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19 Oct 2018

The product of three canals

Hundreds of tonnes of clay and granite. That's what had to be shifted to create the Staffs & Worcs Canal, and then the Chesterfield Canal. Without these two canals I wouldn't be here.

My forebear, Hannah Gee, born at Chesterfield in 1792 is a product of these canals. She is also the product of a third canal, the not-yet-constructed Cromford Canal, where her parents arguably met. However no earth or sand needing shifting ahead of her birth. Her father didn't even lift a sod of earth before he had eyes smitten on the young millworker (Hannah's mother).

The Staffs & Worcs is staggeringly pretty. They say you are taken through gently rolling West Midlands countryside, never quite making it to an urban settlement. I walked along this canal by accident last February, little realising it was where my ancestors met.

Jonathan Gee, the canal builder, came across Sarah, a girl from Swindon, Staffs, in 1767. He was working on the Staffs & Worcs, which ran through Swindon. She fell for his charms immediately and they were married.

They are enticed into Derbyshire by the building of the Chesterfield Canal, that's canal number two.

Their son Nathaniel breaks away from his father's influence, and casts about for work on the third canal, the Cromford, with plans beginning in 1791. Nathaniel's interest is very much diverted by the presence at Cromford of a girl called Ann. She fell for his charms immediately and they were married.

Hannah, their child, is born at Chesterfield in 1792, the product of three canals.

Watching her bake bread and cakes in later years, living in a pit village - you never would guess at the millions of tonnes of earth moved ahead of her birth. Did she sing?

♫ I feel the earth move under my feet, the sky tumbling down... ♫