News article created on 24 February 2022

The UK's steepest lock flight has been repaired thanks to our winter makeover

We're putting the finishing touches to a major restoration project at the Grade I Listed Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire.

Bingley Five Rise locks wide shot Bingley Five Rise locks wide shot

The project to replace two out of five sets of lock gates on the UK’s steepest lock flight is part of a four-month, £55 million winter works programme by us across our 2,000-mile network of canals and rivers, due to complete mid-March. 

What are we doing?

We're replacing the giant gates at Lock 25 and Lock 26. Each set of lock gates weighs six tonnes (the equivalent of an adult African elephant). Standing 7-metres tall, they are also some of the tallest lock gates in the country.

The steepest flight of locks in Britain, Bingley Five Rise Locks lifts boats around 18 metres (60 feet), with the five locks operating as a 'staircase' flight, in which the lower gate of one lock forms the upper gate of the next.

Due to the complexity of the site, our construction experts are working with specialist waterways contractor Rothen Group to safely move the lock gates into position, with a 40-tonne crane boat located within the drained lock chamber carrying out the heavy lifting of the lock gates and balance beams.  

The new lock gates have been hand-crafted using traditional methods in the our specialist workshops at Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire. A single lock gate can take up to 20 days to make and has a working life of around 25 years. In order to be watertight they need to be built very precisely, fitting snugly to the masonry of the 248-year old lock walls.

When completed in 1774, around 30,000 people gathered to watch the first boats make the 60-foot descent through Bingley Five Rise Locks. Today, nearly 250 years later, the flight is still in daily use, providing access to 16 miles of lock-free cruising on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in the glorious scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. A mix of seasonal staff and volunteers are on hand to assist boats through during the busiest months of the year.

Staying on top of regular maintenance

Sean McGinley, Yorkshire & North East regional director, said: “Constructed almost two and a half centuries ago, Bingley Five Rise is one of the Wonders of the Waterways. With only 2.5% of the country’s houses and structures awarded Grade I status we’re proud to have this site of exceptional historical importance here in Yorkshire.

"From the top of the flight you can enjoy stunning views of the Aire Valley, enjoying refreshments from the friendly café and find out more about the history of this waterway wonder and the wildlife in the area from information boards dotted along the towpath.

“Thousands of boaters, walkers, cyclists and runners come here each year to enjoy spending time by water. Research proves people feel happier and healthier by water, so it’s great to see more people than ever discovering canals and rivers as perfect spots for local recreation and exercise.

"It’s important we stay on top of regular maintenance and carry out this work in the winter months to try to minimise inconvenience to help as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of this amazing attraction.”

Ian Rothen, Director of Rothen Group, was on hand during the lock replacement.  He said: “Replacing lock gates on the steepest staircase lock in the country is one of the Canal & River Trust’s more complex projects. We’ve been assisting the team onsite providing a floating crane, full contract lift with experienced slingers & operators situated within the drained lock chamber and despite the high winds and rain from the storms, we’ve successfully managed to replace the lock gates and help deliver the project on time.”

Open days with the Trust

The last lock gate replacement at Bingley Five Rise Locks took place in 2012, with an opportunity to step inside one of the drained lock chambers.  This year, we will be hosting a Virtual Open Day on its website, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the experts involved.  It anticipated to go online by the end of March.

Within our Yorkshire & North East region alone £11 million is being spent on essential repairs, upgrades and maintenance on 9 out of 19 waterways in the region. These include: Calder & Hebble Navigation, Chesterfield Canal, Huddersfield Broad Canal, Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Rochdale Canal, Stainforth & Keadby Canal, Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, Tees Navigation.

A special in-person Open Day at Lock 9 – Black Pit Lock on the Rochdale Canal in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, is taking place on Saturday 12 March 2022, 10am until 2pm. Experts from the Trust and volunteers will be on-hand to describe the work taking place as the lock chamber is drained to carry out important water saving repairs to this historic lock. A range of activities will be available; from heritage walks and talks to canal canoe taster sessions.