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Works Compound at Langley Mill

From the early days of the canal system in the late 18th Century a few primitive timber cranes were used to load and unload heavy items from boats. Smaller cranes were swivel wharf cranes probably lifting about 1 ton but there were larger cranes or hoists fitted inside buildings over an internal canal basin. Then with the coming of railways and their take over of canals in the 1850s many different types of small crane were installed on wharves, station goods yards and at warehouses. These were often cast iron bases and gear mechanisms but the jibs were probably originally of timber with later models using wrought iron or lattice girder jibs.

There are numerous photographs of old Shardlow with various types of crane but the only one remaining in the village is outside the old warehouse just below Derby Road Bridge. This crane in particular is not shown on the early photographs and the Shardlow Heritage Society don’t believe that it is the first crane on this site. From a photo of about 1960 it had probably been installed there for some years; although that may not have been its original location, and its foundation work looks fairly old. It is probably a “Railway Companycrane and may have been installed by Messrs. F.E. Stevens Ltd. when they owned most of the warehouses in Shardlow. However, on the crane base is a brass plaque with the following text.

THIS CRANE WAS DONATED BY
JEFF CLIFTON DECEMBER 1989 RENOVATED BY THE
TRENT & MERSEY CANAL SOCIETY UNVEILED BY
NITA COOK (NEÉ STEVENS)
19 MAY 1990
THE CRANE WAS ERECTED IN 1870 BY ZACCARIAH SMITH FOR BEER HANDLING AT THE BOTTLING STORES EACH SIDE OF THE ADJACENT CANAL ARM IN 1974 BERNARD DE STEVENS GAVE THECRANE TO MR. CLIFTON REQUIRING HIM TO ENSURE SAFE KEEPING ON THE ORIGINAL SITE

Zaccariah Smith’s Brewery was opposite the Malt Shovel and was demolished in the late 1960s.

By 2006 the timber jib was becoming badly affected by rot and Alan Bates, work party leader of the Trent & Mersey Canal Society decided to lower and remove the jib in order to obtain a replacement. The jib was measured and the tapered octagonal shape was drawn out with a view to getting quotations and possible grant funding; but nothing happened in over three years. Then, in 2011, I was getting some old British Waterways timber stop planks cut up for the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association for use on the swing bridge at Langley Mill. Phillip Gregory of Charles Gregory & Sons Ltd. at Tansley, made the cutting look such an easy job with his large band saw that I asked him for a quotation for cutting a new jib.

Phillip’s price was £200 less than the previous estimate so I asked him to cut a new 22 foot long tapered octagonal jib for the crane; starting from a larch log about 14 inches in diameter. After the cutting we left it to dry out under cover in his timber store, following this Alan Woodhouse planed and sanded the post prior to it being “Tanalised” After delivery by lorry to Langley Mill, Dave Turner carried it on his boat to John Cooke’s garden. Alan then shaped the ends to take the cast iron sockets at the base and top of the jib. Following this the jib had several coats of special water based paint which allowed the timber to breath. Modern gloss paints form an impervious sheath on timber which traps water in the timber and accelerates decay; hopefully this will be prevented by the new paint.

When he first took the jib down Alan Bates had made several new 1.5 inch diameter bolts for the base and the top pulley wheel, and had painted most of the gear wheels. I obtained a piece of 16 mm thick laser cut steel to bolt over a crack in part of the base side casting; to satisfy English Heritage this has small plate fixed showing “WRG 2012” I also made new tapered gib keys to locate and lock the gear wheels on to the spindles. Then on a Friday Ernie Boddy, Mac Lambert and myself, refitted the repaired side plate, fixed the gears and recovered the 20 foot iron tie rods from Shardlow Marina where they had been stored.

A date was fixed for the final erection and on Friday, October 17th. members of the ECP&DA working party moved sufficient scaffolding and equipment to Shardlow and loaded it, along with the jib and other parts, on to Dave and Izzy Turners working boat “Bath”. The following Friday morning Dave moved the boat to the crane site ready for the ECP&DA working party augmented by a few more from WRG. The jib was swung into position and a new bolt fitted to fasten the jib to the cast iron base; the tie bars were also fitted to the top end of the jib. A large scaffolding tower was erected round the jib and the jib slowly raised using a geared chain block.

Part way during the lift the chain and hook were fitted and the spare chain wrapped round the drum on the base. The lifting continued until the tie rods reached the top of the base when they were bolted on to the cast iron top plate. The cast iron base was touched up with paint as necessary and the spare chain bolted on to the crane base. The total cost of the work was just over £600 more than half of which came from the Trent & Mersey Canal Society; the remainder being from donations and Waterway Recovery Group (East Midlands)

John Baylis

© Copyright 2015 Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association by Matt Parrott