When my navigator Richard directed me to Drakeholes to photograph the tunnel on the Chesterfield Canal the first thing we saw was not the canal but a very large, very Gothick, very derelict building which turned out to be the former White Swan Hotel.
This marks a major transport interchange from the days when everything that moved along roads and canals was propelled by muscle power.
It sits where the junction of four roads, where the old Roman road between Bawtry and the Trent ferry at Littleborough crosses the road from Blyth to Gainsborough. Here it coincides with the canal, which burrows under the road in a 154-yard-long tunnel as it turns north on its way to its terminus at West Stockwith.
Almost opposite the White Swan is a pair of lodges, beautifully restored after years of dereliction, flanking what used to be the gateway to Wiseton Hall. The pair was in fact a single dwelling, one lodge for living, the other for sleeping.
It forms only part of the work of Jonathan Acklom, local landowner and the instigator of the Wiseton Enclosure in 1763, who marked the “surrounding eminences” with elegant farms, such as Pusto Hill Farm and Blaco Hill Farm, described by the late-eighteenth historian John Throsby as “ornaments to the domain,…highly creditable to the taste of the owner”.
At the time that Jonathan Acklom rebuilt his family seat at Wiseton Hall in 1771 the Chesterfield Canal was under construction. He stipulated that it should not approach his estate nearer than two hundred yards.
He built the White Swan to serve traffic coming along the roads to reach the canal company’s wharf at the southern end of the short tunnel, which opened in 1776.
Drakeholes was the Georgian equivalent of a modern transport interchange, and it was all created within a decade.
Though the Hall has gone, replaced by a smaller neo-Georgian house in 1962, its stables survive opposite the old gateway, along with the newer avenue which crosses the canal by the ornate Lady’s Bridge, otherwise known from its decayed carving as Man’s Face Bridge.
The modern Wiseton Hall is strictly private.
For background information on the Georgian Wiseton Hall see http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/Jacks1881/wiseton.htm and http://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/03/14-acklom-of-wiseton-hall.html.
The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2018 ‘Waterways and Railways of the East Midlands’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list contains a section on the Chesterfield Canal and is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.