Monday, 11 November 2013


The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century demanded serious transportation for goods and the extraordinary construction of some difficult canal routes is now a wonder to behold.

The  Standedge  canal  and  railway  tunnel

Running between Marsden in West Yorkshire and Diggle in Greater Manchester, The Standedge canal and railway tunnel  under the Pennines, is the longest tunnel in the UK.   Tunnelling began in the 1790’s from each end and was finished in 1811.  The cost of this project was £400,000 and the tunnel is 17,094 feet long (some 3 miles), 9 feet wide and 9 feet high.   There is no tow path to the canal and the horses had to go over the top, whilst the boats were ‘ legged’ through by men laid on their backs who  pushed their legs on the roof to propel the boats through the tunnel.   Whilst railway service was maintained, the canal fell into disrepair until its recent restoration.

 Standedge tunnel

The stairway to heaven
Hatton Locks, climbing the hill from Warwick towards Birmingham, on The Grand Union Canal, are a flight of no less than 21 locks.  This spectacular feat of 18th century engineering was constructed around 1790 and the locks are still very much in use by leisure canal boats.   They are known as ‘The stairway to heaven’.

The Stairway to Heaven

Revolutionary aqueduct

Born of the Industrial Revolution, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct took 10 years to build between 1795 and 1805.   Poised above the Dee Valley in North Wales, it still conveys canal boats across the valley along the Llangollen Canal.  Technological advancements of the late 18th century demanded an efficient route to convey goods and raw materials to their markets and the legendary Thomas Telford designed this aqueduct to ensure the continuation of the canal.  Eighteen 116’ high piers were constructed of local stone, bonded with a mortar made of ox blood, lime and water, to support 19 cast- iron arches, each with a 45’ span, which in turn support the iron trough.  The trough is 11’10” wide, 5’3” deep and 1007’ long and the sections of the trough are bolted together and sealed with Welsh flannel, sugar syrup and lead, to hold more some 1.5 million litres of water.  
Pontcysyllte, pronounced ‘pont-ku-sih-hl-ter’, means,’the bridge that connects’.
This magnificent example of Georgian architecture is the UK nomination for World Heritage Status of 2008.

Pontsysyllte Aquaduct



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