Foxton Locks

12 July 2003

After Lucy spent the morning learning to steward at a dog show in Peterborough, and Stephen spent the morning bell ringing
in Stamford Hill, we joined forces in Peterborough and went for another visit to Foxton Locks .

Foxton Locks are located at the village of Foxton near Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Road access is best from the Foxton Locks Country Park car park (1 per car), from where it is a short walk along the towpath of the Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal to the top lock.

At the top lock, NB Four Seasons begins its 75ft fall to the line of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal, now part of the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal to the Trent.

Four Seasons enters the second of the ten Foxton locks, which are arranged in two staircases of five each, with a passing pound between the two staircases.

On this hot Saturday afternoon, the locks are a popular attraction for local gongoozlers. To the right of the picture,
beyond one of the side ponds, is the engine house of the Foxton Inclined Plane, now home to the
Foxton Inclined Plane Trust and Canal Museum.

This is the remarkably small passing pound between the two staircases, looking well cared for. It is also quiet at the moment, as most of the spectators are watching either the boats descending the upper staircase or ascending the lower.

From the top lock of the lower staircase, looking up the hill

A short stroll around the hill brings us to the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane, one of the Wonders of the Waterways.

With the coming of the railways, the lock flight at Foxton slowed an already slow means of transport. Delays at the flight could be several hours at busy times. The inclined plane boat lift was opened in 1900 to help the canal compete with the railway.

The lift had two tanks or caissons, each capable of holding two narrow-boats or one barge. The tanks were full of water, and balanced each other. A journey time of 12 minutes for two boats up and two down improved the speed tremendously, and the same “lump” of water went up and down the hill all day so a very big saving of water was achieved giving better control of this precious resource.

The lift worked well but, the locks at Watford Gap were never widened, and the traffic didn't increase. This made the lift uneconomic. The locks were refurbished for night traffic in 1909. In 1911 the Lift was mothballed to save money, the traffic returning to the locks which have been in use ever since. In 1928 the machinery was sold for scrap.

Plans to rebuild the inclined plane are now moving forwards, with incremental improvements to the site until the necessary 8million can be raised for the full rebuild.

Quite why the top gate of one of the Watford locks has been brought 20 miles across the country
to lie on the hillside here is unclear.

Back at the passing pound, the boat ascending the lower staircase is nearly half way up the flight.

Four Seasons has reached the bottom of the upper staircase, and waits in the lock for the boat coming up the lower staircase. Behind Four Seasons, two more boats are descending the upper staircase while the citizens of Leicestershire look on.

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson