Happy birthday to Standedge Tunnel

A BIRTHDAY bash for the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the United Kingdom has been put on hold due to the ongoing pandemic.

But that didn’t stop enthusiasts marking the 210th anniversary on Easter Sunday, April 4, of the day authorisation was granted via an Act of Parliament to construct a canal through the Pennines.

Standedge Tunnel. Photo credit: canal and river trust

So, three cheers for the Standedge Tunnel which connects Marsden and Diggle as part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

A date for re-starting boat trips through the 5189 metres waterway, 643 feet above sea level and 636 deep at its deepest point, hasn’t been set while analysis of social distancing continues.

But it is hoped to reintroduce the popular trips later in 2021. Until then the tunnel – started shortly after April 4, 1794 and opened on April 4, 1811 – remains a remarkable feat of engineering and a lasting monument to the endurance of labourers who worked on its construction.


When it opened to traffic, Standedge became the longest tunnel in the world at the time.

It held the record for 60 years until the Fréjus Rail Tunnel opened connecting Italy with France.

In 1846, the tunnel was purchased by the Huddersfield and Manchester railway who used the tunnel to construct its own rail passage under the moors.

A total of 36 adits (horizontal passage) were dug to the south side and the canal tunnel was used to transport workers and spoil from the middle of the tunnel.

The last commercial boat passed through in 1921 and in 1944 the canal tunnel closed to traffic after falling into a state of disrepair.

Standedge Tunnel at Diggle. Photo credit Canal and River Trust

However, all was not lost. On April 4, 2001, thanks to the hard work from the Huddersfield Canal Societyand a £5m restoration fund, the tunnel reopened once again.

During its heyday between 1811 and the 1840s, around 40 boats a day and an average of 14,600 craft used the tunnel at all hours.

These days the tunnel is quieter but still busy with boat traffic and in 2019, 273 private boats used the tunnel. Last year, the number dropped to 81 due to advanced measures needed because of Covid-19.

A spokesperson for the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre said: “We did have plans for a whole heap of events to celebrate the 210th birthday of our awe-inspiring piece of engineering but COVID put a stop to that.

“We’ve decided instead to have a massive celebration next year for the 21st anniversary of the reopening of the tunnel!

“For now, penjoy the photographs as no amount of words would express our admiration to the tunnel and those that built it two centuries ago.”

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