History of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation

The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation is made up of more than 40 miles of waterway linking Sheffield with the River Trent - the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, the Don Navigation and the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, along with the New Junction Canal linking across to the Aire and Calder Canal.

The River Don, serving Rotherham and Doncaster, was made navigable between Tinsley and Goole, on the River Ouse. Work began in 1722 but it wasn't until 1751 that the navigation was completed to Tinsley, where goods to and from Sheffield had to been transhipped by road.

The section between Stainforth Side Lock and Goole had always been treacherous, being tidal and fast-flowing. In the 17th century, the Dutchman Vermuyden had straightened part of the channel, which became known as the Dutch River. This improved the drainage of the area, but the navigation remained difficult. Eventually, in 1802, the Stainforth and Keadby Canal opened, providing an easier route to the wide River Trent at Keadby.

The 4 mile long Sheffield and Tinsley Canal was opened in 1814, to carry boats between the navigable River Don at Tinsley, and a new basin close to the heart of Sheffield. During the Victorian period, a number of improvements were made to the Don Navigation, with some new locks and lock cuts constructed.

The New Junction Canal opened in 1905 - one of the last canals to open - to link with the Aire and Calder Navigation, for boats travelling to Goole and Leeds.

Originally, the lock sizes had been about 61' 6" long by around 15' wide between Sheffield and Keadby. In 1983, the locks all the way from the New Junction Canal to just short of Rotherham were extended to around 230' by 20' so that large 700 tonne barges and butties could use the locks together. This was part of a push to re-vitalise the waterway and encourage more traffic. Many new staithes and loading facilities were constructed.

Today, while there is still some commercial traffic on this waterway, many of the facilities and boats can be seen lying disused.

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