Friends 'very happy' as underground wharf is granted monument status
A HERITAGE group aiming to revitalise a Derbyshire canal says finding funding to help make the waterway navigable should be easier now that an historic underground dock has been granted ancient monument status.
The Friends of Cromford Canal had been calling for the wharf below the former Butterley Company iron foundry, Ripley, to have the status for three years.
The wharf was used for vessels that shipped weapons from the site during the Napoleonic Wars.
Raw materials, like coal, limestone and iron ore, were also delivered via the underground dock and pulled up to the foundry through a shaft. Finished pieces were lowered through another shaft.
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Now that English Heritage has granted the site ancient monument status, the wharf, the section of Butterley tunnel in which it lies and nearby blast furnaces will get more protection from developers.
The Friends want to make the waterway's 17-mile length – from Langley Mill to Cromford and Pinxton – navigable by boat.
Currently, no part of the canal is navigable, with nine miles still "in water", four miles where the bed is intact but dry, and four miles destroyed – though a one-mile stretch from Cromford Wharf to Leawood Pumphouse is set to be opened this summer for boat trips.
Friends chairman Patrick Morriss said that the wharf's new status could help attract funding for work to repair part of Butterley tunnel, which closed in 1900 following a partial collapse.
He said funding was more likely because the status means the wharf site would become eligible to go on English Heritage's Buildings At Risk register – proving the urgency of repair work.
He said: "It improves our case for going to funding bodies like the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash to refurbish that part of the canal.
"We are very happy that the new status has come to fruition."
The status was decided on after English Heritage officials reviewed pictures taken by officers from the Canal And River Trust, formerly British Waterways, when they inspected the wharf for damage.
An English Heritage spokeswoman said the new status was similar to that for listed buildings and meant that developers would have to prove they would not "damage the site's historical significance" if they made changes.
Mr Morriss said he understood there was a developer interested in building on the former foundry site but nothing had been finalised.
He said that the new status had "come at the right time".