Standedge Tunnel

20 January 2012

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Visitors taking a trip along Standedge Tunnel. Copyright © British Waterways.Visitors taking a trip along Standedge Tunnel. Copyright © British Waterways.

Standedge Tunnel is one of Britain’s industrial heritage gems and is a monument to our 19th Century canal pioneers. A unique spot in the heart of the Pennine countryside in Marsden, Standedge Tunnel is the longest (3miles 406 yards), highest (645ft above sea level), and deepest (638ft) canal tunnel in Britain offering visitors the chance to delve deep into one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’.

In 1811 the tunnel was officially opened following many years of obstacles to create a link between Huddersfield and Ashton-under-Lyne. The tunnel, although expected to take six years to build, actually ended up taking 16 years to complete with the canal company going bankrupt three times. The estimated cost to build the tunnel was originally £54,187 but actually cost £123,804. This was until the world renowned engineer Thomas Telford was drafted in to help did a report on the tunnel that was very accurate which convinced the canal company to complete the project.

Copyright © British Waterways.

The canal and tunnel were crucial in carrying cargo such as coal and textiles to the expanding industrial towns in the region. Following fierce competition from the railways, Standedge Tunnel was closed in 1944 and remained so until 2001 after a 20 year restoration programme to reopen it was successful.

Copyright © British Waterways.

Things have changed at Standedge since the days the boats were propelled through the tunnel by leg power – aka ‘legging’. Now, we offer fantastic 30-minute tunnel trip aboard our glass topped boat, while one of our entertaining guides passionately explains all about the geology and history of the tunnel, as well as filling you with tales of the folk who designed, built and later worked in the tunnel.

Standedge also houses a café, free visitor centre, children’s playground as well as a whole range of special events throughout the season. Full details available at

Post by Simon Henry, National Campaigns Executive, British Waterways.

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