Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel
This is another £1 Away Day Blog. That is a day out by train which my West Yorkshire bus pass allows me to go practically anywhere in the area for £1 return. Today we are going to the Pennine town of Marsden, near Huddersfield (Last of the
Summer Wine country). For the Marsdens among you it is possible that your ancestors came from here. Another possibility is that they came from Nelson, just over the hill in Lancashire.
We are going to take a look at part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and its main feature, the Standedge (pronounced Stanidge) tunnel. The canal runs between Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire to Huddersfield, a distance of just under 20 miles and this year is its 200th anniversary. It was closed in 1944 and lay derelict for 30 years before restoration began. it re-opened in 2001
Marsden station is next to the canal towpath and the tunnel is about half a mile away. A few narrow boats are tied up by the side of the towpath under an ugly bridge.
Around the first bend and you are in the countryside, lush vegetation and mallard families looking for their dinner and looking
after their young ones.
I know that it's called the 'narrow' canal but this is ridiculous!
It only takes a few minutes to get to the basin at Tunnel End.
This is an old warehouse which has been turned into a visitor centre. When I had a walk round there was a class of schoolchildren, aged about seven or so, having the time of their lives learning about the canal, getting dressed up in Victorian clothes and learning about how children 200 or so years ago lived.
The tunnel entrance. The tunnel is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the country. it is 3¼ miles long, 636ft underground at its deepest point, and 643ft above sea level. It took 17 years to build from 1794. You will notice that there is no towpath in the tunnel. The boats were propelled through by boatmen - or ‘leggers’ as they are called. They lay down on the boat and use their legs to push on the walls or roof to move the boat along. The operation takes up to four hours, according
to the weight of the cargo and the number of men engaged in the work. They got 1s 6d (7½p) per trip. The horses and boat crew had to walk over the hill to meet the boat. The record for the trip is 1 hour 25 minutes, done in 1914 - by a man and his wife. Thomas Bourne started working at the tunnel when he was a boy. His job was to ensure the boats went into the tunnel safely then walk over the top of the moors and make sure they came out of the other end. He did this job for almost 37 years
and walked an estimated 215,582 miles.
This is the boat that gives trips into the tunnel. It usually goes about ¼m into the tunnel and then returns. It does do complete trips all the way through on occasions. Some of the schoolkids were also on the boat. When the guide asked if they had any questions, one budding boy racer, not happy with the 3mph we were going, piped up: 'D'unt it go any quicker, mister?'
Deep under the Pennines. During the construction of the new double-line railway tunnel between 1890 and 1894, great damage
was done by the mining operations to the canal tunnel. To make good the damage, a considerable length of brick flying arches (with side walls where required) and continuous arching were built. This is just one small length of the strengthening work. The termperature in the tunnel is a constant 10°
Lock 42 East. This is the highest point of the canal. In the eight miles from Huddersfield it has risen 439ft through 42 locks.
Looking down the hill to Lock 41.
The start of the overflow channel at Lock 41. Excess water coming down the canal bypasses the lock . . .
. . . and rejoins the canal below the lock.
Lock 40. It's amazing how natural these locks look in the landscape. They are not industrial at all.
Round the corner and down the hill to Huddersfield.
Looking back up the hill
The Pennine hills rising above Marsden.
The impressive lych-gate at the parish church.
Packhorse bridge opposite the church. It was built in 1775.
I hope that you have enjoyed the trip. Just time for a pint now in the Railway Inn before I get my train. Compo, Clegg and company have been known to sup in there when on their adventures.
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