Foxtonís locks, seven feet wide, on the Leicester line of the Grand Union canal, are three miles west of Market Harborough. They take their name from the nearby Foxton village. The lock flight was built in 1810 and the top summit route four years later.
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The inclined plane was built to handle the 75 foot high hill. The locks are the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system. The bottom gate of one lock is the top gate of the lock below. The seven foot wide locks prevented wider boats from using the system, and there was only one passing place hafl way up the hill.
In 1894 the locks became the property of the Grand Junction Canal Company. They opened a new lift, the Thomas lift, hoping to bring back traffic lost to the railways. This lift was designed by Gordon Cale Thomas and built by W H Gwynne of Hammersmith London. A 25 horsepower engine powered the lift which enabled a 12 minute journey for two boats up and two down. In 1909 the locks were opened to night traffic; in 1911 money was saved by mothballing the lift. In 1928 the lift machinery was sold for scrap.
A journey through the 10 locks of two staircases takes 45 minutes. The locks are manned in the summer season. The sideponds, used as reservoirs to fill the locks, provide a habitat for wildlife that includes mallard ducks, moorhens, and swans. Boats are available for hire. A 30 minute boat trip is available on a vintage motorboat on Sundays, BH, and some school holidays.
A museum in a reconstructed boiler house on the site tells the story of the canal and locks using displays, documents, photos, and objects. There is a historic village trail from the village car park. Canal walks, a shop, and meals at Foxton Locks Inn complete the picture.
Foxton Canal Museum
Middle Lock, Gumley Rd, just off A6 or A427 near Market Harborough, Leicestershire (signposted)
Tel. 0116 279 2657
Open: March-Oct, daily, 10am-5pm, except 11am-5pm on Saturday; Nov-Feb, weekends 11am-4pm; Foxton locks manned in summer daily, 8am-7pm (last arrival time 6.15pm); Light snacks at coffee shop (open summer season only). Parking charge at the locks.
Web: Foxton Locks
Web: Foxton Boats
Note: There are two parking places on different sides of the road. The signs pointing to the long stay one say that is where the museum is located. The sign is incorrect. Park in the short stay (4 hours) for quick access to the museum, eating places, boats etc. Park in the long stay if you want to walk a mile along the canal.