The Derbyshire
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Trent Navigation Company Gauging Books 1799–1919

Edited by Hywel Maslen

In 1798 the Trent Navigation Company established, on behalf of the four canal companies serving the Erewash valley coalfield the Erewash, Cromford, Nottingham and Nutbrook and the coalowners, a system for registering boats using these waterways. This was ostensibly to prevent boat masters evading tolls by understating the tonnage carried, or customers receiving short weight. In reality, it was a scheme devised by the coal owners to limit output by allocating a quota to each colliery based on the tonnage shipped the previous year. Although this objective disappeared with the coming of the railways, registration continued until the First World War.

Details of the boats were printed in books issued by the Trent Navigation Company, which list, for over 2,000 vessels, the date of construction, the names of the builder, owner and sometimes previous owners and master, and the capacity, cargo carried and route followed, as well as the tackle on board. The books thus provide a very full picture of the vessels using the Trent and the associated waterways of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, both in the heyday of canal navigation and during the decline of the system after 1850.

No library or record office has a complete set of these books. As part of a Nottingham University research project on the history of trade and traffic on the Trent, Dr Maslen has located and photographed every book in the series, a total of over 4,000 pages. Most of these images are now available on this website on the Trent Gauging Books page. The missing ones will be added as soon as possible. This new Occasional Paper, published with the financial support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, contains an index to the names of builders, owners and masters of all the vessels registered, and is an essential key to an invaluable resource for the history of the Trent and its associated canals during the nineteenth century.

ISBN 0 946324 01 8

112 pages

£10.00 (£5.00 to members)