The canal was built in 1777, to export coal, limestone and lead from Derbyshire and iron from Chesterfield. Corn, timber and groceries were imported on the return. The stone for the Palace of Westminster was quarried in North Anston, Rotherham, and transported via the canal.
As the industry declined that used the canal and the road and rail networks became the preferred method of transport, the canals were abandoned in the 1960's. The Chesterfield Canal Trust took over the canal in the 1970's and began the process of restoring the canal.
The canal is now used for leisure, river cruisers and narrow boats navigate the waterways. The basin at West Stockwith caters for the pleasure craft, selling fuel and provisions and proving moorings.