German Wheatcroft

of Cromford, Derbyshire

First Salaried Employee of the Peak Forest Canal Co
and first Wharfinger at Bugsworth Canal Basin

German Wheatcroft was Christened at Crich, on the 9 May 1773 and he was the son of Abraham Wheatcroft, a farmer, and his wife, Ann Turner. Abraham was born at Crich Carr in 1747/48 and he died on the 9 April 1812, aged 64 years. He was buried in Crich. Ann was born in 1746/47 at South Wingfield and she died on the 8 June 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. The couple had six children, William, Alexander, David, Abraham, Elizabeth and Mary Anne. German died in the Belper Registration District in the December Quartile of 1841. He died on the 11 October 1841, aged 66 years.

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

William WheatcroftWilliam was born in 1793/94 at Wirksworth and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a Retired Mineral Agent. In 1851 he was living at Museum Parade, Matlock Bath. His wife was Elizabeth Higgett and it is likely that her father was Joseph Higgett, an Inn Keeper. The 1841 Census partially confirms this when the next-door neighbour of William and Elizabeth was George Higgett, a Publican. Possibly Elizabeth and George were brother and sister. William Wheatcroft and Elizabeth Higgett were married at Wirksworth on the 27 November 1820.

Alexander WheatcroftAlexander was 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, Nottingham, on the 1 August 1826.

David WheatcroftDavid was born in 1802/03 at Cromford and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a Merchant. In 1851 he was living at South Wingfield, Alfreton. His wife was Hannah Godber, daughter of a Yeoman of Nottingham, and the couple were married at Eastwood, Nottingham, on the 15 February 1827. David died in the Mansfield Registration District in the December Quartile of 1863. He died on the 22 December 1863, aged 61 years.

The marriage of David Wheatcroft must be contrasted with the International Genealogical Index that states that David Wheatcroft was the son of William Wheatcroft and Mary Lievers.

Abraham WheatcroftAbraham was born in 1806/07 at Crich Carr and in the 1851 Census he described himself as a Boat Builder. In 1851 he was living at Bull Bridge, Crich. His wife was Ann Gell and the couple were married at Wirksworth on the 27 August 1835.

Elizabeth WheatcroftElizabeth was born on the 9 July 1814 and she was Christened at St Mary, Cromford, on the 31 July 1814. She married Abraham Henry Cutts at South Wingfield on the 27 September 1838. It is understood that Abraham Henry was from Cheetham Hill, Manchester. Elizabeth died in the Ecclesall Brierlow Registration District in the September Quartile of 1845. She died on the 6 July 1845, aged 30 years.

Mary Anne WheatcroftMary Anne was born after 1815. She married Thomas Danks in St Nicholas Parish, Nottingham, on the 4 September 1832. Thomas was an Ironmonger of Beast Market Hill (or Beastmarket Hill), which lies within the Parish.

German Wheatcroft described himself as a Merchant and began his association with the Peak Forest Canal Co on the 5 November 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 August 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.

24 tons x 1s  0d per ton for transport  =  £1  4s  0d
       24 tons x 11d per ton for stone  =  £1  2s  0d
                                 Total  =  £2  6s  0d

On the 16 February 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 March 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 Senior who was the Joint Principal Agent of 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.

*Five years after the death of German Wheatcroft.

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 Nathaniel Wheatcroft Junior, so as late as 1870 the Wheatcroft family still had an interest in this railway.

The Will of German Wheatcroft was proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on the 16 February 1842 where he is described as a Wharfinger and General Carrier of South Wingfield, near Alfreton, Derbyshire, Catalogue Ref. PROB 11/1958. Nottinghamshire Archives also hold records of William Wilson (1800-1866) of Radford, Nottingham, and they contain six letters between German Wheatcroft, A Wheatcroft of Nottingham and William Wilson, Ref. DD/WR/25/29-34. They are dated between 4 February 1840 and 8 March 1841 and they seem to be concerned with tithes.