Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
Hatton’s flight of 21 locks provides an excellent example of how our canal heritage has adapted to meet the needs of a changing society.
From a highway of the Industrial Revolution it has become a much valued recreational resource and a vital green corridor for wildlife.
Today, this stretch of waterway is part of the Grand Union Canal, but when it opened in December 1799 this was the Warwick & Birmingham Canal, built to carry locally mined coal to the power stations and factories of the Black Country. It was also a vital trade link in a chain of waterways connecting London with the Midlands.
This chain was formed of eight different canals, each owned by a different Canal Company. However, in 1929, when commercial canal carrying was under serious threat from road and rail transport, one company, the Grand Union Canal Company, took over the entire route and re-named it the Grand Union Canal.
A welcome improvement for the boaters who had to work their heavy boats laden with coal, sugar, tea and spices through what they called the 'Stairway to Heaven'.
The Company immediately embarked on a major modernisation programme in a bid to make the canal pay. Locks on narrow sections of the route, like the ones here at Hatton, were widened to accommodate 14-foot wide boats, or two narrowboats side by side. Twice as much cargo could pass through each lock - a welcome improvement for the boaters who had to work their heavy boats laden with coal, sugar, tea and spices through what they called the 'Stairway to Heaven'. It is believed that this name refers to the relief felt by boaters on reaching the top of the steep Hatton lock flight, after which it was easier going to Camphill where their wages were waiting at the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company offices.
At Hatton, this widening work started in 1932 and involved the use of concrete, a revolutionary new material in canal building. After two years, with over 1,000 men working on the project, the new concrete locks and bridges were officially opened by HRH the Duke of Kent. You can still see some of the old brick-built narrow lock chambers beside some of the 'new' wide locks. You can also see an old working boat, or 'maintenance flat', supporting a 'piling rig'. This was used to hammer timber or concrete piles into the sides of the canal to protect them from water erosion, or wayward boats!
The process of modernisation to meet the evolving needs of canal users has been ongoing here at Hatton. The old wharf and maintenance yard, where carpenters and blacksmiths made heavy oak lock gates, have been restored to create offices and a heritage skills training centre. The old stable block, where canal horses bedded down for the night, is now a popular café.
But the ghosts of times past remain here as well. You can often see a pair of restored working boats called 'Malus' and 'Scorpio', that once worked this route, moored alongside Hatton Wharf. They were restored as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded Working Boats Project. A recent Heritage Lottery funded project has made some of the site’s hidden history available to visitors through information panels, leaflets, a family wildlife trail along the lock flight, education packs and picnic benches.
Hooked on history?
Read more about the fascinating history of our canals and rivers, from the tale of their construction to the engineers who dreamed them up and the boatmen and their families who lived and worked on them hundreds of years ago.
Last date edited: 24 February 2017