Jessop’s Tramway 1794 and Charnwood Forest Canal
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:
- YouTube user Fly Muzza has posted a video Charnwood Forest Canal and Wagonways (fly-through): Osgathorpe and Thringstone to Loughborough which very clearly shows the route of the tramways and canal.
- Wikipedia Charnwood Forest Canal
- Railway & Canal Walks & Explorations – Charnwood Forest
- YouTube user LeiceExplore has posted films of the canal, part one from Nanpantan to Sheshed A Canal and Railway from a by gone era and part two from Shepshed to Whitwick as it also includes the Charnwood Forest Railway which follows some of the route Tracing the Charnwood Forest Canal and Railway part 2 the third part covers the spur from junction house to Barrow Hill quarry north of Osgathorpe A lost Canal of the great Canal age
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.