Restoration Section 8: Norwood

Restoration of the Norwood Flight

The Norwood Flight is the most important built heritage on the yet to be restored canal and arguably the most important on the entire navigation. The 13 locks of the Norwood Flight lift the canal 76 ft in just under 3/4 mile and are an un-sung wonder of the early canal age.

The Norwood Locks are arranged in four staircases consisting of a three-rise, a three-rise, a three-rise and a four-rise. These are separated by three ponds and side-ponds which regulate flow and provide water storage. When built the lock-flight bywash drained a dry-dock and provided water to power a timber sawmill and carpenter's shop.

When construction of the canal started in 1771 the flight and its work yards were one of the first features to the built. The workshops turned out work boats, timber work such as centring for bridges and the tunnel and the lock gates for the western half of the canal.

The locks were probably extensively rebuilt the 1830's along with much of the rest of the canal and the visible lock walls are largely of red brick, rather than stone, construction. The walls also show evidence of successive rebuilding's and later patching with different types and colours of brick. The locks fell into disuse following the collapse of the Norwood Tunnel in 1907 and the cessation of traffic on the western end of the canal by the First World War. Over time the side-ponds became silted, the lock gates were removed and weirs were installed in the lock chambers. The middle three rise lock group was infilled completely and water flow maintained by a pipe.

The lower three rise lock groups are in reasonable condition. The upper four-rise lock group is the most heavily damaged, but even here the condition is no worse than that seen on the Turnerwood and Thorpe Flights prior to restoration by British Waterways.

Water continues to flow down the flight, some of it draining from the surrounding Nor Wood and some from the remains of the Norwood Tunnel. This water feeds the recently dredged side-ponds (which are now in-water as ornamental fish ponds) and the in-water section from the end of the Norwood Flight to Rotherham Road Bridge.

Work to restore the flight to its last operating condition will commence with detailed archaeological investigation and mitigation works to protect the flora and fauna. The weirs and infilling will be removed and the lock walls stabilised using the techniques successfully applied to the Thorpe and Turnerwood Flights. Repairs to the fabric of the lock chamber will utilise heritage materials and methods.

No lock gates or paddle gear survive. Photographs show the gates and gear present prior to disuse were similar to those used elsewhere on the Chesterfield Canal. The design of the new lock gates and paddle gear will be based on these traditional designs. Like the replicated paddle gear used on the Thorpe and Turnerwood restorations the new materials will be discretely date stamped so as to avoid future confusion over its origins.

Minor repairs are required to the Grade 2 listed Norwood Bridge at the bottom of the lock flight and entirely new accommodation bridges will be required to provide access to the private houses at the top and bottom of the flight. These will have to fit in very constrained locations and while it may be possible to design a suitable fixed bridge at the lower end of the flight it is likely that a lifting- or swing-bridge design will be necessary at the upper site.

The water supply for the flight originally came via a feeder leat from the Woodall and Killamarsh Ponds in the hills above Nor Wood. The feeder leat is overgrown and infilled with mud in places but is generally in good condition. The Killamarsh pond has been slightly lowered but is in use as fishing pond. The Woodall pond dam has been greatly lowered although there are plans for a partial re-watering as a further fishing pond. At present no water from the ponds or feeder leat enters the canal and all water on the flight is derived from drainage from the Norwood Tunnel and overland flow from the Nor Wood.
While it is not possible to restore both ponds to their 18th century capacity, the repair of the feeder leat will enable some water to be drawn from them. In addition water will continue to be received from drainage and the remains of the tunnel. Further water will come from groundwater sources, the new summit level and the small summit reservoir in the adjacent Wales Section.

These water sources alone will be unable to supply the flight during extended operation or a prolonged dry spell. Consequently back-pumping will be installed throughout the flight to conserve water during operation. Given the sites heritage value this will have to be done sensitively but it is essential to ensure long term viability. The possibility of powering the back-pumps with a wind turbine or other alternative energy source is being actively pursued.

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