The Shipley Estate - Studies in History


Eugene Suggett & Philip Ibbotson


In its heyday, coal was the major natural source of the wealth of the Shipley area and it was as much the reason for the development of railways as it previously had been for the canals - which were built, to carry loads bigger than any that could be moved on the inadequate roads of the eighteenth century. In fact, the earliest railways preceded canals and served to carry loads to the natural river waterways. In 1604, on the earliest British railway, horse-drawn wagons were used on parallel wooden rails laid from the Squire of Wollaton's pits (west of Nottingham) to the River Trent. In the late eighteenth century, a similar railway linked the Shipley colliery to the newly built Erewash Canal at Newmanleys. This line, the remains of which still exist as the low embankment on which the road runs from The Field to Hassock Lane, was made redundant by the opening of the Nutbrook Canal in 1796.

The Railways as shown on a map of ca. 1930
{railways in 1922}


The Erewash and Nutbrook Canals enabled coal to be carried to market at very competitive prices and, in 1832, the Leicestershire coal owners were forced to employ George Stephenson to build one of the new steam railways. In response, on 16th August 1832, Edward Miller Mundy, the Squire of Shipley, chaired a meeting held in the Sun Inn at Eastwood. There, the Erewash owners resolved that there remained "no other plan than to attempt to lay a railway from these collieries to Leicester". Although delayed, their scheme got under way with the formation of the Midland Railway Company in 1844 and the realisation by that company that their own interests would be served by a line to Pinxton which would provide the Midland with an outlet to the North via Clay Cross.

The Pinxton link was open by 1849, with stations at Shipley Gate and Langley Mill. Side branches were laid to the collieries at Shipley (close to the old tramway), Eastwood, Heanor and Brinsley. In the same year, the building of Pye Bridge further enhanced the Erewash railway system. In 1862, Shipley Gate Station, was described by the Ilkeston Pioneer as "an unsightly wooden box" to be "replaced by a good station house and residence".

The coals from the Shipley Hard Coal, Soft Coal (or Newcastle) and Nutbrook Pits, the last opened only in 1861, were carried in horse-drawn rail wagons either to the Nutbrook Canal wharf or to the head of the branch line to Shipley Gate. The latter, however, was worked by a stationary engine at the summit of the nearly one mile long track (in 1869, one Joseph Radford was "lying asleep on the Shipley incline and was run over by a train of wagons attached to a wire rope"). In October 1864 a new steam locomotive was obtained from Messrs. Manning & Wardle of Leeds and put to use on new tracks laid from the Soft Coal Pit to the Nutbrook Pit and Wharf. In 1870, the Midland took over and extended the private line down the Nutbrook Valley, thus connecting the Shipley mines to Stanton Gate. This led to the cable-line over Hassock Lane to Shipley Bate being closed, as had happened to its predecessor the wooden railway.


The monopoly of the Midland was challenged, in 1872, by the Great Northern Railway, which extended its Nottingham line to Ilkeston and onwards to the Nutbrook Colliery, for coal traffic, in 1886, and, in 1891, to the head of the Nutbrook Valley. The first train from Heanor, with "upwards of fifty passengers" departed "amid cheering" on July 1st. The Ilkeston Advertiser was moved to pronounce that "The line passes through the beautiful estate of Mr. Edward Miller Mundy and will provide a useful boon to the inhabitants of Heanor". This forecast proved over optimistic as the passenger services, although frequent at first, soon declined and effectively ended by 1928. Often there was no more than a single, elderly and decrepit carriage drawn by an asthmatic tank-engine. For many years, however, the attractive Marlpool Station was painted according to the wishes of the Miller Mundy family.


In the 1880s and 1890s, extensive colliery sidings were built and the line to Shipley Gate was re-opened in 1895, but this time, like the earliest line, it ran to the Erewash Canal Wharf. Every year, for over a century, thousands of tons of coal were shifted by train. This was so efficient that the Nutbrook Canal had fallen into disuse and its northern basin was even filled in and had sidings built over it. By 1910, the GNR Heanor branch had ten down and nine up trains every day and the Erewash Valley lines had up to 50 local services a day, terminating at Chesterfield or Ilkeston.

The vast demand for coal in the Great War, 1914-18, guaranteed the survival of railways locally during an era when lines elsewhere were being closed. After the war, the overall decline, especially due to motor vehicles and greatly improved roads, continued and, soon after the end of the Second World War, even the Erewash Valley lines gradually closed. The Great Northern branch line to Ilkeston closed in 1947. The smaller stations on the Midland line in the Erewash valley were phased out. Goods traffic via Shipley ceased in 1963 and the last coal by rail from the Nutbrook Valley went in 1967.


Probably the most renowned of the locomotives that served the Shipley collieries was the "Cecil Raikes". One of a Class of nine, it was powered by huge 21" X 26" cylinders which drove small, 4'7", wheels. This gave it unusual efficiency on steep gradients, ideal around Shipley, and this was due to it being designed originally for the Mersey Tunnel. In fact, it bore the name of a Director of the Mersey Tunnel Company. In its early years it had a fine Beyer Peacock chimney, later replaced by a "most unworthy stovepipe", and condensing gear to reduce steam and smoke in the tunnel. Happily, it survived the closure of the coal lines and today it can be seen in Southport Railway Museum.


As the first major development in passenger land transport since the invention of the wheel, the railway had a key role in the dramatically changing life of people in the nineteenth century. For the first time ever, the general public could travel easily beyond their own home district. They could move to jobs away from home, especially in the new industrial towns and cities. The Ilkestonian holiday-maker could sample the delights of the East Coast. "Skeggy" (Skegness) excursions and other such exciting trips could be taken. The annual seaside holiday came into being which, although still the only trip away from their home area for most people, was something earlier folk could never even have dreamed about. In 1871, Squire Alfred Miller Mundy chartered three trains to entertain some 800 employees to a day at the Crystal Palace in far-off London. This trip, which of course was "heartily enjoyed by everyone", cost Squire Alfred £700. By today's standards, fares seem to have been reasonable; Langley Mill to Nottingham was one shilling (5p). A day trip to Blackpool in 1904 cost 4/9d (23p) and, in 1914, Heanor Baptist Sunday School went there for its annual outing. The thought of walking several miles to a station deterred few from travelling in an age when the train remained the only serious means of going any great distance by land.


Within Shipley Country Park, despite the opencast coalmining and commercial development, many of the original rail-beds and associated features still are discernible. In places the actual rails remain in position and these may be of interest to the enthusiast; an example is where the old mineral line crossed Field Lane near the Coppice Inn. In the same area is Raikes Cutting, with the remains of the Marlpool Station platforms and the bridge over which Field Lane passes, through which a footpath runs. West of the bridge, Field Lane is on the embankment raised for the old (1780's) horse-drawn railway. At the southern end of Shipley Lake there is a bridge which carried the coach road over the mineral line. Outside the Country Park are several other features. The Mapperley Colliery line, south of Mapperley Village, was used as a road for coal lorries in the 60s and 70s and its bridges still exist, as do the rails between Mapperley Brook and Stanton. The formidable embankment of the mineral line to Shipley Gate can be walked down from the east side of Hassock Lane. The main London-Sheffield line remains busy in the Erewash Valley and the Langley Mill Station was re-opened recently for local passenger traffic.


Robert Leleux: A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain.

Frederick S. Williams: The Midland Railway. Its Rise and Progress.

Heanor & District Local History Society: Two Centuries of Transport in the Heanor Area.

P. Howard Anderson: Forgotten Railways. The East Midlands.

Derby Evening Telegraph.

Ilkeston Advertiser.

Ilkeston Pioneer.

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