Although the original lock flight at Hatton was built in 1799, it underwent a major alteration in the 1930s.
The lock basins had a revolutionary concrete structure and rather than being set at slightly wider than 7 feet— a width suitable for a single narrowboat—the replacement locks were wide enough for either two narrow boats at a time or a single broad canal barge.
This allowed the wider boats to reach the city of Birmingham via this very important route. The 21 locks raise the level of the canal by about 146 feet over a length of just over 2 miles. The widening was carried out by over 1,000 people who were previously unemployed as a result of the Great Depression in part of an employment creation programme.
Correctly called “the Hatton Flight,” the local name, “Stairway to Heaven” was applied by boat crews who had to work very hard getting the boats up through the flight, which then led to the company’s depot at Camp Hill, where they would get paid.
Today the commercial traffic has ended, the widening project failed to achieve its aims, but the flight still has a reputation amongst pleasure boaters as a difficult and exhausting stretch of waterway. For non-boating observers, it provides one of the most spectacular features on this historic canal.
Know Before You Go
For non-boaters, there are numerous picnic benches up and down the locks as well as grassy areas to sit and relax.