Canal Archive

Restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in Saddleworth

Work to restore the canal began in 1981 when two lock chambers and a half mile section of the canal were restored, over a period of about two years, by volunteers from the Huddersfield Canal Society. Between 1999 and 2001 with the involvement various other organisations and Lottery funding, work was completed and the canal re-opened to navigation in May 2001. The header image shows the construction of the marina at Greenfield in February 2008.

Canal Restoration 1980 and 2000 by John Widdall

A Brief History of the Canal

The construction of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal began in 1794 but it was not until 1811 that the Standedge Tunnel was completed — the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain. Boats could then navigate the whole length of the canal from Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire to Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire.
As a commercial venture the canal could never be described as a success, largely due to competition from the Rochdale Canal and, later, from the railways. The last commercial vessel to pass through the Standedge Tunnel was in 1921.
During the 1950s the lock gates were removed and the locks were filled in, turning them into man-made cascades and waterfalls. Presumably the rationale was that they would be safer and require little or no maintenance.
The Huddersfield Canal Society was formed in 1974 with the object of restoring the whole of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to navigation. Volunteers from the Society began the restoration of a half mile stretch of the canal and two locks in Saddleworth in 1981.
The photographs are in two sections. The first, in monochrome, shows the restoration carried out in 1981 on Dungebooth lock (22W). The second, in colour, shows recent work (1999-2002) on the locks and bridges at either end of the village of Uppermill, where the canal had been culverted when road improvements were carried out.

Early Restoration

All text and images on this site are protected by copyright © John Widdall 2012

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