Locks under lockdown

If you're a lock lover who can't make it down to your local canal please don't despair. We've gathered together some pictures of our favourite locks for all of you who are missing yours. We hope you enjoy it.

Foxton Locks, Grand Union Canal

Foxton top lock cottage - courtesy Ian Mullis Foxton top lock cottage - courtesy Ian Mullis

Foxton Locks are the longest and steepest staircase locks in the UK and you can still see the remains of the inclined plane, a type of lift that was developed to pull larger boats up the steep hillside.

Like many of these experimental Victorian inventions, it was too expensive to run and was abandoned after a few years. The old boiler house that powered the lift is now a museum dedicated to this weird and wonderful piece of engineering.


Bingley 5 Rise Locks, Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Staircase Locks at Bingley The Staircase Locks at Bingley

The locks at Bingley are one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ alongside the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Anderton Boat Lift. They’re divided in to two flights, the three rise and the five rise, and it’s the former that are the most memorable.

The unique staircase structure means there’s no need for a pound between each lock, the lower gate of one lock forms the upper gate of the next. Boats rise 18 metres through these steep locks, it takes about 45 minutes to go up and 30 minutes if you’re going down.


Bratch Locks, Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

Toll house at the Bratch Toll house at The Bratch

Bratch Locks with its Georgian toll house and lock keeper’s cottage is a charming part of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal just outside of Birmingham.

These locks were designed by the famous canal engineer James Brindley and opened in 1772. Originally, they were built as a staircase of three locks, like the locks at Bingley but were later made into three separate locks.

In 2019 an unexploded WWII bomb was found at the bottom of the lock, luckily it was detonated by bomb disposal experts before any damage was done.


Entrance Lock, West India Docks

Photo of West India Dock Entrance Lock West India Dock Entrance Lock

One of the larger locks that we look after, this lock joins the River Thames in East London to West India Docks. The former working docks were at one time the busiest port in the world with cargoes of coffee, rum and sugar arriving from the Caribbean.

In the 1980s the docks closed and are now home to the super modern Canary Wharf estate, you can still spot clues to its past like the historic cranes dotted around the docks. Typical visitors to this lock include superyachts, tall ships and Royal Navy vessels.


Camden Locks, Regent’s Canal

Camden, Regent's Canal Camden, Regent's Canal

The real name of the Grade II listed double locks in Camden is Hampstead Road Lock 1. The locks are next to the Camden Lock Market in London which attracts tourists from all over the world.

During the height of the industrial revolution the locks were so busy they needed to be worked 24 hours a day. Now volunteer lock keepers help boats through the locks. You can see traces of the canal’s past all around, the stables market was once home to the horses that towed working boats full of goods to be deposited at the Interchange warehouse, now the offices of Associated Press.


Caen Hill Locks, Kennet & Avon Canal

Aerial view of Caen Hill Locks and ponds Aerial view of Caen Hill Locks and ponds

Another of our ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal boasts 29 locks and rises over 72 metres. The large side ponds are a great place to spot wildlife including dragonflies, butterflies and kingfishers.

Our ecologists have set up cameras in the past to observe rare water voles who live in burrows in the canal banks.


Tardebigge Locks, Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Tardebigge bottom lock Tardebigge bottom lock

Tardebigge Locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal are the longest flight of locks in the UK with 30 locks rising 67 metres. The top lock used to contain an experimental boat lift that could lift 110 boats in half a day. However it wasn’t suitable for heavy use and was soon turned into a regular lock.

In 1946 Tom Rolt met Robert Aickman here onboard the narrowboat Cressy and founded the IWA (Inland Waterways Association). Their aim was to keep Britain’s canals open for future generations.


Tuel Lane Lock, Rochdale Canal

The approach to Tuel Lane Lock The approach to Tuel Lane Lock

This is the deepest lock in the UK with a drop of six metres, it’s situated on the Rochdale Canal and is only 14 years old.

The lock was built as part of the canal’s restoration in 1996. Because it’s so deep, the lock has its own lockkeepers between March and November to help boaters with their passage through this impressive structure.

Last date edited: 12 May 2020