Caen Hill is famous for the Caen Hill Locks – a remarkable achievement in Victorian engineering located between Devizes and Rowde. The locks were rthe brainchild of engineer John Rennie and was the last part of the 87 mile route of the canal to be completed.
Whilst this stretch was being built, there was a tramway to provide a link between the canal at Foxhangers and the down of Devizes and you can still see the towpath arches in the road bridges over the canal.
There are 29 locks which rise 237 feet over 2 miles (or 72 metres in 3.2km) – giving a gradient of 1 in 44.
There are 3 groups of locks:
- The lower seven locks, Foxhangers Wharf Lock to Foxhangers Bridge Lock, are spread over .75 of a mile (1.2 km).
- The next 16 locks are a steep flight in a straight line going up the hillside – these are actually designated as a scheduled monument. Due to the steepness of the hill at this point, the pounds between these locks are very short and so 15 of the locks have unusually large sideways-extended pounds in order to store the water needed to operate them.
A large volume of water is needed for the locks to operate and so a back pump was installed at Foxhangers in 1996. This pump is capable of returning 7 million gallons of water per day to the top of the flight, which is equivalent to one lockful every eleven minutes.
It takes about 3 to 5 hours for a boat to get through all the locks, depending on whether they can share the work with another boat or not.