There are two
Harecastle Tunnels, one of which is still in use today. The earlier of
the tunnels, built by Brindley, is now closed and disused. Yet the
Telford tunnel is used daily by canal boats coming to and from the
Tunnel took from 1766 to 1777 to complete - eleven years in all - it
took 600 miners and masons and was built using a line of shafts that
were dug across the length of the tunnel, then these were joined
together to form the tunnel. The shafts dug ranged from 210 to 240 feet
deep. Miners were lowered down on ropes to dig, and the builders were
fraught with many a hazard, from bad air in the shafts, water ingress
into the tunnel, to quicksands, the build up of gasses from coal seams,
to the encounter of rock harder than anything that he had ever come
across before, such as granite and millstone grit. Many of the miners
lost their lives in the building process.
The tunnel was described by a writer in 1767 as "the eighth wonder of
the world …" as nothing like it had ever been attempted before..
The tunnel itself would run for some 2,897 yards and would join the
waterways between Kidsgrove and Tunstall. To give an idea of scale, the
next longest tunnel at that time was Preston Brook at 1,239 yards.
Needless to say, the tunnel is not very high - and not very wide either.
The Leggers would be workers who hung around the tunnel entrance and
would get paid for each boat they "legged" through the tunnel. The speed
they went at often depended on the "extra's" they received for the work
- it was mentioned that a slice of bread and cheese could guarantee the
help of a good legger who would happily send a barge through the tunnel
in the best time he could.
Due to the amount
of traffic and the slow process of legging, the Harecastle Tunnel was
becoming a major bottleneck on the canal. It was decided to commission a
second tunnel to be built by Thomas Telford. Due to advances in
engineering it took just 3 years to build and was completed in 1827.
This second tunnel had
a towpath so that horses could pull the boats through the tunnel. After
its construction it was used in conjunction with the Brindley tunnel
with each tunnel taking traffic in opposite directions.
Boathorse Road, Harecastle
Brindley and Harecastle Tunnel
disused Brindley tunnel
Two storey faience-clad elevation to Piccadilly with
masks of comedy and tragedy and 5-light first floor window