The Calder and Hebble Navigation is a Broad (i.e. with 14-foot-wide (4.3 m) locks and bridgeholes) inland waterway in West Yorkshire, England, which has remained navigable since it was opened. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Aire And Calder Navigation had made The River Calder navigable as far upstream as Wakefield. The aim of the Calder and Hebble Navigation was to extend navigation west (upstream) from Wakefield to Sowerby Bridge near Halifax.
The first attempt to obtain an Act of Parliament was made in 1740, as a result of a petition by the people of Halifax, Ripponden and Elland. John Eyes of Liverpool surveyed the route, and presented a scheme for a navigation which would use the River Calder from Wakefield to its junction with the River Hebble, follow the Hebble to Salterhebble bridge, and then follow the Halifax Brook to reach Halifax. It included the construction of 24 locks, 21 on the Calder and three on the Hebble, and nearly 10 miles (16 km) of cuts, including one of 2 miles (3.2 km) at Horbury.
The bill was defeated, due to opposition from local landowners who feared that it would cause flooding, from millers, who thought that navigation would disrupt their water supply, and from the promoters of several Turnpike Bills, who were intending to build roads which would follow a similar route.
Current route :
The Navigation starts in Wakefield, where there is an end-on junction with the Aire and Calder Navigation and runs upstream through Mirfield, after which there is a junction with the Huddersfield Broad Canal, to arrive at Sowerby Bridge, where there is another end-on junction, this time with the Rochdale Canal. Other towns on the navigation are Horbury, Dewsbury, Brighouse, and Elland. The former branch to Halifax is no longer navigable, except for a stub now known as the Salterhebble Arm.
Current use :
The navigation is used almost entirely by leisure boaters, to whom it represents both an attractive cruising ground in it own right, and also a vital four-way link.
The importance of the Calder and Hebble as a through route makes one notorious feature of the canal very significant: its short locks. The canal is a "wide" navigation, meaning that its locks are wide enough for 14-foot (4.3 m) wide-beamed boats, but its shortest locks are amongst the shortest on the connected network of English and Welsh inland waterways, with only the Ripon Canal
having locks of a similarly restricted length. The canal was built to accept 57-by-14-foot (17 by 4.3 m) Yorkshire Keels coming up the Aire and Calder Navigation.
The locks on the Aire and Calder and the lower Calder and Hebble (below Broad Cut Locks at Calder Grove) have since been lengthened, and can accommodate boats which are 120 ft by 17.5 ft (36.6m x 5.3m), but the shortest locks on the upper Calder and Hebble force boats longer than about 57 ft (17 m) to lie diagonally in the locks. This is only possible for narrowboats, so 57 ft (17 m) is the maximum length for a wide-beamed barge on the C&H. Even for a narrowboat (less than 7-foot (2.1 m) beam) the maximum possible length is about 60 ft (18 m) (which is 12 ft (3.7 m) shorter than a full-length English narrowboat). Narrowboats approaching 60 ft (18 m) can only be squeezed through the shorter locks, even when lying diagonally, by expedients such as removing fenders, having shore parties pole the boat into position, and going down locks backwards.
In particular, an inexperienced crew of any boat longer than about 57 ft (17 m) might find it impossible to negotiate the middle lock of the "Salterhebble Three", which is the shortest of all. The C&H Navigation, and the Salterhebble locks in particular, thus define the maximum length of a go-anywhere English narrowboat. (Note that other factors can restrict the places to which a boat can reach: for instance, boats with a high cabin top, or with insufficient tumblehome may not be able to fit into Standedge Tunnel at the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal
It was the disparity in boat sizes between the Calder and Hebble and the Rochdale canal which made Sowerby Bridge (at the junction of the two canals) so important: long boats coming over from Lancashire had to have their cargoes unloaded, stored, and transferred to shorter boats at Sowerby Bridge Wharf.
Another quirk of the Calder and Hebble locks is the handspike, a length of 2-by-4-inch (50 by 100 mm) timber shaped at one end to provide a comfortable two-handed grip. Calder and Hebble boaters have to carry these in addition to the more usual windlass, in order to lever open the simple lock gear which lifts the lock paddles to allow a full lock to empty or an empty one to fill.