Caen Hill Locks

Coordinates: 51°21′09″N 2°01′32″W / 51.35253°N 2.02559°W / 51.35253; -2.02559
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A series of approximately 20 black lock gates with white ends to the paddle arms and wooden railings, each slightly higher than the one below. On the right is a path and on both sides grass and vegetation.
The main flight of 16 locks at Caen Hill on the Kennet and Avon Canal
Caen Hill Locks, looking downwards from near the top of the flight
Caen Hill Locks from 400 feet, looking west

Caen Hill Locks (/ˈkn ˈhɪl/[1]) are a flight of 29 locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal, between Rowde and Devizes in Wiltshire, England.


The 29 locks have a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles (72 m in 3.2 km) or a 1 in 44 gradient. The locks come in three groups: the lower seven locks, Foxhangers Wharf Lock to Foxhangers Bridge Lock, are spread over 34 mile (1.2 km); the next sixteen locks form a steep flight in a straight line up the hillside and are designated as a scheduled monument[2] and are also known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.[3] Because of the steepness of the terrain, the pounds between these locks are very short. As a result, fifteen of them have unusually large sideways-extended pounds, to store the water needed to operate them. A final six locks take the canal into Devizes.[4] The locks take 5–6 hours to traverse in a boat.[5]

The side pounds, the areas around them and adjoining fields to the north, are managed as nature habitat by the Canal & River Trust. Over 30,000 trees were planted in 2012–13 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[6]


This flight was John Rennie the Elder's solution to climbing a steep hill and, in 1810, was the last part of the 87-mile (140 km) route of the Kennet and Avon navigation, commenced in 1796, between Bristol and Reading, to be opened. A brickyard had been established to the south of the site for the manufacture of bricks for the lock chambers. This remained in viable commercial use until the middle of the 20th century. John Blackwell oversaw the locks' construction as Rennie's site agent. [7] Between 1801 and 1810, a tramway had provided a trade link between Foxhangers at the bottom and Devizes at the top, the remains of which can be seen in the towpath arches of the road bridges over the canal.[8]

In the early 19th century, between 1829 and 1843, the flight was lit by gas lights.[9]

After the coming of the railways, the canal fell into disuse and was closed. The last cargo through the flight was a consignment of grain conveyed from Avonmouth to Newbury in October 1948.[10] From the 1960s there was a major clearing and rebuilding operation, culminating in a visit by Elizabeth II in 1990 to open the new locks officially,[11] although the flight had been navigable for a number of years before then.

Because a large volume of water is needed for the locks to operate, a back pump was installed at Foxhangers in 1996 capable of returning 7 million imperial gallons (32 million litres; 8.4 million US gallons) of water per day to the top of the flight, which is equivalent to one lockful every eleven minutes.[12]

In 2010 British Waterways planned to install sixteen new locks gates in twelve weeks as part of its winter maintenance programme, in an attempt to reduce the amount of water lost.[13] The exceptionally cold weather delayed work, and when the section was re-opened at Easter 2010 only twelve pairs of gates had been dealt with.[14] The wood from the old gates was donated to Glastonbury Festival and used to build a new bridge which was named in honour of Arabella Churchill, one of the festival's founders.[15]


A number of the locks in the flight are named. These include Lock 42 (Monument Lock), Lock 43 (Queen Elizabeth Lock), Lock 44 (Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock), Lock 45 (Cave Lock), Lock 46 (A. P. Herbert Lock), Lock 47 (Manifold Lock), Lock 48 (Trust Lock), Lock 49 (Maton Lock) and Lock 50 (Kennet Lock).[16]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Country Life magazine, vol 180". Google Books search result. 1986. p. 8. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Caen Hill locks (1004694)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  3. ^ "The seven wonders of the waterways | Canal & River Trust". Canal & River Trust. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Devizes Branch – Locks". The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  5. ^ Allsop, Niall (1987). The Kennet & Avon Canal. Bath: Millstream Book. ISBN 0-948975-15-6.
  6. ^ "Wildlife at Caen Hill". Canal & River Trust. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  7. ^ "John Blackwell". Hungeford Virtual Museum. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Devizes Branch - Local History". The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust website. Archived from the original on 7 September 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  9. ^ "Caen Hill Locks". Kennet and Avon Scrapbook. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2006.
  10. ^ Clew, Kenneth (1968). The Kennet and Avon Canal (2 ed.). Newton Abbot, England: David and Charles. pp. 145–147. ISBN 0-7153-5939-8.
  11. ^ "Canal restoration anniversary marked". BBC News: England. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  12. ^ Pearson, Michael (2003). Kennet & Avon Middle Thames:Pearson's Canal Companion. Rugby: Central Waterways Supplies. ISBN 0-907864-97-X.
  13. ^ "New locks for the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire". BBC. 22 January 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  14. ^ Owen, Gill (22 March 2010). "Caen Hill open for Easter". Paddington, England: British Waterways. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  15. ^ Owen, Julian (18 June 2010). "Heart of Glasto". Venue. 924: 14–15.
  16. ^ "Dec 2008 Assets". British Waterways. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
Next lock upstream Kennet and Avon Canal Next lock downstream
Wootton Rivers Bottom Lock Caen Hill Locks
Grid reference: ST978614
Seend Locks

51°21′09″N 2°01′32″W / 51.35253°N 2.02559°W / 51.35253; -2.02559