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Appeal for memories of Bugsworth Basin

Do you remember being involved in the original restoration of Derbyshire’s Bugsworth Basin, near Whaley Bridge? Or perhaps you played there as a child when the basin was a disused wilderness?

Whatever your memories of this Scheduled Ancient Monument site at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal, we would like to hear from you. In conjunction with the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) we've recently received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £76,400 to carry out important repairs on a 150-metre length of wharf wall in the basin.

The five month project was completed in April. We now want to assemble a unique archive of oral, written and pictorial memories of life at the basin. Interviews and information collected will be professionally archived for posterity by the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum and Derbyshire County Council and it is hoped in the future displayed on site for all visitors to enjoy.

Buisiest inland port

Built in 1796 by canal and tramway engineer Benjamin Outram, Bugsworth Basin was once the largest and busiest inland port on Britain's narrow canal system and is now the only example of its type to survive intact. It eventually closed in the 1920s and by the 1960s was a dry, overgrown pit, used as an outdoor playground by local children.

After a massive voluntary restoration effort led by the IWPS, the basin was re-opened in 1999 but closed again a few months later due to extensive leaks. It finally re-opened to boat traffic in 2005 following a major repair programme by British Waterways.

Anecdotes and opinions

Heather Roberts, from the Canal & River Trust, is the professional archivist leading the oral history project: “Official records only tell us so much. What we want to preserve are people's anecdotes, opinions and motives. We want to hear from anyone involved in the restoration projects about what they did and why they did it.

“We've already had some wonderful stories from people who used to play on the derelict site as children in the 1940s and 50s. People apparently kept chickens here and youngsters used to tease adults by running over bent reeds which would only take the weight of a child.

“Bugsworth Basin has had several incarnations. From its creation as a busy, industrial port and tram gateway to Derbyshire's stone quarries, it then became a community wilderness and more recently a managed heritage leisure destination for boaters and walkers.

“Everyone has their own unique way of interacting with this wonderful place and we want to preserve these important personal memories for future generations to enjoy.”

If you have an interesting story or memory to share, please contact Heather on 0797 289 3656 or email her at [email protected]. She is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and the project runs until the beginning of October.

Last Edited: 28 August 2014

photo of a location on the canals
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