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Huddersfield Narrow Canal Banner

Huddersfield Link GraphicINTRODUCTION Huddersfield Link GraphicHISTORY
Huddersfield Link GraphicCANAL COMPANY MANAGERS Huddersfield Link GraphicTHE CANAL ROUTE
Huddersfield Link GraphicFACTS Huddersfield Link GraphicSETTING OUT OF WORKS
Huddersfield Link GraphicENGINEERING Huddersfield Link GraphicTHE WATER SUPPLY
Huddersfield Link GraphicBRIDGES & AQUEDUCTS Huddersfield Link GraphicBOATS
Huddersfield Link GraphicRESERVOIRS Huddersfield Link GraphicLOCKS
Huddersfield Link GraphicASPLEY BASIN Huddersfield Link GraphicTUNNEL END
Huddersfield Link Graphic'GREAT TUNNEL' BUILDING Huddersfield Link GraphicCONCLUSIONS

On the Huddersfield Narrow Canal the ascent to Marsden of 436 ft (133m) meant a need for 42 locks; the descent of 334 ft (102m) necessitated the building of another 32, totalling 74 in all. Every time a lock was used, a lockful of water was lost from the summit pound which had to be replaced. Therefore a series of reservoirs were built to maintain adequate supplies of water. The reservoirs and their capacities in gallons are given below:

March Haigh 71,000,000
Tunnel End 22,650,000
Redbrook 67,900,000
Swellands 54,350,000
Black Moss (Diggle Moss) 18,650,000
Little Black Moss 2,200,000
Diggle 17,950,000
Brun Clough 8,600,000
Slaithwaite 68, 200, 000
Sparth 8,150,000

All the reservoirs were contained by conventional earth dams with clay cores and most leaked due to poor construction. In 1817 John Rooth said in a letter that the state of the reservoirs was so bad that "the whole of the water that could have been collected from the summit would not have been sufficient to support the then little trade upon the canal and .... there was not one reservoir out of five that would retain any water ...."

On the 17th August 1799 heavy rains caused the embankment at Tunnel End reservoir to collapse, allowing the waters to surge through, wrecking the aqueduct and bringing havoc to Marsden and beyond. The damage done was so great that another Act of Parliament (1800) had to be drawn up to pay for repairs and allow the canal to be finished.

After Telford had visited the area in 1806 he wrote: "It is now too late to express a regret, that such large sums of money have been expended on such narrow dingles of small capacity, as these were liable to be filled with rocks and silt washed down by the mountain streams," He recommended the building of another reservoir east of the one currently being constructed at Black Moss, which would receive its water from the latter. This reservoir came to be known as Swellands, but it is more famous for the 'Black Flood' of the 29th November 1810. On this occasion the dam walls burst open, releasing the waters into the Colne valley and causing terrible damage to homes and factories.

At the other extreme the canal was notorious for stoppages due to a lack of water. The large number of locks on the canal placed heavy demands on the water supply and in times of drought the canal was liable to dry up.

As the canal became disused, an agreement was reached with the water authority to operate the larger of the reservoirs under their direction, to help control water supplies in the Colne Valley. In return, they agreed to provide up to 280 million gallon of water per annum for the canal. This is let in, when necessary, through a valve house located above the top lock (Lock 42) at Marsden. Only two of the old reservoirs in the Colne Valley are now used to supply the Canal ‑Sparth near Marsden, and Slaithwaite.

Huddersfield narrow Canal reservoirs

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