Beeston Lock and Weir
Before the Beeston Canal was constructed, the Trent Navigation Company got permission through an Act of Parliament to bypass the Beeston Weir by means of two locks.
The higher lock had a fall of around 5’ 2” and the lower lock a fall of around 7’. In times gone by, shallow draught boats could navigate the River Trent right up to Beeston Weir so this lock further extended the reach of navigation on the river. The deeper, lower lock, which had two sets of flood gates at the river end, has now been truncated and is simply a short side arm, with a boat seemingly permanently moored there. The recesses for the lock gates can be seen just under the footbridge. The lower part of the lock chamber is obliterated by the high banking considered necessary for flood prevention.
The working of river locks are always mysterious and here at Beeston, one lower gate paddle is left up after use: presumably to ensure a fairly regular fresh flow into the canal as this forms the main source of water for the canal right down to the centre of the city.
Sitting by the lock is a particularly attractive lock-keepers cottage, now whitewashed, although the short row of four terraced houses alongside is sadly boarded up and looking very sorry for themselves. The view from these houses must be fabulous, over the weir and both up and down the middle Trent valley. None of these clutch of buildings is legally protected, yet the assymetric towpath turnover bridge just along the Beeston Cut is a listed monument.
Beeston itself struggles to free itself from the concept of being simply a suburb of Nottingham, which it certainly is not. The area close to the canal has always been prone to flooding, most recently in 1947, although in 2000 they came close to being flooded again. In 1947, Queens Road was flooded and that is half a mile away from the canal up a noticeable gradient the whole way. Because of this flood risk, the Rylands area – south of the railway line – was generally used for cheaper housing. The development sprawling from the 1880s through the 1950s to the 1970s has left a swathe of bungalows, terraces and smaller houses with little of significance; the heart of Beeston is north of the railway and Queens Road.
The Victoria Hotel sells a range of interesting booklets on historical Beeston, but the town is not well promoted: the town has some interesting corners, some interesting associations (Humber bicycles and cars were originally made here) and some of the best wetland and river valley in the country. But if people don’t know about it, they won’t stop. “Shall we stop for a day in Beeston or press on to Shardlow?”
Typical of the mentality is that the old maltings, in Dovecote Lane, a wonderfully evocative structure which is part of Beeston’s history are due to be demolished for yet more clone suburban housing. If town’s won’t invest in their heritage, they won’t reap the rewards. Sadly, there is an innate lack of faith in the identity of many towns in Britain. However, a bright light - as there usually is - is an active local civic society, the Beeston Civic Society, who actively work to research, conserve and educate.
Beeston Weir Hydro Electric Power Station
Beeston is also the home, since 1999, of one of Britain’s biggest run-of-river hydroelectric scheme, a 1.66MWe twin-bulb-Kaplan turbine facility on the far, southern side of the weir. British Waterways are planning to fit another 25 of these installations around the system – presumably at least 1MW on each of the Trent’s big weirs. I read recently that plans were advanced for a scheme at Gunthorpe weir.
The Beeston HEP scheme uses a 2.8m head and 48 m/sec design flow to create the power. There is no separate powerhouse, as all the equipment is contained within the turbine housing. The ventilation and access shafts for each can be seen on the far side of the weir. 3% of the power generated is used by the power plant to operate an electric sonar field and a bioacoustic fence (BAFF). The sonar field stops migrating fish swimming back into the turbine tailrace and the BAFF is used to guide fish towards the 80m long fish-ladder that allows fish to bypass the weir and the power plant.
Initially, the power plant caused a slight drop in water levels for the boats but a modification restored the situation to normal. Two thousand houses get power for almost nothing.
Postscript: Cromwell Weir (1.158MWe) and Thrumpton Weir (0.95MWe) are the two other live hydroelectric power stations on the Trent currently.
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