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Foxton Inclined Plane and Locks

Foxton, Leicestershire

Location Guide

Foxton locks by Stephen Dawson 

Inclined plane

Brief history of inclined planes.

The idea of using inclined planes to move boats over obstacles or between water levels dated back to the Greeks in 600BC, but it was the late 1700's that saw it first becoming of interest in Britain, with the first recording I can find of a suggestion to use, being in 1773, in Cornwall on the St Columb Canal at Lusty Glaze joining the canal to the sea. In 1788 an inclined plane was used for the first time in England to raise a boat on the Ketley Canal in Shropshire, Wikipedia, and was in use for 28 years. The Ketley Canal joined the Shropshire Canal and nearby in 1792 another inclined plane was opened linking the Shropshire Canal at Blists Hill Down to the River Severn. This is now known as the Hay Inclined Plane. It can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town, part of Ironbridge.

The Foxton inclined plane was not built until 1900. This was built by the side of the largest staircase of locks in England. It was built to allow wide beam barges to make the journey, that up to then only narrowboats could make but generally replaced the locks for its period of operation, and the locks fell into disrepair. The inclined plane could make the journey in 12 minutes taking two boats at a time up and down and as it moved roughly the same amount of water in each direction was a great saving on water as well as time. Moving through the locks taking 45 minutes to an hour, minimum.

There was a plan to build a similar inclined plane at the Watford Flight (locks) at the southern end of the canal's summit level. However, this never happened and as the Watford Locks were never widened, the economic benefits of the plane could not be fully realised. So despite its obvious effectiveness, the Foxton Inclined Plane was mothballed in 1911 to save money. After that date it saw occasional use when the locks were undergoing maintenance. In 1927, dismantling of the inclined plane began, so that it could be sold for scrap, the chimney on the engine house was demolished and its bricks used for various canal repairs.

See Larger Image Construction of the inclined plane 
Click image to see a larger version

Today you can see the remains next to the locks but the plan is to restore it. The first stage restoration of the canal arms and cleaning up and below the inclined plane was completed in 2008 costing 2.8 million, and money is currently being raised to allow the rebuilding of the inclined plane.

Next to the locks is a small museum that is housed in what was the boiler house, mooring bollards for the inclined plane can also still be seen.


The Foxton Locks are made up of two staircases of 5 locks each. Staircase locks are where the lower gate of one lock is also the top gate of the one below. This is the largest flight of staircase locks in England. They are one end of a high level or summit canal that runs from near Foxton to another similar flight at the other end known as the Watford Fight, near the village of Watford in Northamptonshire. It consists of two single locks, a staircase of 4, and a single lock.

While the inclined plane was in operation the Foxton locks fell into disrepair but in 1908 money was spent to bring them back into use. When the inclined plane was constructed the size of some of the side ponds were reduced.

Location: Foxton Inclined Plane, Foxton, Leicestershire

Grid Reference: SP692895 Ceremonial County: Leicestershire

Map Link: Multimap

War Office OS map (so late 1930's)

Aerial photo: Multimap

Getting there: From M1 take the A4303 towards Market Harborough, after 12 miles in the village of Lubenham turn left and follow the brown signs. From the A6 at the roundabout with the B6047 take the exit towards Leciester, take the next right signposted Foxton Locks.

Access: From the car parks at the top and bottom locks.
Website: http://www.foxtonlocks.com/

Other Useful Websites: Wikipedia   Geograph   Waterscape 


Email: enquiries@southeast.co.uk
Address: Foxton Locks, Foxton, Leicestershire
Postcode: LE16 7RA Telephone: 0116 276 2657
Opening Times: Open at all times. Canal Museum Open 10am-5pm (summer). Foxton Locks Inn open every day. Foxton Locks Shop Open every day 9am-5pm except 25 Dec. Coffee Shop at Top Lock Cottage open summer season only 10am-6pm.

Charges: None. Main car park at top of locks costs 1.50 for a car; 5 for a minibus.

Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages: Watford flight (locks)    Hay inclined plane 
Other Relevant Pages:  Canals              Canals for photographers  

Major Canals and Waterways               Major Canal Features  

Canal Tunnels                                        Lock Flights and Staircases  

Canals in England                                  Non Navigable and Lost Canals  

Further information - canals  

Notes: Blue badge parking on top and bottom lock car parks. Three quarters of paths are accessible to wheelchairs. The Foxton Locks Inn has toilet facilities for disabled visitors. Museum is level throughout.

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By: Keith Park Section: Canal and Waterway Section Key:
Page Ref: Foxton_Inclined_Plane Topic: Canals & Waterways  Last Updated: 05/2009


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