About this image
Lea Wood Pumping Station at High Peak Junction (marking the beginning of the Cromford and High Peak Railway) houses a fine preserved steam engine, originally used to pump water from the river Derwent to the Cromford Canal. The Cromford Canal Company was formed in 1789 and commissioned by Parliament to cut a canal. The Canal, which cost £46000, operated successfully for a fifty one years, but 1844 was a particularly dry year, and the water levels in the canal were difficult to maintain. To combat this problem, the Leawood Pumphouse was built and became operational in 1849. It pumped water from directly from the River Derwent to the Cromford Canal. The objective of the pumping engine was to maintain a level of water suitable to keep Canal traffic flowing - the Cromford Canal has a flight of fourteen locks connecting it to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill Basin, each time a boat enters or leaves the Cromford Canal it takes a lock full of water into the Erewash Canal which needs to be replaced. The size of the Lea Wood pumping station reflects a law passed by parliament by which water powering the cotton mills was carefully monitored. Anyone wishing to extract upstream of the mills had to comply to strict conditions with a heavy financial penalty if they failed to do so. The conditions were that water could only be removed from the Derwent between the hours of 8 p.m. on Saturdays to 8 p.m. on Sundays and no more than one twentieth of the flow of the river in any period of that time, and none at all if the flow was less than 570 tons per minute. The flow was measured at the weir behind Masson Mill, Matlock Bath. With such restrictions it can be seen that if you wish to maintain a level of water in the Canal but can only voluntarily fill for one 24 hour period in a week then a substantial amount of water will need to be pumped. This explains the size of the engine, which is capable of pumping almost four tons of water per stroke and seven strokes a minute, a total of over 39,000 tons of water per 24 hours. Disaster struck the Cromford Canal when the Butterley tunnel collapsed in 1900 isolating the northern section. The canal has since been severed in several places. However, water still remains from Cromford to Ambergate. Today, Derbyshire County Council own the canal from Cromford to Ambergate. There are 5.5miles of tow path to explore, offering easy walking, abundant wildlife and canal history.