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The Steamboat Inn at Trent Lock

In 1719, a bill proposing to make the River Derwent navigable to where it joins the River Trent, was presented in Parliament. The Act for the building of the Erewash Canal was passed on 30th April 1777, spurred on by the need to transport coal to Leicestershire. Work began that year by John and James Pinkerton. Dredging and a horsepath at Sawley were completed in 1787, followed by the construction of locks.

The canal which cost 21,000 to build, begins near Langley Mill (where it was joined by the Cromford Canal in 1792) and runs almost parallel to the River Erewash until it reaches Long Eaton, then joins the River Trent at Trent Lock. It is just under 12 miles long and has 14 locks which account for the 108ft height difference between Langley Mill and Trent Lock.

Coal from mines in the Erewash Valley was the main trade south through Trent Lock to Loughborough and extended to Leicester in the summer of 1778. A ferry landing stage just west of Trent Lock was used by the owners of the Erewash and Soar Navigations, who jointly bought a boat to transport horses across the Trent. Corn and malt was carried north, causing Trent Lock to become a very busy place, and making the Erewash Canal prosperous. Shares rose from the original price of 100, to 1,500 each by 1825.

By 1793 the Sawley Cut had been built, followed by the Beeston Cut in 1796 and Cranfleet Cut completed in 1797. As Trent Lock was the meeting point of so many routes, it quickly developed as a centre of inland navigation. Its growth included the building of warehouses, cranes, and a weighing house for coal. This was an innovation as before 1796, coal was sold in different weights at the pit head where it was mined, and at each coal wharf. This made levying a toll for carriage difficult, until in 1796 a standard weight of 1 ton (2240 lbs) was settled.

Various goods passed through Trent Lock at this time: coal, stone, lead, iron, agricultural produce, pottery, millstones, freestones, chalk, marble, slate, granite, cheese, corn, malt, deal, gypsum and limestone. Lime from Crich was also burnt and sold at Trent Lock.

Before 1786 men would tow the boats by rope along the towpath, but after this date horses were chiefly used. By 1799 there were approximately 140 barges along the river, and in 1802 a byelaw required that boats carrying more than 18 tons had to have a crew of three men and a boy. This period was the heyday of canal transport, and 270,000 tons of coal, two-thirds of which headed for Leicester, was carried along the Erewash Canal in 1808, with a toll of two shillings per ton. As Trent Lock became a canal centre, many male inhabitants of Sawley worked as bargees or in the warehouses at Trent Lock.

Although very few goods are transported along the canals and rivers today, Trent Lock is still an active navigation. It is now an inland resort and leisure area where pleasure cruisers, houseboats and highly decorated pleasure barges, pass through and frequently stop overnight. Trent Valley sailing club has enjoyed a prime location on the River Trent at Trent Lock for over 100 years. The club was formed in 1886 and has a variety of members from cruising members to keen racers. Club racing is on Sunday afternoons in summer and mornings in Winter. Thursday evening races are also run while light permits. The club runs sailing and race training courses throughout the year. The Club House is situated on 9 acres of private land opposite Trent Lock and enjoys an exceptional view of the river Trent from their famous riverside lawn.

At Trent Lock, the pretty tea rooms and the two public houses, The Steamboat Inn (which still has its beer delivered by boat as there is no road access) and The Navigation, attract locals, anglers and visitors from further afield. Various fishing clubs hold regular match competitions along the canals and rivers near to Trent Lock. The addition of the nearby Trent Lock Golf Club with its full size 18 hole course, has further increased the popularity of this attractive part of Long Eaton. Beyond the short Cranfleet Cut and Lock, a long, winding walk offers pleasant views across the wide valley with summer holiday homes dotted along the river bank.

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