L0182%2520_197905_02238.JPG L1444_20080523_0267.JPG L1867_20120516_H30a.JPG
Lock 3E The First - 1976 above - 1987 below Lock 3E The Second - 2001 to 2012 Lock 3E The Third opened 2012
L0499_198709_6440.JPG A brief history

The progressive closure of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal after its post-war abandonment was most dramatic on its Eastern side. Near Huddesfield, Lock 3E The First was filled in; by 1976 (the left picture above) it had become a car park for Sellers Engineering, and by 1987 (picture left in the middle distance) the line of the canal had been obstructed by a factory building.

Always The Impossible Restoration, this obstruction, the nearby Bates works, Standedge Tunnel, Slaithwaite, Slalybridge and many locks and bridges all needed to be solved before the canal could be reopened to through navigation. Much voluntary effort, and a clear vision of a restored canal inspired a series of public-funded interventions over a thirty-year period, culminating in the Millennium opening in 2001. The engineering solution is described by the Huddersfield Canal Society here and the Pennine Waterways website has a series of pictures and commentary on the works as they progressed here.

The new line of the canal was to the left (as viewed from the pictures) of the original line, and the canal was at a lower level through a cut-and-cover tunnel, requiring the repositioning of Lock 3E The Second beyond the building in the picture. The width was for a single narrowboat, and the tunnel had no towing path. It was unattractive to navigate through, and only the canal's light usage avoided navigational conflicts.

Huddersfield Waterfront Quarter

And then there is a new scheme to revitalise this part of Huddersfield, starting with a new campus for Kirklees College. A brochure with this vision first appeared when Lock 3E The Second had been in operational use for eight years, and the first part has been implemented, opening in 2012 with Lock 3E The Third almost-but-not-quite in the same position as its predecessor Lock 3E The First. Pennine Waterways describes these works here.
Having the canal as a centre of redevelopment, and a catalyst for regeneration is wholly desirable, and reflects many similar schemes across the country. Our IWA response to the plans was that the navigation should benefit not only by being rescued from an unattractive tunnel, using the movement of boats to provide vitality and colour to the new buildings, but also allowing boats to pass one another where they were unable to do so underneath Sellers' carpark (see picture right).

The cheapest engineering solution would be to remove the tunnel roofand leave Lock 3E The Second operational, but that would create un unacceptable chasm both hiding boats and creating a cliff for visitors to fall over. Next cheapest is to create Lock 3E The Third, open out the tunnel, fill it with rubble so the water is at similar depth to other local canals, but leave the channel at its single-boat width. With the exception of a wider two-boat lock-landing, that is what has been done (see picture below). Also a set of pictures here.


Paucity of Imagination

We could bemoan the waste of public resources in building a lock and a tunnel, which have only eleven years of operation, and only eight years before their demise has been agreed: but it was the existence of the operational canal that created the opportunity to bring a waterway to the centre of a new development: maybe there was nothing different that could have been done, and in any case it's developers' money that's being used to replace a (not-the-best) public facility with a newer (not-the-best) one.

We can bemoan the adoption of a cheap engineering solution when a slightly more expensive one would allow those colourful boats to pause within the development and allow their navigators to use its facilities - as well as one boat passing another. Maybe in another eight years the light will have dawned...

Peter Scott