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Huddersfield Narrow Canal Restoration

Artists Impression of Canal Through Armentieres Square

Visit the website of the Huddersfield Canal Society ( Link to External Website to see the whole project or to watch the latest progress at Stalybridge.


The Canal, between Ashton-under-Lyne and Huddersfield, opened to through traffic in 1811 and took 17 years to build. It includes the Standedge Tunnel which took over 16 years to build and at 5.2 kilometres (over 3 miles) in length, is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain. The canal's construction was a major feat of engineering and human effort that developed the economies of the Tame and Colne valleys at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

With increasing competition from the railways the canal fell into decline in the late 19th century, officially closing in 1944. The canal became derelict and over the next 30 years sections were infilled, bridges lowered and the majority of its 74 locks were dismantled or made safe. In 1981 volunteers from the Huddersfield Canal Society pioneered a successful restoration of a half-mile section of canal, including two lock chambers in Uppermill, with the ultimate aim of reopening the canal to full navigation.

In 1985 a partnership between Tameside, Oldham and Kirklees Councils, the Huddersfield Canal Society and British Waterways was formed, with the aim of opening the canal to allow through navigation. By 1996 the partners had managed to restore over 12 miles of the 20 miles of the canal. Within Tameside, with the exception of the route through Stalybridge Town Centre, work to the existing channel was either in progress or completed, including the Staly Wharf scheme off High Street.

However, many of the more complex blockages remained, and a bid was made for funding from the National Lottery Millenium Fund to complete what was once dubbed "The impossible restoration". In December 1996 the Millenium Commission announced its offer of £14.85 million grant support towards the £30 million cost of completing the full restoration of the canal and since then a great deal of design and planning work has been carried out. Recently English Partnerships confirmed its £12.8 million contribution to the overall funding package to ensure that the work can now progress.

In addition to Stalybridge Town Centre the project includes the removal of major blockages at:

  • High Street and Wool Road, Uppermill
  • Standedge Tunnel
  • Slaithwaite Town Centre
  • Bates and Sellers Mills, Huddersfield