Inclined plane immediately east of Foxton Locks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Inclined plane immediately east of Foxton Locks
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 13-Oct-2019 at 22:22:36.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Harborough (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 69244 89605

Reasons for Designation

From the mid-18th century onwards the increasing need for the transport of heavy goods could not be entirely met by rivers. The road system was improving and being greatly extended, but a horse could draw only two tons in a cart, and between 50 to 100 tons in a barge, making water transport more economic. The requirement was fulfilled by the construction of a system of artificial waterways or canals, with canal construction reaching its peak in the period between 1790 and 1810. Differences of level were overcome by locks. Sometimes flights of locks had to be built, and in a few places particular problems in transporting canal traffic from one level to another necessitated the construction of either vertical boat lifts or inclined planes. Lifts and inclines differed in that with the former, boats were hoisted vertically, whereas with the latter they were hauled up ramps. Documentary sources indicate that around 20 inclined planes were constructed in England, the first being built at Ketley in Shropshire in 1788. The largest was at Morwellham on the Tavistock Canal where barges were hauled up a slope of 72m. Few inclines functioned for any great length of time, the exception being that at Trench on the Shrewsbury Canal which was in use for 124 years and was the last to close in 1921. The Grand Union Canal between Foxton and Daventry was opened in stages between 1812 and 1814 and provided the final link in a chain connecting Leicester and London. From the 1830s onwards railways began to supplant canals as the principle means of goods transportation. The Grand Junction, the new owners of the Grand Union Canal from 1894, tried to compete but were hampered by their locks at Foxton and Watford, the width of which severely limited the cargo-carrying capactiy of craft passing through. Anticipating increased revenue from the passage of coal between Nottingham and London, the incline at Foxton was constructed between 1898 and 1900. Foxton was the last and most sophisticated incline to be built in England. It was constructed utilizing steel rather than the cast or wrought iron employed on earlier designs and could lift weights of up to 240 tons, three times that of any of its predecessors.

The remains of the inclined plane at Foxton represent an exceptionally rare and complete example of late Victorian canal engineering which have remained free of subsequent development. The location of the inclined plane in close proximity to the staircase flight of locks, themselves a tourist attraction, considerably enhances its potential as a public amenity. Opportunities for the interpretation of the site are further supplemented by the large amount of contemporary documentary and photographic material relating to its construction and use.


The monument includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of the inclined plane, the canal arm linking the plane with the canal summit and the bottom lift basin, situated immediately east of Foxton Locks. The bottom lift basin survives as a water-filled cutting up to 30m in width and 150m in length orientated on a NNW-SSE axis. Within the basin are the remains of the bottom docks which originally provided access to the northern and southern inclines. The docks survive as two sections of brick pier connected by a modern wooden walkway. The northern end of the dock consists of a semicircular island measuring approximately 4m in length and 3m in width. The southern end of the dock is rectangular in shape, measuring approximately 19m by 12m, and projects from the base between the inclines. The inclined planes survive as two adjacent earthwork ramps on a gradient of approximately 1:4. The ramps are slightly staggered east to west but each measures approximately 100m in length and 28m in width with their long axes orientated ENE-WSW. The southern incline includes a blue brick revetting wall approximately 20m in length and a maximum of 2m in height along its south western edge at the junction with the earthwork bank forming the eastern side of the upper canal arm. Further sections of blue and red brick revetting wall and support piers immediately to the north and west originally provided the base for a steel aqueduct giving access to the northern incline. Eight parallel lengths of fragmentary concrete bases running the length of the inclines, four to each incline, mark the position of track beds for rails. Immediately south of the upper docks is the dry bed of the upper canal arm linking the plane with the canal summit. The canal arm survives as a waterlogged embanked depression up to 2m in depth and 13m in width, the banks of which are a maximum of 10m in width at their base. The banks are constructed of burnt clay and continue curving southwards for 250m up to the stoplock. The stoplock is constructed of brick with stone coping, the jaws or entry to which have been infilled with earth.

Documentary records show the inclined plane to have been constructed by the Grand Junction Canal Company between 1898-1900 to a design patented by the Company's engineer, Gordon Cale Thomas. Copies of original blueprints for the design still survive. The incline was intended to offer a more efficient and flexible means of moving barges up the 23m between the upper and lower canals than the staircase flight of ten locks built by the Grand Union Canal in 1810 immediately to the west, which it temporarily replaced. Foxton provided an important junction between canals built by the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union and the Grand Union. Contemporary photographic records show barges being transported up the lift in two water-filled steel tanks, each mounted on wheels which in turn rested on guide rails. A steam engine situated in an engine house at the top of the plane provided the power via a system of pulleys and cables attached to the tanks. Contemporary documents indicate that by 1910 the incline had been deemed uneconomic, although this was due to less than expected traffic rather than any faults in the design. The incline was closed in 1911, the majority of demolition taking place between 1927 and 1928. Repair work on the lower basin in the 1980s indicated that the pulley wheels still remained in situ below water level.

All fences, the surfaces of pathways and the dam within the stoplock are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Foxton Inclined Plane Trust, , Foxton Locks and Inclined Plane, (1993)
Hadfield, C, Hadfield's British Canals, (1994)
Hadfield, C, The Canals of the East Midlands, (1966)
Beech, M, (1998)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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