Along The Grantham Canal – 1920s
Taken on a calm cloudy winter’s day, the old postcard features an unrippled strip of water, the Grantham Canal. Redmile lies about one-third of the way along the canal towards Nottingham downstream from Grantham. 33 miles in length this nineteenth-century canal was one of many in England, intensively navigated by narrowboats. Its major use was the transport of coal and building material to the villages and agricultural produce to sell in the cities, until closure in 1936.
A wooden boat is moored opposite the towpath. “It is a canal maintenance boat, with two masts. In front, the shorter one, is the towing mast where the rope was connected to a horse”, explains Tony Jackson, social media volunteer for the Grantham Canal Society. “The taller white mast at the back is part of a device called a spoon dredger which a few men operated to keep the canal open.”
“The building behind the bare tree is Jasmine Cottage”, says Ian, who owns the 17th century dated Grade II listed building, now screened by the new built white house. Closeby was the Peacock Inn, for 300 years one of Redmile’s public houses. The story goes that one of the locals, Brian, had a Jack Russell, called Diesel. The dog always sat next to him, on a barstool, being fed mini cheddars. At that was fine for Dee, the Peacock Inn’s last owner. The pub closed in 2016 and was renovated into cottages.
“It is noticeable how many trees are still there, especially around the church”, declares Alex Hoveringham, regardless of the tall bare tree which has gone. “Between the old pub and St Peter’s church, stands Church Farm. I live in the former farm outhouses, now converted into a house.” Martha Lowther concludes: “It is our most idyllic spot to live with the family.”
“100 yards to the left, is a winding hole, a widened area of a canal, used for turning the long narrowboats”, observes Mark Poyser of the Grantham Canal Water Restoration Group. “Hard to see with the abundance of reeds, but it’s still there.” It must be a never-ending story, keeping the canal open. “It is worth fighting for”, says Tony Osbond Grantham Canal Society’s general manager. “Our challenge is to rebuild two more locks and two bridges, and dredge the canal by removing tons of silt. Redmile is the first future target to make the canal navigable from upstream Grantham.” More than a single old canal maintenance boat will be needed for that.
The Grantham Canal runs for 33 miles (53 km) from Grantham through 18 locks to West Bridgford/Nottingham, where it joins the River Trent. It was built primarily for the transportation of coal to Grantham. It opened in 1797 and its profitability steadily increased until 1841. It was then sold to a railway company, declined, and was finally closed in 1936. It was used as a water supply for agriculture, and so most of it remained in water after closure, although bridges were lowered. Since the 1970s, the Grantham Canal Society has been working to restore it.