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Huddersfield Narrow Canal

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal runs south-west from the Huddersfield Broad Canal in Huddersfield to the Ashton Canal.

Map of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and surrounding waterways

Facts & Stats

19.3 miles

(31 km)

The length of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal that is navigable.

76 locks


Year re-opened

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was re-opened after a massive restoration project undertaken with funding from the Millennium Commission, English Partnerships and other sources.

From the Huddersfield Broad Canal to the Ashton Canal

This canal was built as an alternative to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to form a through-route between Lancashire and Yorkshire. However, it was not a commercial success and was completely abandoned in 1944. Fortunately, it was retained as a water supply channel. 

In 1948, a group of early IWA activists navigated the canal and took a boat through the Standedge Tunnel. Recently, a massive restoration project has been undertaken with funding from the Millennium Commission, English Partnerships and other sources and the canal was reopened in 2001.


Campaign history

This canal was abandoned by the London Midland & Scottish Railway in a 1944 Act of Parliament but was included in a six week IWA cruise the northern canals which started in August 1948. Robert Aickman had hired the Ailsa Craig from R H Wyatt at Stone and was accompanied by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Also on part the trip were James & Anthea Sutherland and Angela & Tom Rolt. All six people undertook the trip on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the passage through Standedge Tunnel was probably the last complete crossing of the canal before its restoration in 2001.

In 1951, concrete staunches were installed on the abandoned canal, thus preventing any further attempts at navigation.

In March 1955 the Board of Survey reported and recommended the disposal of 771 miles of waterway including some canals, like the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, that had already been abandoned and closed to traffic. In response, IWA advocated a National Waterway Conservancy to look after all the waterways and pointed out that it is cheaper to restore and use waterways than to eliminate them.

In 1973 some IWA members were now suggesting that the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Rochdale Canal should be considered next for restoration. Others said that this was too ambitious, an argument history would refute some thirty years later.

The formation of the Huddersfield Canal Society

The Huddersfield Canal Society was formed on 18 April 1974 to conserve the Broad Canal and to promote the restoration of the Narrow Canal. In IWA’s Waterways of April 1977 the Society highlighted four cases where the line of the canal had been obstructed by building and asked for support in opposing another application to build over the canal route. 4,000 people attended the 1977 Huddersfield Canal Festival.

The April 1980 edition of Waterways reported that West Yorkshire County Council might support restoration. By the end of the year, Huddersfield Canal Society had registered as a charity and leased the Tunnel End Cottages at Marsden. The cottages were restored, and infill was removed from Dungebooth Lock during 1981.

In 1983 it was recognised that the Canal Society was winning its case for restoration against all expectations. This was a canal with many obstacles to overcome including 74 derelict locks. Now it was talked of as one of the top ten canal restoration projects.

Lock clearing and rebuilding continued in 1984 and 1985 the year a £100,000 engineering study of Standedge Tunnel financed by British Waterways, Greater Manchester Council, West Yorkshire County Council, IWA and others.

Steady progress in restoring the canal continued into the 1990s and in 1995 IWA’s National Trailboat Festival was held at Linthwaite on the Canal. By 1996, most of the 21-mile canal had been restored using various grants and local authority support. What remained to be done was a small number of very expensive engineering tasks to overcome, including the lengths of the canal that had been infilled and built over.

Early in 1997 the Millennium Commission announced a grant of £14.8 million with matching funding from English Partnerships to complete the restoration of the canal. British Waterways invited tenders for three large contracts in 1998. These were for £5 million of repairs and improvements to Standedge Tunnel, a new channel through Bates and Sellers factories in Huddersfield and the reconstruction of the canal through Slaithwaite.

Early in 2001, British Waterways was testing means of taking trains of boats through Standedge Tunnel using electric tugs.  On 1st May 2001 the canal was formally reopened.

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 70′ 1″ (21.34 metres) – Lock 41E (Dirker Lock, Marsden)
  • Beam: 6′ 10″ (2.1 metres) – Lock 41E
  • Height: 6′ 10″ (2.1 metres) – Aspley Bridge (Huddersfield)
  • Draught: 2′ 11″ (0.9 metres) – Lock 41E

Navigation authority


Useful Info

Locks 21W and 22W (Uppermill) are unevenly shaped and narrow.

A windlass and handcuff key are required to operate Locks 1W and 2W.

Passage of the summit locks and Standedge Tunnel should be pre-booked with Canal & River Trust.

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.

Local activities