Book marks work behind canal's engineering marvel

IT was described at the time as "the most stupendous piece of work of the kind that has ever been projected in the Kingdom" – and 200 years after it was built, Yorkshire's Standedge Tunnel still ranks as one of the country's most impressive feats of engineering.

Built with little more than picks and shovels, Standedge Tunnel, at three miles and 112 yards (4.93km), became by far the longest canal tunnel ever built in Britain and also the highest canal above sea level at 645ft (196m).

A new book on the project, The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, reveals that the tunnel was very nearly abandoned after being beset by disaster, death, engineering blunders and lack of cash.

Marking 200 years of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, the book details how the Standedge Tunnel was almost entirely hand-built by large numbers of labourers using basic tools and occasionally gunpowder to blast hard rock.

At the time the canal was built, contractors had developed gangs of workers who moved from job to job and became known as "navvies". At Huddersfield, as elsewhere, the gangs frequently clashed with locals.

By the time it was complete, the canal had cost just over 402,000.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, priced 12,99, is published by The Horizon Press.