Foulridge derives its name from two Anglo-Saxon words, fola (foal) and hyreg (ridge), suggesting that it was established by Angles, and took its name from the ridge where they grazed their foals – possibly at the modern day Pasture Head.

Foulridge was once a hat making community, and evidence can be seen of weavers’ cottages surrounding the Village Green.

There are a number of stories about Oliver Cromwell’s association with the village. One tradition claims that he gave the village its name by exclaiming “what a foul ridge”, though documented spellings of the village’s name go back to the early 13th century – 400 years before Cromwell. One legend which may have a basis in fact is that Cromwell Street takes its name from Cromwell’s Croft on which it was built, and it is quite likely that Cromwell’s troops were billeted in the croft. Foulridge, in common with most of the district, overwhelmingly supported Cromwell during the Civil War, and the village had its own resident Roundhead officer, Major William Barcroft of Noyna.


The Tailor’s Cross, (which is now situated at the Cenotaph on Skipton Road), has two romantic traditions attached to it, which both date back to the Civil War period. One tells of a Royalist tailor who refused to make uniforms for Cromwell’s troops. He was shot and his remains placed over the cross as a warning to his fellow ‘snips’. Close inspection of the cross reveals a crude carving of what appears to be a pair of scissors or shears. A second legend refers to the cross as the Maiden’s Cross. It tells of Margaret Burnard who waited by the cross for her betrothed, Robert, to return from action in the Civil War. He died at the Battle of Marston Moor, but Margaret refused to accept news of his death, and returned every evening to their agreed meeting place. Later, Margaret herself was killed by Royalist soldiers, and her body was buried at the spot where she had waited in vain.

Tailor's Cross


Foulridge Wharf was completed by 1796 in time for the official opening of the Foulridge Tunnel and the warehouse was built in 1815, a year before the canal opened in its entirety. In it’s heyday, the Wharf bustled with barges loading and unloading cargo. Cotton from America would be brought into to the North West via Liverpool docks. Canal barges from Liverpool would carry the cotton to Foulridge, where it was unloaded and stored in the warehouse, for redistribution to the local cotton mills. Canal horses used to pull the boats and were also stabled at the wharf. Later, when steam powered barges plied the route to Liverpool, horses were still used to take goods onward out to Yorkshire. A canal company man called a ‘horse marine’ would lead a horse and barge eastwards for the rest of the cargo’s journey.


The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Northern England, having a length of 127 miles. It passes through 91 locks, with a summit level at Foulridge of 487 feet. In 1766, one of the main reasons for the construction of the canal was to improve the supply of limestone which was used for agricultural fertiliser, and for making mortar, much in demand to expand the size and height of weavers’ houses. Limestone was transported by canal from the Craven district, and burned with coal in lime kilns to produce lime, which was then used in the surrounding villages.


The work on Foulridge Mile Tunnel started in the late 1780s, opened in 1796 and was a major construction achievement.
With no towpath in the tunnel, the tow-horses were unharnessed at one end and walked along Reedymore Lane whilst the boats were ‘legged’ through: Men lay on boards at either side of the vessel and pushed with their legs against the tunnel walls, literally walking the barges through. Legging ceased in the early 1880s after the death of a legger by suffocation. Then, the Foulridge tunnel steam tug came into being which pulled the barges through to the other end.

Travel today through the tunnel is only possible in one direction at a time, so traffic lights control a ten-minute window in each direction each hour.

Foulridge Tunnel has now become the longest canal tunnel in the UK to open to canoes.

A now demolished bridge carried the Colne-Skipton railway line over the canal at the wharf. Apparently, the land was so marshy here, that the foundation piles had to be sunk to the same depth below ground as above. Through the bridge were stables – now demolished – with more stables at the wharf, both for canal horses. From 1880 to c.1920, steamers towed barges between Liverpool and Lancashire. Those continuing into Yorkshire would obtain the services of a ‘horse marine’ and horse at Foulridge for the rest of their journey (a horse marine was a canal company employee who led the barges with a horse).

Like every village, we have many interesting old stories. One is that in 1912, Buttercup the cow fell into the canal at one end of the tunnel and swam the whole length through to the end before being rescued. Buttercup was taken to the nearby hostelry and revived with a brandy!

In 2019, a street on a housing development was called Buttercup Close. The Parish Council hope that this will keep the story ‘alive’.

Today, Foulridge Canal Cruises operate the Marton Emperor from the old wharf, and Cafe Cargo occupies the recently restored warehouse. The wharf is bustling once more as people enjoy their leisure time, as opposed to work.

Foulridge Tunnel
Photo by Barrington Coombs
Legging It!





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