Saddleworth Moor, South Pennines (17. Standedge canal tunnel entrance)
Royal Geographical Society
17. Standedge canal tunnel entranceFénykép: Society Royal Geographical, Royal Geographical Society
We have already discovered that the vision for this canal was to connect the two major hubs of the textile industry – wool in Yorkshire and cotton in Lancashire. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was proposed to Parliament in 1793 and work began a year later. It took 17 years to complete, the main delay caused by the complication of constructing this tunnel. The tunnel was quite an accomplishment and a record-breaker – it is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain at just over 3 miles (5 kilometres) long, 194 metres (636 feet) underground at the deepest point, and 196 metres (643 feet) above sea level. It is considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. The tunnel broke other records too: it was the most expensive canal tunnel built in Britain at that time costing £160,000 (about £40 million in today’s terms). Here you can see how narrow the tunnel opening is – just enough to take a narrow boat. In order to save money it was not built wider with a towpath. We discovered up on Boat Lane that the barge horses were walked over the hill to meet the boat at the other end of the tunnel. So how was the boat propelled through the tunnel in the days before engines? The metal gate on the tunnel entrance gives a clue. Can you see some legs and feet sticking out from the top of the boat? Men lay on top of the boat on their backs with their legs facing outwards to the side of the tunnel and ‘walked’ along the walls and roof. This was known as ‘legging’. Professional ‘leggers’ were paid 1 shilling and 6 pence for working a boat through the tunnel which took 1 hour 20 minutes for an empty boat and about 3 hours with a full load. Traffic through the narrow tunnel was obviously one-way although there are four passing places in the tunnel where boats could pass. Directions to stop 18 Walk away from the tunnel entrance along the towpath. Cross over or under bridge number 66 at Ward Lane and continue along either side of the towpath. Stop by Lock 29W and Bridge 69 where there is a bench on an elevated viewpoint.
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