German Wheatcroft

of Cromford, Derbyshire.
First salaried employee of the Peak Forest Canal Co
and first wharfinger at Bugsworth Canal Basin

German Wheatcroft was baptised at Crich, on the 9 May 1773 and he was the son of Abraham Wheatcroft, a farmer, and Ann Turner. Abraham was born at Crich Carr in 1747/48. He died on the 9 Apr 1812, aged 64 years, and was buried at Crich. Ann was born in 1746/47 at South Wingfield and she died on the 8 Jun 1824, aged 77 years. German was the eldest child of a family of six, the other siblings being Nathaniel (a merchant and carrier), John (a boat builder), Anne, Mary and Hannah. German Wheatcroft married Elizabeth Sims, the daughter of a stone mason from Lea, Matlock, and they had six children. He died at Belper on the 11 Oct 1841, aged 66 years.

The family of German Wheatcroft and Elizabeth Sims
The surviving records of the siblings are incomplete and total accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

William Wheatcroftwas born in 1793/94 at Wirksworth and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a retired mineral agent. In 1851 he was resident at Museum Parade, Matlock Bath. His wife was Elizabeth Higgett and they were married at Wirksworth on the 27 Nov 1820.

Alexander Wheatcroftwas born in c.1798. He could not be traced on either the 1841 or the 1851 Censuses but it is believed that he married Mary Cook at St Mary's in the Lace Market, Nottingham, on the 1 Aug 1826.

David WheatcroftDavid was born in 1802/03 at Cromford and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a merchant. He was resident at South Wingfield, Alfreton. His wife was Hannah Godber, daughter of a yeoman of Nottingham, and they were married at Eastwood, Nottingham, on the 15 Feb 1827. He died in the Mansfield area on the 22 Dec 1863, aged 61 years.

Abraham Wheatcroftwas born in 1806/07 at Crich Carr and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a boat builder. He was resident at Bull Bridge, Crich. His wife was Ann Gell and they were married at Wirksworth on the 27 Aug 1835.

Elizabeth Wheatcroftwas born on the 9 Jul 1814 and she was baptised at St Mary, Cromford, on the 31 Jul 1814. She married Abraham Henry Cutts at South Wingfield on the 27 Sep 1838. It is understood that Abraham Henry was from Cheetham Hill, Manchester. Elizabeth died in the Ecclesall Brierlow area on the 6 Jul 1845, aged 30 years.

Mary Anne Wheatcroftwas born a short time after 1815. She married Thomas Danks in St Nicholas Parish, Nottingham, on the 4 Sep 1832. Thomas was an ironmonger at Beastmarket Hill in the centre of Nottingham.

German Wheatcroft described himself as a merchant and began his association with the Peak Forest Canal Co on the 5 Nov 1794 at the age of 21 years. He was appointed as a servant of the company at a salary of £1 11s 6d per week and he was the first salaried employee of the company. He was appointed as the wharfinger at Bugsworth Canal Basin, that is, he was the manager of Bugsworth Wharf, as it was then known. However, his responsibility for company affairs extended well beyond Bugsworth Wharf and it included Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale and the company limestone quarries near Dove Holes. When the Peak Forest Tramway and the Upper Peak Forest Canal opened for trade on the 31 Aug 1796, he must have become responsible for the operation of the tramway as well. Because of his wide ranging responsibilities he was provided with horses to better attend to his duties and a stable was built for them at Bugsworth. However, to begin with, there was no accommodation for him at Bugsworth and he would have had to take lodgings somewhere in the neighbourhood.

As soon as the upper level of the canal was opened he became responsible for gauging loaded boats before they left for their destinations and initially this was to the lime kilns of Samuel Oldknow at Marple, seven miles away. Gauging is the process of ascertaining the draught of loaded boats, compared to their empty draught and hence the weight of cargo on board could be calculated. Knowing the type of cargo being carried, the appropriate toll could then be determined and a permit (or ticket) issued. There seemed to be two methods of payment, either the boatman paid directly before leaving or it was on account to be settled, say, once a month. A safe was provided for monies received.

On the 16 Feb 1797 the Committee of the Peak Forest Canal Co authorised the construction of the wharfinger's house and office at the entrance to Bugsworth Wharf, the building to be used for the collection of tolls. On completion, German Wheatcroft would have moved in to take up residence. The first house and office for the wharfinger was erected on the site of the present house and office but the circumstances surrounding its replacement are unknown.

Following his departure from Bugsworth by 1805, he next appears as the person in charge of the self-acting inclined plane on the Peak Forest Tramway at Chapel-en-le-Frith. However, on the 13 Mar 1809 the Peak Forest Canal Co discharged him from their service. Evidently this was brought about as a result of a misunderstanding with James Meadows Sr who was the joint principal agent for the Peak Forest and Ashton Canal Companies.

German Wheatcroft was an ambitious man and following his departure from the Peak Forest Canal Co he established his own family carrying business known as German Wheatcroft & Sons. Over the ensuing years his company developed into a large carrying business for the standards of the time and this was by road, water and rail. His career can be traced by an examination of trade directories and he next appears in Pigot's directory for 1821.

German Wheatcroft & Sons of Cromford, Derbyshire
Trade Directory Carrier to: Conveyance by Water to:
Pigot's Directory, 1821. Sheffield and Chesterfield, every day. London, every day.
Birmingham, Worcester, Bristol, Bath and all parts West, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Manchester, Liverpool, &c, every day.
Nottingham and Gainsborough, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Pigot's Directory, 1827. Sheffield and Chesterfield, every day. London, every day.
Birmingham, Worcester, Bristol, Bath, &c, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Manchester, Liverpool, &c, every day.
Pigot's Directory, 1835. Van to London, three days a week. London, Bristol, and the West and Manchester, Liverpool and the North, Fly Boats three days a week.
Nottingham, Gainsborough, Boston and all parts East.
Carrier by Water from:
Pigot's Directory, 1835. Whaley Bridge every day.
Carrier by Rail to: Carrier by Water to:
Pigot's Directory, 1846 All parts of the Kingdom. All parts of the Kingdom.

In May 1833, German Wheatcroft & Sons operated the first passenger service on the newly opened Cromford and High Peak Railway between Cromford and Whaley Bridge. This was under contract to the railway company and for the convenience of passengers travelling on the railway they also ran a coach service between Whaley Bridge and Manchester. It is not known when these railway and coach services ceased running.

In 1870 the Cromford & High Peak Railway Company, then leased to the London and North Western Railway Company, placed a notice in Bradshaw's Railway Manual and this stated that one of the Auditors was a Nathaniel Wheatcroft Jr, so as late as 1870 the Wheatcroft family still had an interest in this railway.

Wirksworth Parish Records, 1600-1900.
Minutes of the Peak Forest Canal Co, 1794-1845, Tameside Local Studies and Archive Centre, Ashton-under-Lyne.
The researches of the late Brian Lamb.