Foxton Canal Museum and Inclined Plane Trust

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Foxton Canal Museum was opened in 1989 and is situated in the reconstructed Boiler House of the lift. It tells the story of the lift and canals it served for the public. The Lock flight at Foxton was built in 1810, and the top summit route opened four years later. A trip through the ten locks takes about 45 minutes to climb the 75 ft hill. With only the horse for competition the 45 minute journey (for each boat) through the locks was unimportant, even when queues extended this to several hours. With the coming of the railways competition was starting to bite. Fellows Morton And Clayton (FMC) wanted to use bigger boats to take coal from the north to the London factories. They promoted a take-over by the Grand Junction Canal Company, and the “Thomas” lift was opened in 1900 to compete against the railways for traffic. The lift was designed by Gordon Cale Thomas and built by W H Gwynne of Hammersmith London. It had 2 tanks or caissons, each capable of holding 2 narrow boats or a barge. The tanks were full of water, and balanced each other. The lift was powered by a 25 horsepower engine. A journey time of 12 minutes for 2 boats up and 2 down, improved the speed tremendously, and the same “lump” of water went up and down the hill all day so a very big saving of water was achieved giving better control of this precious resource. The lift worked well but, the locks at Watford Gap were never widened, and the traffic didn't increase. This made the lift uneconomic. The locks were refurbished for night traffic in 1909. FMC wanted to use their steam boats for “Fly runs” non-stop boating, the crew taking turns to sleep. They could compete with the time tables of the railways. In 1911 the Lift was mothballed to save money, the traffic returning to the locks which have been in use ever since. In 1928 the machinery was sold for scrap. The canal is now the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal, part of 4000 miles of the National waterways network. The lift was the most modern and the biggest built. It was a spectacular achievement and has since inspired the design of lifts in Europe where much larger modern lifts have been built since 1960. The Thomas Lift was never given the credit it deserved.

Venue Type:

Archive, Museum

Opening hours

summer, every day 10 - 5
winter Saterday to wednsday 11 - sunset
out of houers by arangment

Closed: winter November 1st to April 1st Thursdays & Fridays

Admission charges

Adults £2.50
Concessions £2.00
children under 16 up to 3 acompanied by an adult, yong children must be acompanied by an adult.


  • Museums Association

Additional info

The Trust continues to improve its facilities for those who have mobility problems. The museum is level throughout, and advice is taken on all new displays. However the Locks site has steep slopes and may cause problems. Wheelchair users will need strong assistance. please contact us for advice or visit

Please be aware that the locks contain deep water and most of them are unfenced Extra care is needed with children and pets.

The museum researches the history of the lift and local canals. It holds extensive waterway archives, as well as objects from the site.

Collection details

Archives, Coins and Medals, Costume and Textiles, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Inland Waterways, Industry, Land Transport, Maritime, Natural Sciences, Personalities, Science and Technology, Social History

Foxton Canal Museum and Inclined Plane Trust
Middle Lock
Gumley Road
Market Harborough
LE16 7RA


all enquires


all enquires


0116 279 2657

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.