The Dearne and Dove Canal was approved by Parliament in 1793 - on the same day is its neighbour, the Barnsley canal. However, while the Barnsley Canal was open as far as Barnsley by 1799, the Dearne and Dove did not reach Barnsley until 1804.
It was a broad canal with 19 locks between the River Don Navigation at Swinton and the Barnsley Canal, including a stop lock where the two canals met, near Hoyle Mill. The canal was around ten miles long, with two branches, to Elsecar and Worsborough. The supply of water for the canal came from two reservoirs, at the heads of the two branches. There was a 472 yards long tunnel at Adwick, north of Swinton.
In 1798, the canal was open from Swinton to the Elsecar branch, but construction proved to be more expensive than expected. By 1799, all the funding had been used up, but the canal had only reached Aldham, below the Stairfoot Eight Locks. The canal did not reach its junction with the Barnsley Canal until 1804. However, a period of prosperity then followed until the railways were built.
When the first railway through the area (the North Midland) was built, a cutting was made through the hill alongside Adwick tunnel and thge canal was diverted to run through the cutting alongside the railway.
In 1846, the running of the canal was taken over by the Don Navigation, which needed to attract the coal traffic from the Barnsley area to help offset the effects of competition from the railways. Four years later, the Don Navigation amalgamated with the Doncaster and Goole Railway Company and the new company bought out the Dearne and Dove Canal in 1857. In 1874, the whole company came under the control of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company.
In 1894, the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Company was formed to take over the waterways and promote their growth. Unfortunately, the railway company still held the lease on the canal and was reluctant to spend a lot of money on maintenance and repair. However, constant maintenance and repair was what was needed, as the Dearne and Dove Canal, running right across an area that was being heavily mined for coal, suffered considerably from subsidence and its condition gradually deteriorated.
In 1906, the Worsborough branch was closed, due to subsidence, followed in 1928 by the Elsecar branch. The last boat passed right along the canal in 1934 and the canal only remained open from Barnsley to Oaks Colliery (Barnsley Main) and from Swinton to Manvers Colliery. The Barnsley end closed in 1942 and the section to Manvers in 1952. Only a half mile of canal remained open, through the first four locks, serving the Canning Town glassworks at Swinton. This section is still in water and the first two locks now form part of Waddington's boatyard.
The Barnsley Canal Group was formed in 1984, which became the Barnsley Dearne and Dove Canals Trust in 2000, to promote the restoration of this important historic element in the region's industrial heritage and the reinstatement a vital "missing link" in the national waterways network.