Leawood Pump house, Cromford Canal

After losing its original water supply, the Cromford Canal was saved when this striking pumping station was constructed.

Leawood Pumping station


Ensuring a steady supply of water into canals is essential; every time a boat passes through a lock, water is lost down the waterway and must be replenished to ensure the canal remains navigable. While nearby rivers or reservoirs can sometimes be utilised, often canal engineers had to look for alternative solutions. One answer came in the form of pumping stations that would pump water from nearby rivers or simply back up from the bottom of the locks. Some of the early designs were water-powered, but during industrialisation, steam-powered engines were also common and pumping stations became easily identifiable by the tall chimney that towers over the station.

The Cromford Canal, a 14.5-mile long waterway that stretches from the Derbyshire village of Cromford to the Erewash Canal, was completed in 1793. Originally supplied with water by the Cromford Sough (an underground channel draining water out of a mine), following a court case in 1839, the canal lost the right to this water and found itself suffering from a major shortage. A temporary pump was installed to pump water from the River Derwent into the canal, and after six years of delays, a permanent pump was installed and built at Leawood Pump house.

The pump house is a striking presence, with a 95-foot chimney towering above the building, crowned with a cast iron cap. Water is drawn down a 140-metre tunnel from the River Derwent into a reservoir, from which around four tonnes of water is lifted over 30 feet with each stroke. At peak operation, it would pump 470,400 gallons per hour, and was used to maintain water levels until the canal closed in 1944.

The building was restored by the Cromford Canal Society in 1979, and every month between Easter and October volunteers from Middleton Top Engine and Leawood Pump Group open the pump house for two days so you can witness the pump in operation (known as ‘steamings’).

The Cromford Canal is not one we look after but the Friends of the Cromford Canal now work to restore this historic waterway. If you want to get a feel for this beautiful space co-therapist Ruth Allen, tells us how running helps her appreciate it.

Chris Morriss