The Grantham Canal lies close to the northern boundary of Tollerton and was the last major waterway to be built in Nottinghamshire. As you travel from Tollerton towards Gamston it is difficult to imagine that there was once a hump back bridge here over the canal and that the canal was once navigable. Evidence of the bridge here is now only visible from the tow path.
Eventually the hump back bridge was removed and the road way flattened in the 1950s unfortunately ensuring that the canal could never be reopened to boats. Prior to this numerous cars had collided with the bridge and nearly destroyed it. One newspaper report in the Nottingham Evening Post (May 1933) stated that a speeding and stolen vehicle collided with the narrow hump-backed bridge resulting in huge slabs of masonry toppling down the grassy slope and in to the canal. The car burst in to flames and caused considerable damage to the bridge but no driver was ever found.
According to information held on the Grantham Canal Society website (www.granthamcanal.org), construction of the canal started in 1793. It took four years to build at a cost of £118,500 and was finally opened in 1797. Originally it was principally used to transport coal, cooking fuel and building materials on narrow boats and barges to Grantham and continued to be used for this purpose until the railway took over transportation. Agricultural products and wool were carried on the return journey from Grantham to Nottingham. The canal was sold to a railway company in 1854 and traffic on the canal declined after this. The canal route closed around 1935 and much of it fell into disrepair after that. Control of the canal passed to British Waterways in 1963.
Stretching from Trent Bridge to Grantham, the canal was 33 miles long and had 18 locks. The section that borders Tollerton lies mid-way between two locks, numbers 3 and 4. Lock 4 is known as Skinners Lock and officially lies in Cotgrave. Through contact with the Skinner family, now living in Australia, it can be confirmed that the first lock keeper here was John Skinner born 1797 and subsequently his son, William, took on this role along with his wife Mary. William died in 1889 but the Skinner family have been informed that Mary possibly continued to work the lock for a short time after her husband’s death. They question the validity of this claim since moving the lock gates without power assistance seems unlikely for a woman of her age.
According to a newsletter published by the Grantham Canal Partnership and the Grantham Canal Society (Spring 2009) “landowners in this area were given special exemption from paying the 2½d toll at Trent Lock by an Act of Parliament in 1793. This was to ensure they wouldn’t object to the canal passing through their land“.
Polser Brook meanders its way through Tollerton and then runs beneath the canal, south-east of Bassingfield. Just east of the Polser Brook the canal widens out into a small basin near Cotgrave Place, which is a country club and golf course. Some people wonder if this was once a small wharf for the collection of ‘night soil’ since it is known that this was one of the cargoes carried along this canal.
The frozen canal in winter was once a popular place for skating. Local newspaper articles in 1935 and 1936 listed places where people could skate and the stretch of the canal between West Bridgford and Cotgrave was listed as one such place. Inevitably there were injuries and even fatalities on the canal in this area, some of which had no connection to the skating activities.
Others enjoyed fishing here. It appears, again through archived newspaper items, that anglers’ competitions were held in this vicinity in the 1930s and there were reports of plentiful catches of pike, roach and eel. A number of former Tollerton residents have fond memories of fishing down at the canal. One is Mike Connelly who recounts that a man by the name of Billy Lane, who lived on Tollerton Lane, taught him to fish here.
These days the canal tow path is busy with walkers, joggers and those exercising their dogs and has become even more popular since the introduction of a parking facility on the Gamston side of Tollerton Lane. Apart from the buzz of light aircraft taking off or landing at the airfield it provides a tranquil oasis and fine views over the surrounding countryside.