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Foxton to the Grand Junction Canal at Norton Junction

Foxton Locks  - 1800's

Watford Locks

Following completion of the “Union” canal to Market Harborough (also now referred to as the Harborough Navigation), many Leicester and Harborough district businessmen and landowners still felt that the full economic benefit of the canal would only be realised with a through line to the Grand Junction Canal, open since 1805, near Northampton and thus a direct route to London.


The Grand Junction Canal Company were also keen on such a link to provide traffic for their canal from the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields. James Barnes and, again, Thomas Telford were involved in proposing routes and a Parliamentary Bill was approved on 24th May 1810 for the Grand Union Canal to run from the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal at Foxton to join the Grand Junction Canal at Watford.


The Grand Union Canal Company had authorised capital of £245,000 and the Act allowed for a further £50,000 to be raised if required. Construction started, with Benjamin Bevan as Engineer, at Foxton which required construction of ten locks to reach the summit level. The lock flight was complete by late 1812, the Husbands Bosworth tunnel completed in May 1813. Difficult geology near Crick required a new line and longer tunnel further to the east of the village, costing an additional £7,000, and with the descent through seven locks near Watford (Northants.) to make the level of the Grand Junction Canal summit at Norton, the canal opened on 9th August 1814.


The water feeder from the reservoirs near Welford was finally opened as a fully navigable arm of the canal in November 1814.


The new canal was not a commercial success, mainly because there was little local traffic, and it relied on traffic passing through from other canals. The Company had cleared most of its debts by 1826 and paid a first dividend to shareholders. All the loans had been repaid by 1836, but dividends remained low and proceeded to fall as increasing competition from the railways forced toll receipts downwards. This trend together with costly repairs to the tunnels meant that the Company was effectively insolvent by 1885.

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