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A Walk along the Canal Part 2 Ickles - Aldwarke

To continue our journey from Ickles we have to cross the main road and continue on the towpath on the other side. Walk along the canalised Rover Don and pass by Don Island (there was a heron nesting there when we did this walk). Along Don Street there is the listed frontage of the old Guest and Chrimes Foundry.

Guest and Chrimes Foundry
Guest and Chrimes Foundry

The river and the canal split up again just past Main Street.

Rotherham Town Lock
Rotherham Town Lock

The exact date of the first Rotherham Lock is unclear. The 1774 map of Rotherham seems to show a single set of lock gates at the entrance to the cut, but these may have been floodgates to prevent floodwater entering the cut. Fairbank's 1801 map of the Don Navigation Canal shows no lock at Rotherham.

In 1835 the Navigation dug a new cut from Jordan past Holmes rejoining the original cut just below the present lock. The Ordnance Survey map of 1840 shows a set of stop gates at the Rotherham end of this cut but nothing on the site of the present lock. The 1851 Ordnance Survey however shows the present lock with a bridge to the north and another lock marked as "Rotherham Lock" at the end of the Jordan Cut. The 1835 cut did not last long. In 1850 the Don Navigation was absorbed by the South Yorkshire Railway which was then absorbed by the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Great Central Railway in 1864.

The MSLR decided to build a new line along the north bank of the Don from Sheffield to Mexborough. the only way to get this line under the line of the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway into Westgate station was to use the 1835 cut. The cut was filled in and the new railway line was built along it from Ickles to Rotherham. The main line of the canal was then diverted through the present lock and a new cut was made from the Don near Bow Bridge to join the 1835 cut. The railway was opened to Rotherham in 1868 and the Mexborough in 1871.

At some date before 1888 two extra sets of gates were added to the lock creating a double lock and the present footbridge was constructed. The extra lock gates were angled downstream and would only have been viable if the level of water in the navigation was higher then in the river. Possibly there was a period when this may have been the case or they were preparing for the eventuality. The site of these extra gates is shown by patches of brickwork in the walls of the lock The earlier footbridge was replaced with a swingbridge carrying a railway line from Central Station into Rotherham Forge and Rolling Mills. The pivot and recess for the swingbridge can still be seen. Such bridges were once common along the Navigation but remains are now rare.

I did warn you canal history could be complicated!

The area now occupied by Tescos car park has been known as Forge Island since 1754. In that year the Walker brothers took a lease on a plot of land between the river and the canal to erect a water powered forge. These works grew to occupy the whole island and only ceased to operate as the River Don Stamping Company in 1981.

The police headquarters opened in 1983 and the new Courthouse opened in 1994 are built partly on the site of Rotherham Central Station closed in 1965 and partly on waste land which was for many years the site of the annual Statutes (Stattis) Fair.

The Police Station and Law Courts with the narrowboat Will Scarlet in the foreground
The Police Station and Law Courts with the narrowboat Will Scarlett

From Rotherham Lock go by the Railway Station and cross the road to regain the towpath. The old warehouse now sells pine furniture - I don't remember what it was used for previously. The crane is still in good working order and I presume therefore used although I have not seen a boat moored there for some time.

Warehousing on the Canal near central Rotherham
Warehousing on the Canal near central Rotherham
Crane on the canal
Crane on the canal

The towpath then passes the oil depot on Northfield Lane. You have to leave the canal for a short while as there is no path through Tulley's Marine (boatyard) but you rejoin past Tulley's near the electricity substation. Boats are permanently moored along here but I hope that nobody lives on them as some of the surrounding firms are very noisy. You then pass by Rotherham Marina - please don't expect any nice pubs or somewhere to eat on the canal for there aren't any.

Rotherham Marina
Rotherham Marina

You pass the old Tram sheds now AMA on the opposite side of the canal and if you're lucky you may see Waddingtons barges filling up with scrap.

Old Rotherham Tram Sheds now AMA Storage and Handling
Old Rotherham Tram Sheds now AMA Storage and Handling

You can still see loads of Waddingtons boats on the canals around here - some still working but many moored up at Eastwood Dock waiting to be broken up. Most of them are painted a turquoisey blue - Waddington's colours though I have not yet found the Waddington Coat of Arms on any of them.

Angling is very popular along this stretch of the canal but the rights belong to various angling clubs.

You carry on past Eastwood and round the back of Parkgate Retail World. This takes you down to Eastwood Lock. There is no public right of way through Waddingtons at Eastwood Lock but you can get through any way. In 2006 the locked gate that tried to stop folks walking this way is now open, but whether this is by vandalism or design I don't know.

Eastwood Lock
Eastwood Lock

The canal and river rejoin just after this point but split again to avoid the weir just before Aldwarke. They join up again on the other side of Aldwarke Lock. The now disused old Aldwarke Bridge was rebuilt in 1834 to replace the original bridge was much older.

Old Aldwarke Bridge over the canal
Old Aldwarke Bridge over the canal
Aldwarke Lock
Aldwarke Lock

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