A unique patchwork of 18th, 19th and 20th century industrial heritage unmatched anywhere in the world, Foxton is most famous for the ruins of the Incline Plane Boat Lift, and the breathtaking staircase of 10 locks on the Grand Union Canal. The locks are grouped in two staircases of five locks each, where the top gates of one lock double as the bottom gates of the next. Professional lock-keepers are on duty through the summer to help boaters.
Inclined Plane and Boat Lift
Foxton is famous for its Inclined Plane Boat Lift, which opened on 10th July 1900 and operated for the next decade. By-passing the slow staircase of locks, it had the potential to increase traffic capacity by almost 20-fold. Unfortunately, the anticipated increase in freight traffic never materialised. The route for wide beam boats was also not completed, as the narrow locks at the southern end of the Grand Union Summit were never widened or bypassed. Consequently the Lift never met its potential and was mothballed in 1911. The metalwork was eventually sold for scrap in 1928.
A £2.9m restoration scheme was completed in late summer 2008, which has included clearing the incline of trees and restoring the top and bottom approach arms. The work, with substantial contributions from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund and the East Midlands Development Agency, has been managed by British Waterways on behalf of the Foxton Locks Partnership. The restoration programme has increased tourism in the area, preserved local heritage, educated people about the importance of the site and benefitted the environment and its wildlife. The Partnership, which was formed in 1996, seeks to increase visitor numbers and benefit tourism for the district, whilst ensuring the needs of local people are taken into account.
The partners have already put a lot of hard work into the planning, restoration and development of the Foxton Locks site, but their ultimate vision is to bring the site's Inclined Plane boat lift back into full use. The Inclined Plane is an important part of local, national and European heritage. The Partnership’s ultimate Vision is for it to be restored to full working order thus conserving it for the future.
Foxton Canal Museum
Alongside the locks, a museum is situated in the reconstructed Boiler House of the Foxton Boat Lift. Opened in 1989, it tells the story of the Lift and the local canals, with extensive archives as well as objects from the site.