Steady rural progression covered many centuries before Huthwaite independently emerged counting in an industrial 19th. Remaining reliant upon horses for all inland transportation, constructing waterways did improve distribution and help industrial growth crossing midland regions. Cromford Canal floated one busy Derbyshire waterway giving us the nearest access through Pinxton Wharf. On 15th February 1803 the Canal Company was requested to extend its successful route through into Mansfield by some industrial businessmen. But our larger market town never did gain direct canal access, only to find its fuel demands outpaced smaller mines when shallow coal seams produced richer pickings from just across our neighbouring county borders.
Unable to fuel the towns malting kilns, the group of enterprising men formed the company they named after its proposed 1813 routing as the
Mansfield and Pinxton Railway. Planning negotiations however lasted several years still facing resistance from concerned land owners and other influential business men. Some voiced fears losing existing trades, while advantaged parties quietly bided time seeking greater profits. Fullest support was required from the major landowner our titled Manor Lord. The Duke of Portland seemed dutiful in balancing arguments for greatest community benefits before his eventual approval passed Act of Parliament 1817, just prior exhaustion of backers funding. Support and finances were then quickly raised same year, marking start of constructing what turned into an engineering challenge.
Successful results laid over eight miles doubled tracks stretching between Mansfield's Bulls Head Lane and meeting the Cromford Canal by reaching the wharf at Pinxton Basin. From Mansfield a south westerly route climbing steadily uphill, innovatively requiring a viaduct built aside Kings Mill reservoir. The renown engineer Josiah Jessop is credited with designing a timber structure named Portland Bridge.
The original timber viaduct was later replaced with a stronger arched stone platform to support steam powered locomotives. This does still stand as a preserved walkway. A central key stone displays 1817 above O&P, but many read those initials as M&P in its prestigious status having connected Mansfield and Pinxton with the oldest remaining railway viaduct in England
The initial laying of tram tracks led westerly crossing through southern parish borders of Sutton. Reaching highest midway point among East Kirkby, where lines then gently fell downhill terminating among the coal stocks fed to the busy Pinxton wharf. Designers still relied upon horses for haulage of railed goods wagons from both directions, but only uphill until reaching the central Kirkby summit. At that raised junction trucks were simply released to continue journey downhill, free wheeling to either destination. A simple sounding system, proving successful from morning of 13th April 1819, when expectant crowds at Mansfield celebrated arrival of trucks carrying Pinxton coals.
Whilst the Mansfield reservoir began powering several water mills, roads even tracked like this, still relied upon horses for hauling. However the steam era next saw static engines dragging wagons on cabled pulleys. A system first offering rail connections from Huthwaite, linking onto that historic Mansfield to Pinxton tramway. Adding coal deliveries from the older Hucknall pit it is here shown earlier than supposed when detailed by Sandersons 1835 map, using coloured tramway, roads and streams for clarity.
Bearings can be gained by green lanes identified today as, top Blackwell Road, bottom Alfreton Road and right joining both is Common Road. Blue indicates natural streams, an important feature considering that Blackwell Brook flowing south formed the ancient dividing border shared between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Tracing the railway in red, tracks emerge below Blackwell Road out the original village pit we identify today as Old Hucknall colliery. The uphill route picks up Blackwell Colliery before turning, still following the county borders. Having crossed the waterway heading south again into Fulwood. Its path towards todays A38 heights marks site of an engine, probably at the highest point before tracks continue falling southward.
A similar tramline system was later used here for delivering New Hucknall Collery coals up to a local wharf sited upon Sutton Road. But by that time steam locomotives where also hauling coals further afield, quickly and competitively networking British industries whilst adding more welcome benefits for revolutionising faster passenger transport.
Written 01 Aug 04 Revised 13 Aug 12 © by Gary Elliott