Adwick Tunnel near Swinton



An original feature of the Dearne & Dove Canal was the Adwick canal tunnel, named after the nearby village of Adwick-upon-Dearne, (pronounced "Addick" I believe). It was built in an area called Bow Broom, about a mile up the canal from Swinton Bridge, about 50 years before the Manvers colliery came into existence. It was abandoned after the canal was realigned to share the new railway cutting built in the 1840s, but accounts vary considerably about the circumstances and also what happened to it afterwards. Some claim the canal had to be realigned because of the building of the railway, whereas others claim that the canal was simply realigned to take advantage of the railway cutting. Some claim that the tunnel was "demolished" (whatever that means), some claim that it was backfilled, and some claim that the tunnel was opened out into the railway cutting. Some claim that the tunnel is still there, whilst others claim that only "faint traces" (whatever that means) can be found. These cannot all be true, though because these accounts vary considerably in date they may not all be as contradictory as they first appear. One thing is certain, and that is that there is no obvious sign of the tunnel in an area that has seen much disturbance since abandonment, and part of which has been radically landscaped.

Follow up:

In order to settle the matter, and in cooperation with Swinton Heritage I studied a number of old maps, and spoke to people who had played in the area as children in the 1940s and 1950s. From these sources, I believe the following:

The new railway did indeed impinge upon the original line of the canal, but only the section just above Swinton Bridge. This necessitated the slight realignment of the canal and the addition of a double-bend to go under a new railway bridge just below lock 5. However, it did not impinge upon the line of the canal at Bow Broom, so the canal was simply diverted to take advantage of the railway cutting. The tunnel was, as far as I can discover, only wide enough for one barge and had no towpath, so would have caused an inconvenient bottleneck, not to mention the problems of maintenance and dredging. The railway cutting was at just the right elevation to accommodate the canal, and this must have been seen as a golden opportunity to bypass the tunnel.

The tunnel was not opened out into the cutting, as it was some distance away. It does not appear to have been demolished or robbed out in the 100 years following abandonment, and the two approaches to the tunnel are visible on later maps, particularly the southern (Swinton) one. Eye witnesses report that the southern portal was still visible, though deeply surrounded by bushes (probably snowberries from the description), into the 1950s. The portal was of stone, and the tunnel was capped off with bricks a short distance inside. It was finally buried when the area to the south of Queen Street was extensively landscaped in the late 1960s (exact year unknown), where it remains to this day as far as I know. The original Bow Broom bridge over the railway and canal was replaced in about 1970 (exact date unknown), and the replacement bridge enabled the kink in Queen Street to be straightened out. Luckily, the roadway nearest the southern portal is in its original alignment, the affected section being immediately to the north-east of that point.

It seems that the northern (Manvers) portal was still extant in the early 1950s, though because the ground was very difficult and boggy it was not an attractive proposition to explore even for curious children. According to reports, it too was of stone, and capped off a short distance inside. There was small scale clay extraction that went on close to the northern portal over many years, and this can clearly be seen on the 1903 map (north). Workmen would hand dig the clay, and wheel it on some sort of small wheeled 'tub' on rails to a barge moored on the canal - eye witnesses recall this, and a map of about 1921 clearly shows "Mooring Posts" at this point on the canal. Later on, the area close to the railway line north of Queen Street was used as a quarry (shown on 1957 map) and then as a waste tip, so the ground has been very heavily disturbed over the years. The young trees, dense bushes and undergrowth means that the area is extremely hard to explore and make sense of. I suspect that much of the northern end of the tunnel has been robbed out, or at least collapsed, most probably because of the waste tipping.


It is my belief that the southern portal now lies buried under the landscaping, and possibly also at least a short section of tunnel under Queen Street. This is impossible to prove without major excavation, so does anyone know the telephone number of 'Time Team'? Sadly, I have not been able to track down any photographs relating to the tunnel.

Visiting the site:

If you visit the site today, there is a small car park on the south side of Queen Street, close to Bow Broom bridge over the railway. The site of the southern (Swinton) portal is about 30 metres south-east from the edge of Queen Street at grid reference SK 4597 9984 or 53°29'36.04"N 1°18'30.56"W (WGS84). The site of the northern (Manvers) portal is at SE 4580 0025 or 53°29'49.29"N 1°18'39.38"W (WGS84), but as this is in the middle of a very overgrown and disturbed area you will find it very hard to visualise anything. The northern portal site is below a huge modern warehouse which can clearly be seen on maps and which you can't miss when you are there.

It is easy enough to follow the new line diversion under Bow Broom bridge as there is a public footpath along the route - you can just make out the curve of the canal before you get to the bridge, despite the landscaping. The current bridge (c.1970) has no span over the canal so there is only room for the footpath. As you proceed alongside the railway you will soon find the remains of the canal on your left, now heavily infested with Japanese Knotweed. Eventually, you can go no further forward and must cross a small footbridge to your left and climb up to the level of the warehouse above the site of the northern portal. The line of the canal past the former Manvers Main colliery site is sadly now blocked by modern development.

About 70 metres along the old canal line in the direction of Swinton from the site of the southern portal, not far from where the new and old lines diverged, you can see a stone flush with the ground if the grass isn't too long. It has been claimed to me that this is a piece of stone from the top of the southern portal that was displaced during the landscaping process. This is just about plausible, (I wouldn't put it any stronger than that), as the level of the canal at this point would have been well below the present ground level and so any original stonework at this point would be completely buried. The position of this stone is marked on the 2008 aerial photo (see below).


Giles Brearley, Ron James and Ken Wyatt all of Swinton Heritage, Brian Sturgess, Richard Ehrfurt for getting me interested in the first place, and several unidentified residents of Bow Broom.

Rick Sterry March 2011

Related maps and photo:

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