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The Dearne and Dove Canal ran for almost 10 miles through South Yorkshire from Swinton to Barnsley through 19 locks, rising 127 yards. The canal also had two short branches, the Worsbrough branch and the Elsecar branch; both about two miles long with reservoirs at the head of each. The Elsecar branch also has another six locks. The only tunnel was bypassed by a cutting in 1840.
It was first proposed in 1773 by the Marquess of Rockingham. Then there was a meeting of the shareholders of the Don Navigation Company in 1792, where a canal from the River Don Navigation into Barnsley was proposed. At the same time the Aire and Calder Navigation Company was considering a canal from Wakefield to Barnsley.
On 20 October 1792, the rival companies held a famous meeting at the White Bear Inn (now the Royal Hotel) in Barnsley and agreed to join their canals just south of Barnsley. These were to become the Dearne and Dove Canal and the Barnsley Canal, both of which sought to provide access to the coalfields of Barnby bridge and Haigh bridge. It was successful and by 1830 it was carrying 181,000 tons of coal a year.