Weston on Trent, seven miles south east of Derby, is a smallish village standing only a short distance from the river which gave it its name. The River Trent has been navigable from the Humber to Nottingham from earliest times and boats could continue upstream as far as Kings Mill at Weston, when there was a sufficient depth of water to enable them to be hauled over the shallows. It was, however, the Trent and Mersey Canal that had the greatest influence on its growth.
The rapid expansion of industry in the second part of the 18th century required an improved and inexpensive transportation system, if it was to be sustained. Much of the development was inland so the coastal route was usually out of the question. Rivers often obstructed by weirs, fish pools and inconsistent water levels, rarely could be used for long distance haulage. Roads had been improved by the growth of turnpikes, but were not suitable for moving large volumes of goods. Packhorses were still relied on in Derbyshire to transport goods - slowly and laboriously. The time was ripe for a new form of effective transportation of heavy goods.
A solution to the transportation problem came with James Brindley from Derbyshire, who could not read or write, but had a brilliant brain. He astounded other engineers who laughed as his ultimately successful proposal - to find an economical way of transporting coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s estate at Worsley to Manchester.
Brindley did this by building an aqueduct over the River Irwell. It stood on three great stone arches, 17 feet up, with a towpath alongside the canal for the horses to pull the boats the 900 yards to the other side of the river. Brindley’s inventions continued and his most celebrated enterprise was the Trent and Mersey Canal, known as the Grand Trunk. It connected canal systems throughout the country.
After the opening of the canal in the 1770`s, most waterborne traffic went along the Trent and Mersey canal. Plaster was taken from the plaster-pits at the neighbouring village of Aston, alabaster from Chellaston and building stone from the local quarry. Nowadays the canal is a venue for fishermen and holidaymakers rather than workers.
Weston Cliff has always been a favourite spot for anglers, artists and photographers, round which the canal curves on a narrow terrace. The old Cliff Inn, a former waterman’s tavern, is now a well appointed Social Club for the use of Ukrainians and their friends. Sometime after the Second World War a Ukrainian enclave was set up on the former military depot that stands nearby, which is still used by the Ukrainians.
The 13th century Church of St Mary, sited near the canal at Weston Cliff, has two soldiers buried in the churchyard who were killed in battle at King’s Mill during the Civil War of 1642. It has an impressive interior for a church of its size, and contains a 17th century monument commemorating Sir Richard Sale, prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral and a rector at Weston. The Victorian Rectory, which was at one time a Ukrainian Old People’s Home, is currently in private ownership and is known as Weston House.
Weston Hall, now the Cooper’s Arms a popular public house and restaurant, is a large five storey Tudor brick building which at one time was moated. At the front is a 1.5 acre lake which is very popular with local fishermen. The house started in 1633 by Anthony Roper was never completed because he ran out of money. Had it been completed it would have been Derbyshire’s largest brick house. During the First World War an escaped German prisoner hid there briefly before eventually making his way back to his homeland.
The Old Plough Inn used to stand opposite, the triangular Village Green on which a Spanish Oak and two flowering cherry trees were planted in 1935, to commemorate the jubilee of King George V. At the western end of the village, near the railway line, is the school, village hall and an attractive mid-Victorian Chapel. Off Park Lane is Rectory Farm, a fine old half timbered house, now a private house.
No visit to Weston is complete without a walk along the delightful stretch of canal from Weston Lock to The Cliff. Like both the lock and bridge, the canal milepost at Weston Cliff is listed for protection.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Shardlow Heritage Centre (Tel. 01332 792334) housed in the old Salt Warehouse, the centre features displays of canal and village life of this historic inland port. Open from Good Friday to the end of October - Weekends and Bank Holidays only, from 12-5pm. Some additional opening and guided walks around Shardlow available – telephone for details.
Elvaston Castle Country Park (Tel. 01332 571342) was the first Country Park to be opened in Britain. Set in 200 acres of parkland with an ornamental lake, extensive gardens, stony grottoes, rock archways and many other interesting features. Open daily.
The Donington Grand Prix Collection (Tel. 01332 811027) is the world’s largest collection of Grand Prix racing cars. Exhibits from 1900 to the present day detailing the history of motor racing are on show. Open daily.
Melbourne Hall Tea Rooms (Tel. 01332 864224) situated in what used to be the washrooms and bake house of the hall. One of the old baking ovens still remains in these delightful old tea rooms that have built up an enviable reputation for light meals and teas. Open during the summer Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Reduced winter opening.
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A very easy and relaxing walk, about half along the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal. A visit is also paid to a former important crossing point of the River Trent.
The southern boundary of the parish is formed by the river, which was an important means of transport for many years. It was navigable from the Humber to Nottingham and boats could continue upstream as far as King’s Mill, when there was a sufficient depth of water to enable them to be hauled over the shallows. Today the river crossing is gone, but there is a clear view at this point of the ancient King’s Mill Public House.
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