On the way home from our recent short break we stopped off at Foxton Locks for lunch and a short walk. The locks are on the Leicestershire branch of the Grand Union canal close to the village of Foxton which isn't far from the lovely town of Market Harborough.
We decided to have lunch first, just a simple meal of cheese baguette and coffee was in order as we'd had breakfast at our hotel before leaving that morning. The two previous days had been warm and dry but Saturday started wet with the constant 'mizzle' that soon wets you through so we didn't sit in the courtyard overlooking the old bridge over the canal but went inside and sat amongst the seasoned boaters who told tales of the waterways they'd travelled on whilst in another corner a man sat quietly strumming a guitar and singing folk songs.
After lunch we went to inspect the locks. The ten locks are Grade II listed and consist of two separate flights of five locks. Building work started on the locks in 1810 and was completed in 1814. The transit through the locks should take from forty five minutes to one hour but at busy times there can be quite a wait and build up of traffic.
Towards the end of the 19th century traffic was so busy that it was decided to build an inclined plane to replace the locks and this work was completed in 1900. The locks went into disrepair until they were refurbished in 1908 to take over again from the inclined plane as that hadn't proved to be very successful and was finally dismantled in 1926.
About halfway up the staircase of locks is the Foxton Canal Museum, which is housed in the former steam engine which powered the inclined plane, looks interesting and apparently tells the story of the development of both the staircase of locks and the inclined plane. We didn't have time to go into the museum this time but will probably visit if we go back again.
Above is the site of the inclined plane. It had two tanks or caissons running up and down it which could hold one barge or two narrow boats. The caissons being full of water balanced each other. In contrast to the lock system the travel time was 12 minutes for two boats up and down a lot quicker for the businesses that used the canal. The Inclined Plane has been recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is undergoing restoration with the help of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.