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Jessop’s Tramway 1794 and Charnwood Forest Canal

Jessop’s Tramway

In 1794 the engineer William Jessop built a tramway from the western terminus of the Charnwood Forest Canal, (near the George and Dragon pub on the A512 Loughborough Road) to the coal mines in the north of Swannington and Coleorton.

The Swannington spur went to the Raper and Fenton coal mine on Limby Hall Lane.

The Coleorton spur went to Bursulem’s coal mine near the George Inn, Loughborough Road, Coleorton.

Charnwood Forest Canal

The Charnwood Forest Canal from Thringstone wharf to Nanpantan followed the 300 foot contour from its western terminus at what is now Cinder Hill Farm, near the George and Dragon pub on the A512 Loughborough Road.  The bed forming the first part of the canal leading to Snarrows Lane, Osgathorpe is still there, although it has been filled in on the other side of the lane.  This evidence of the canal is part of the 400 acres transferred from Thringstone to Osgathorpe in 1936.   Some of the canal was used by the later Charnwood Forest railway, other parts have been built on.

More information on the Charnwood Forest canal is available on websites such as:

The bed of the Charnwood Forest canal, next to the public footpath between Cinder Hill farm and Snarrows Lane
Junction House for the toll keeper and to provide stables, built next to the spur leading to Barrow Hill quarry

Jessop’s Tramway 1794 and Charnwood Forest Canal – A Commercial Failure

Overall the route was a financial failure and was only operable in some form for about 10 years from 1794 to 1804.  The failure of the Blackbrook dam in 1798 unleashed a tidal wave of water through the canal and surrounding area to Shepshed and beyond, causing significant damage to the canal and other property, certainly did not help.

However, perhaps the main reason for the failure was the design of the route with tramways from Coleorton and Swannington to the canal terminus at Thringstone, then a second transhipment at Nanpantan to another tramway before a third transhipment onto the soar navigation to travel to Leicester.

The transhipments were all labour intensive and damaging to the coal as customers preferred large lumps of coal to small coals or slack.  There is an argument that the route could have been successful if it had been a horse drawn tramway for the whole of the route, as this would have been cheaper to run.