of all age groups were once again able to experience one of the foundations of the Industrial Revolution - the canal system.
We tried to do something for the local community and for the wider education of the very many visitors. Many of those who took part can feel justifiable pride in what was achieved. After leaving us many of the Job Creation workforce found full-time employment elsewhere.
The last team to work with us was approaching the end of its year's contract in December 1988. Having already done considerable work in restoring and re-opening the next big section of the canal between Leawood and Gregory Dam there was one remaining obstacle to overcome - the fixed bridge on Leawood Aqueduct.
Leawood Aqueduct is some 200 yards long, carrying the canal 30ft above the River Derwent on its final stage of the 14 mile journey from the Erewash canal at Langley Mill to Cromford. The towpath crosses sides at the East end of the aqueduct, just by the junction with the Nightingale Branch. The original swing bridge was long removed and had been replaced by a fixed concrete structure 100 yards away. Clearly this had to be removed to allow navigation and a plan was formulated to replace it.
Working from old photographs we sketched out a draft design for a slightly narrower version and this was translated into plans by the local authority's bridge engineers. A new steel structure would be prefabricated off site and assembled in the position of the original. It would look very similar to the old wooden structure but be more hard wearing and, essentially, would complete through navigation to Gregory Tunnel and beyond, arguably then one of the most attractive sections of canal in England.
Sadly the only 'proper' use of the completed bridge was on 21st December 1988 when the Cromford Canal Society's passenger boat, John Gray, carried out a celebration trip for the workforce two days before their contract ended.
On 25th February 1989 appalling weather conditions and heavy rain and snow-melt caused the canal to overtop halfway down the newly restored section, washing away large amounts of embankment in two places, and that part of the canal was de-watered immediately. It was never re-opened and visitors were never able to enjoy a boat trip through the tunnel." (Commentary by Simon Stoker)