The longest flight of locks in Britain
Period of construction:
1800 - 1849
Transport Trust plaque:
London Lane, Tardebigge B60 3AG
Tardebigge Locks or the Tardebigge Flight is the longest flight of locks in the UK, comprising thirty narrow locks on a two mile stretch of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge, Worcestershire. It raises the waterway some 67m (220 ft), and lies in between the Tardebigge Tunnel, 530m (580 yds) in length to the North, and the Stoke Prior flight of six narrow locks to the South. The Tardebigge Engine House is also on this stretch.
The top lock has a rise of 11 feet, unusually high for a single lock. This lock was built to replace an experimental vertical boat lift. The canal had been opened from Birmingham to the wharf (now known as the Old Wharf) north of Tardebigge by 30 March 1807 without the need for locks. South of the Old Wharf, the Tardebigge tunnel runs through solid rock to the New Wharf, just above Lock 58, the topmost lock in the flight. The canal company was concerned with the expense of the 58 locks needed to take the canal down to the River Severn at Worcester.
The Tardebigge vertical lift was invented by John Woodhouse and installed at his own expense, with excavation and masonry provided by the company. Finished on 24 June 1808, it was housed in a covered shed and used a fixed counterweight of bricks, connected by a set of eight parallel chains and pulleys. Lifting was performed by two men using a windlass. The 64 ton wooden caisson was sealed at each end by guillotine gates, as was the lock chamber. It succeeded in lifting 110 boats in 12 hours but was considered too fragile for permanent use.
Consequently there was recourse to locks for the remainder of the canal and the lift was replaced in 1815. The lift mechanism has gone but the outline of its balancing pit may be seen near the lock keeper's cottage.
Close to lock number 57, the second from the top, is the Tardebigge Engine House, built to pump water up from Tardebigge Reservoir, which is about 15.2m (50 ft) below the level of the top pound. The original steam engine has been removed, and the building has since been reused as a restaurant. The reservoir was one of a number of water supplies for the canal.
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Viewable at all times - telephone British Waterways on 0845 6715530
How To Find:
By Road: Off B4096 south-west of Tardebigge
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