Shardlow in Derbyshire once known as 'Little Liverpool' is nominated for 'Heritage Harbour' status

People in a village in Derbyshire are celebrating the news that it has been nominated for recognition as an Inland Heritage Port.

Shardlow which is close to where the Trent and Mersey Canal joins the River Trent, is thought to be one of England's earliest surviving examples of an inland canal port, after the canal was completed in 1777.

Locals say to have 'Heritage Harbour' status - a proposed joint initiative by the Maritime Heritage Trust and National Historic Ships - could be the first step to breathing new life into their community. 

In the 17th century the village played a key role in the distribution of cheese and Derbyshire coal by boat on the River Trent.

But it was when James Brindley's Trent and Mersey canal though Shardlow was completed in 1777 that it became one of the UK's most important river ports.

In its heyday, Shardlow was known as Little Liverpool or Rural Rotterdam; every wharf would be used for different things like cheese, coal, timber, salt.

In its heyday Shardlow was known as 'Little Liverpool' or 'Rural Rotterdam' Credit: ITV Central

The village was so important it became the HQ for the Trent and Mersey Canal company.

Today although it still has more than 50 grade two listed buildings, some are falling into disrepair and it's lost all its shops in the years after the A50 bypass was built.

So villagers came together to campaign to be recognised with a new heritage award which seeks to highlights long established but often forgotten ports.

Sue Hampson, Chair of The Shardlow Inland Port Steering Committee said: "I've lived here for 30 years and it's very different today.

All the facilities have gone, the heart has disappeared so I think that by getting heritage status we can shout about Shardlow again and we'll get trade and investment back.

"Unfortunately a lot of buildings are decaying and without that investment they willl simply disappear."

Andrew Hoyle a former pipe fitter turned boatman owns Dove, a boat which he has lovingly restored to how it would have originally looked in 1925 when it was built.

"This would have been paired with another boat and it would probably have plyed these waters down to Nottingham the FMC warehouse.

"They probably didn't spend a lot of time inside because they'd have been loading, doing locks, four or five hours sleep and then at it again.

"What we have to do is remind people of where it all began."

Carol Wesley lives on a wide beam boat on the marina which she bought as an empty shell and did up.

She says she too finds it fascinating to think about how people lived  when Shardlow was a busy port.

Ric Saccone is a newcomer to the village  but he's bought and is now living in one of the village's most significant buildings, Broughton House, which was built for James Sutton, one of the rich merchants involved in the canal trade who is said to have designed it to spoil the view of his business rival.

"I looked at 100 houses but it's not just the bricks and mortar, it's about the history."

History is everywhere you look in Shardlow. The Clock Warehouse, now a pub, is a former corn warehouse where you can still see the spur from the canal to allow narrowboats to unload. It was originally known as warehouse B. All the warehouses were given letters so the boatmen, who would have been illiterate, could identify them easily.

Now villagers are making sure the next generation know all about the history too.

In September, people of all ages took part in the first Shardlow Inland Port Festival which is now to be an annual event and the school is teaching youngsters about the village's previous life as a busy port.