When they opened in 1799 the Hatton locks were a part of the Warwick and Birmingham canal, and much of the traffic was locally mined coal on its way to the Black Country, later it became a major part of the network moving goods from the Midlands to London. Today it is part of the Grand Union canal.
The Hatton locks contain 21 locks in less than 2 miles.
Creating the Grand Union Canal
The original route was made up of a chain of eight different canals, each owned by a different Canal Company. Later when commercial canal carrying was under serious threat from road and rail transport, one company, the Grand Union Canal Company, took over the entire route in 1929, and re-named it the Grand Union Canal.
One of the problems they had was that the original locks were narrow, able only to take canal narrow boats, it was decided to widen all the locks so as to be able to handle larger boats. At Hatton, this widening work started in 1932 and used concrete, a revolutionary new material in canal building at the time. After two years, with over 1,000 men working on the project, the new concrete locks and bridges were officially opened by HRH the Duke of Kent.
You can still see some of the old brick-built narrow lock chambers beside some of the new wider locks.
The process of modernisation, to meet the evolving needs of canal users, has been ongoing here at Hatton. The old wharf and maintenance yard, where carpenters and blacksmiths made heavy oak lock gates, have been restored to create offices and a heritage skills training centre.
The old stable block, where canal horses bedded down for the night, is now a café.
You can also see an old working boat, or 'maintenance flat', supporting a 'piling rig'. This was used to hammer timber or concrete piles into the sides of the canal to protect them from water erosion, or wayward boats. The Piling Rig Boat with illustrated information panel and audio is situated alongside the locks near to the cafe.
You can often see a pair of restored working boats called 'Malus' and 'Scorpio', that once worked this route, moored alongside Hatton Wharf. They were restored as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded Working Boats Project. A recent Heritage Lottery funded project has made some of the site’s hidden history available to visitors through information panels, leaflets, a family wildlife trail along the lock flight, education packs and picnic benches.
With nature walks and other attractions there is quite bit to explore.
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