Melton history index


For centuries drovers would have brought sheep and cattle to and from Melton’s markets. The rich would have their own horses and even carriages. Waggoners would have moved hay and larger items.

Only slowly did systems develop for the general populace to travel by coach-and-four. Then time-tables were published to enable people to gather at the coaching inns in town to catch the stage coach – leaving in nearly every direction. The Post Coaches were part of the overall system which developed to serve most of Briton, though often along poorly maintained roads.

Melton Mowbray Navigation

Melton Canal.

Melton Canal. (Click to enlarge.)

In 18th century canals were proving very successful for transportation – particularly in the Midlands for the transport of bulk materials such as coal. therefore, in 1791, an Act of Parliament established a company and enabled it to acquire the land and to build the Melton Mowbray Navigation from Syston (where it joined the grand Union Canal) to a basin by Play Close in Melton Mowbray, utilising the River Wreake where practicable. The Act was careful to protect the ten millers’ right to water to run their mills, and this to some extent dictated the placing of locks and weirs along the navigation.

At the time there was a national mania for canal building so that, in 1792 funds were raised to extend the scheme to Oakham, utilising navigable portions of the River Eye. A scheme to extend the system to Stamford never actually materialised.

By 1797 the Melton canal was opened, though costing considerably more than anitcipated, in part due the inflation caused by the Napoleonic Wars. the extension to Oakham seems to have been in operation in 1803.

In addition to coal, cargoes included wool, lime, granite, wheat, oats, barley and manure.

During dry summers, however – particularly 1844 – parts of the canal had to close for lack of water. By that time the Midland Railways were planning to come to Melton (see below), and the shareholders agreed to sell the Oakham section to the Railway.

In 1847 the Canal carried its greatest tonnage – 68896. In that year the Oakham canal was closed, reducing the tonnage carried along the Melton section. With the advent of the railways the tonnage declined still further. After attempts to save the Company finally, in August 1877, an Act of Abandonment was passed by Parliament and the Company wound up.

With Water Authority drainage schemes, water levels have been lowered. The Department of the Environments’ water control scheme at Brentingby may also affect levels. However the route of the navigation still makes an interesting walk.

A group has now formed – The Melton & Oakham Waterways Society (view their website) as a preservation and restoration society.


With the merger of the Midland Counties, the North Midland and the Derby Junction Companies came the Midland Railways and an Act of 1844 to build a railway from Syston to Melton and on to Oakham, Stamford and Peterborough.

The Earl of Harborough vigorously opposed its passage over his land at Stapleford Park, and it took an Act of 1845 to bring about agreement — the Syston to Melton link being completed by September 1846, and the whole being completed in May 1848. Travellers could stay at the Railway Hotel (completed 1846) which stood where the railway bridge stands on Burton Street.

A line (now closed) was also built from Market Harborough to Bottesford, with a Station in Melton.

Currently the track that comes to Old Dalby is used to test high-speed trains for Virgin Railways.