Huddersfield Narrow Canal winter maintenance

As part of its annual winter maintenance programme, British Waterways (BW) is undertaking 15 lock gate replacements and other essential works to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in a £500,000 project as part of its c. £50m national winter maintenance programme.

With only a few months to go until the Government puts the canals and rivers into trust for the nation through the creation of a new charity – the Canal & River Trust – this winter many of Britain’s canals and rivers will be receiving a vital winter makeover to help keep the 200 year-old waterway network working to ensure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

British Waterways is also offering the public the chance to catch an intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the nation’s 2,000-mile canal and river network is being preserved and cared for by holding some special Public Open Days.

On Monday 12th March at Lock 31W in Diggle, the public are being given the chance to see inside the drained lock, watch British Waterways’ staff at work and chat to BW experts about how this skilled operation takes place. An Open Day was held previously at Lock 40 in January.

Lock gate replacements on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal include Locks 1East, 7E, 8E, 12E, 28E, 32E, 34E, 39E, 40E and 31West with repairs to a number of others. The new gates have been made at Stanley Ferry Workshop in Wakefield which is one of only two workshops in the country.

Lock gate making and fitting is an extremely skilled and traditional trade; and one that remains essential to the waterways. Lock gates are constructed with tremendous strength as they have to control huge water pressures, take the hard usage they get from the thousands of boats which use them each year and survive for a long time underwater and at the mercy of the elements. In order to be waterproof they also need to be built very precisely, fitting tightly to the masonry of the lock walls and to each other.

As different canals were originally built by individual pre-Victorian entrepreneurs, each one varies from the other and there is no standard design. Therefore, every individual lock gate is unique to its canal and has to be hand crafted to achieve a water-tight fit in its chamber.

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