Foxton Locks

From Academic Kids

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Upper staircase of Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks are ten canal locks consisting of two "staircases" each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal about 5 km west of the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and are named after the nearby village of Foxton.

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of groups of locks which open directly into each other. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system.

The locks are a popular tourist attraction and the county council has created a country park at the top. At the bottom, where the junction with the arm to Market Harborough is located, there is a public house, shop, trip boat and other facilities. The area is thus ideal for gongoozlers.

Foxton inclined plane

In 1900 an inclined plane was built to the side of the locks. The aim was partly to speed up the passage of boats, but also as part of an effort to allow the passage of wide-beam barges instead of just narrowboats: a plan to build a similar inclined plane at the Watford Locks at the other end of the canal's summit level was never carried through.

It was was designed by Gordon Cale Thomas and had 2 tanks or caissons, each capable of holding 2 narrowboats or a barge. The caissons were full of water, and so balanced each other. The lift was powered by a 25 horsepower (19 kW) stationary engine.

The inclined plane had a journey time of 12 minutes for 2 boats up and 2 down and improved the speed of passage up the hill tremendously. Unlike the locks, where water flowed downhill everytime a boat passed through, on the inclined plane the same amount of water went up and down the hill thus a saving of water was achieved, giving better control of this valuable resource.

Nonetheless, the Foxton inclined plane proved uneconomic and was abandoned in 1911 although remains can still be seen. There is a campaign to raise funds to re-build it. A small museum alongside the locks is run by a charitable trust attempting to raise these funds.

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