21 Arches in Conisbrough

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The River Don Navigation was the result of early efforts to make the River Don in South Yorkshire, England, navigable between Fishlake and Sheffield. The Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden had re-routed the mouth of the river in 1626, to improve drainage, and the new works included provision for navigation, but the scheme did not solve the problem of flooding, and the Dutch River was cut in 1635 to link the new channel to Goole. The first Act of Parliament to improve navigation on the river was obtained in 1726, by a group of Cutlers based in Sheffield; the Corporation of Doncaster obtained an Act in the following year for improvements to the lower river. Locks and lock cuts were built, and, by 1751, the river was navigable to Tinsley.

The network was expanded by the opening of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal in 1802, linking to the River Trent, the Dearne and Dove Canal in 1804, linking to Barnsley, and the Sheffield Canal in 1819, which provided better access to Sheffield. All three were bought out by the Don Navigation in the 1840s, after which the canals were owned by a series of railway companies. The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Company was created in 1889 and eventually succeeded in buying back the canals and the Don Navigation in 1895, but plans for expansion were hampered by a lack of capital. One success was the opening of the New Junction Canal in 1905, jointly funded with the Aire and Calder Navigation.

During the 20th century, there were several plans to upgrade the Don, to handle larger craft. It was eventually upgraded to take 700-tonne barges in 1983, but the scheme was a little too late, as an anticipated rise in commercial traffic did not occur. Most use of the navigation is now by leisure boaters, whose boats are dwarfed by the huge locks. The navigation and river are crossed by a wide variety of bridges, from a medieval bridge complete with a chapel on it, one of only three to have survived in Britain, to a motorway viaduct that pioneered the use of rubber bearings and a new waterproofing system. In between are a number of railway bridges, including two that were built to carry the internal railway system at the Blackburn Meadows sewage treatment plant. The former railway viaduct at Conisbrough now carries cyclists 113 feet (34 m) above the Don, as part of the National Cycle Network.
 

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