Archaeological dig uncovers some unusual remains in Chesterfield Canal

Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley
Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley

Old bottles, a miner’s lamp and candle holders, a sword stick, clay pipe and halfpenny were among items found during an archaeological dig in Staveley.

Volunteers took part in the dig at Staveley Town Basin in Chesterfield after the remains of the original 18th century Eckington Road Bridge was discovered during restoration work.

Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley

Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley

Members of Chesterfield Canal Trust and Waterway Recovery Group have unearthed remains, some from the 1770s, during work to dig out the channel to restore Chesterfield Canal in Staveley.

Dr Geraint Coles, archaeologist and former Chesterfield Canal development manager, visited the site to properly investigate the remains and appealed for volunteers to help.

Rod Auton, of Chesterfield Canal Trust, said: “The remains were of the walls and floor of the original Eckington Road Bridge over the canal, built in about 1776.

“It is quite incredible that it has remained intact, because three other bridges and a railway line have all been built within a few yards in the following 240 years.

Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley

Volunteers digging out the channel to restore the Chesterfield Canal in Staveley

“The site was roughly cleared by a mini-digger, then the volunteers set to work.

“There was lots of heavy clay that had to be shovelled and barrowed out, however the main work was done by removing the last of the muck from the stonework using trowels and brushes.

“Most of the 24 volunteers who helped over the weekend spent their time on their hands and knees doing this very slow and painstaking work.

“As more and more was revealed, the story of how the construction was done began to emerge.

“It became obvious that the bridge had been constructed first and the towpath put in afterwards.”

Among the items found were three coins, including a George III halfpenny, dated 1772 or 1773.

The site will now be accurately measured and photographed and all the finds will be washed and catalogued.

Eventually the whole site will be removed because the new, restored canal has to be lower in order to get under a nearby railway bridge.

There are plans to do more archaeological digs because a Cuckoo boat, unique to the Chesterfield Canal, is believed to be buried nearby.