At Tunnel End Marsden there is a microcosm of the industrial revolution lying at the head of the Colne Valley under the shadow of Pule Hill. Its position at the lowest point of the Pennine watershed made it the main east west crossing point for the transportation of cotton and woollen produce in northern England until the M62 motorway was opened in 1976.
The tunnel carrying the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was begun in 1798 by Benjamin Outram, but not completed until 1811 after his death. At 645 feet above sea level, and having a length of over 3 miles, it is still the longest and highest canal tunnel in the country. The canal has a limited width of 7 feet, and runs from Huddersfield to the Ashton-under-Lyne basin via the Colne Valley and the Tame Valley, using 74 locks and the tunnel to navigate the 438 feet climb over the summit.
The engineer Outram who oversaw the project had many problems to face which stretched finances to breaking point, he also suffered from health problems, which together led to erratic progress being made.
Severe flooding in 1799 led to damage to the reservoir system and the destruction of two aqueducts leading to the devastation of Marsden village. Outram replaced the aqueducts with much strengthened versions and using a single iron span for the Stakes Aqueduct, which is the oldest of its type which is still used for its original purpose. A further devastation, known as the Black Flood, occurred in 1810 when the Diggle Moss reservoir gave way flooding the Colne Valley and wrecking many houses and factories in Marsden with the loss of five lives.
Due to the expense of construction a towpath does not run through the tunnel, the barges being "legged" by full time employees in convoys through the tunnel whilst the horses were walked over the tops. To relieve the bottleneck a convoy ran in both directions twice a day.
When work began on the first railway tunnel in 1845 the railway company bought the canal. The new tunnel was cut parallel to the canal and linked to it allowing spoil to be removed by barge and allowing, due to the track being higher, any water to drain away into the canal. This first single track proved to be a bottleneck like the canal tunnel so a second single track was started in 1868, and by 1890, when these became inadequate, a double tunnel was inaugurated which is still in use today.
Tunnel End is the location of the annual Imbolc Fire Festival.
The Tunnel End Inn
The Standedge Tunnel End, Top to Bottom
The Turnpike, the Railway,
and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Narrow Boats Having Winter Refit
Visitors Centre and Basin