Stanking planks

This page contains the different types of stanking plank store we have encountered on the canals we have cruised around England and Wales.

The canals are in alphabetical order and there is a section at the end containing pictures of stanking planks in use.

Some people have commented about me calling stop planks, stanking planks.  Whilst I accept that the common usage is for stop planks I call them stanking planks as I explain further down.  The planks are inserted in narrow sections of canals, such as bridge holes or lock heads and tails to hold back the water as a dam.  The dam is called a stank and can also be referred to as a cofferdam.  The planks are lowered into the water, puddled with clay and hence cause a watertight barrier so water can be drained out for maintenance on the drained section.

Karen and I were walking along the Aylesbury arm a good few years ago to have a look at the works that CRT were carrying out on the locks.  We went along on the day they were stunning fish to remove them from a partially dewatered section to a section still in water.  One of the workers kindly explained what they were doing and started with how they dewater a section of canal.  He showed us the stop planks but referred to them as stanking planks.  I just loved the expression so from that point on I also called them stanking planks.

When we were on the Montgomery canal at the end of 2015 we took a walk along a section that was being restored and, again, a CRT guy explained what was going on and he too referred to the stop planks as stanking planks.  So whilst I accept stanks are generally accepted as being created by stop planks, there are some who refer to them (rightly or wrongly) as stanking planks and I shall continue to be one of those.

Birmingham & Fazeley canal

All the stores on this canal are built into the bridge structure apart from one stand alone one which I assume is more modern. 

Stanking planks store built into the side of the bridge arch
Close up of a door on the store

Inside a bridge store - complete with stanking planks

I assume this is built stand alone as it looks like the bridge has been rebuilt without a store in it

 Bridgewater canal

This canal is so wide that the stanking planks have to be lifted in by crane.  It also means they don't have to be chained up securely as they wouldn't be easy to steal

Caldon canal

Open air store with planks neatly numbered in the order they are to placed in the canal

And on the other end the planks indicate which way round they are to be placed

By lock 6 - courtesy of Mike Fielding

By Cheddleton lock - courtesy of Mike Fielding

By Hazelhurst lock - courtesy of Mike Fielding
By Leek tunnel - courtesy of Mike Fielding

By lock 9 - courtesy of Mike Fielding

By lock 4 - courtesy of Mike Fielding

Coventry canal

The  only store I have come across is one just before it meets the Birmingham & Fazeley canal, so maybe not surprisingly, it's of similar style.

Stanking plank store built into the bridge
Air hole the other side to let air flow through and keep the planks dry

Grand Union canal

Not come across many stores on the Grand Union and the ones I have are rather tatty.  I have come across three different types:

Pre-cast concrete legs and rounded corrugated iron roof

Wooden uprights with sloping corrugated roof

Iron rail uprights and no cover (Bridge 60, west of Shrewley)

Bridge 60 west of Shrewley

Llangollen canal 

What a mash up the stores are on this canal.  There are six different types in use; most canals have only one or two types.

A modern day store as these were built for a marina entrance

A pre-cast concrete shelter

Brick built shelter

Store built into the bridge (a la Birmingham & Fazeley canal)

Just a pile!

Fancy wooden hut without any sides

Brick built shelter built when the bridge was recently rebuilt

Montgomery canal

Same style as one of the Llangollen types
Oxford canal

Open to the elements with a slightly sloping roof by the bridge at the bottom of the Napton flight

At the bottom of the Napton flight - we assume the colour coding indicates which lock the planks belong to

By bridge 112 - Brickyard bridge, Napton

Marston Doles narrows (not sure if was originally a bridge)

By bridge 135 - Fenny Compton

At Cropredy marina south entrance

At Cropredy marina north entrance

Locked store at Cropredy wharf

Peak Forest canal

Most stanking planks are stored in the open on the Peak Forest canal

Brand new planks with a brand new store complete with chains and padlocks
Shropshire Union canal

Two main types on this canal, either precast concrete or wooden frames with sloping roofs

Precast concrete shelter
Inside a precast concrete shelter

Two tier wooden structure

Single tier structure

Both types sitting together by a lock
Both types on opposite sides of a lock
Underground store

Shropshire Union - Middlewich branch

 For a canal of not many miles it was surprising to come across four different shelters:

Corrugated iron roof

Brick built with concrete slabbed roof

Roofing felt on this one

Tiled roof - complete with ridge tiles

Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal

All the shelters on this canal appear to be brick built with lockable wooden doors.

Stratford on Avon canal

No planks are stored canalside any longer as too many were taken for firewood.  They are now stored at Hatton apart from one set at Wootton Wawen - these are stored on the offside so are safe.

Planks at Wootton Wawen boat yard

Unused strtucture at lock 15

Old iron stanking plank holder at lock 27.

Old iron stanking plank holder at lock 39 - Bearley lock

Store at northern end of Edstone aqueduct

Store at southern end of Wootton Wawen aqueduct

Stanking planks about to be used at lock 30 in March 2017 - the 97 1/2 indicates the length in inches.

Trent and Mersey canal

Pretty consistent on this canal - all the ones we have found are shallow roofed.

Central store at Rode Heath - courtesy of Mike Fielding

Planks in use

Stank behind top gates of lock 30 on Stratford canal - March 2017

Stank behind top gates at Stoke Bruerne (2nd lock down in the flight) - February 2017

Holding back the water to allow bottom gates of top lock at Fradley to be removed

Removing top gate at Fradley top lock

Too wide for stanking planks so dam built instead - Gas Street Birmingham when aqueduct was leaking into railway tunnel

Current end of restored northern section of the Montgomery canal

Stanking planks used for creating a dry dock at the northern end of the Trent & Mersey canal

Dry dock created by using stanking planks at Rochdale on the Bridgewater canal


  1. Interesting, thank you. We have some of those bridges with them inside at Whittington(Coventry Canal)where I live, so nice to see inside and interesting about the air vents too and also to see them in place at locks

    1. Thank you for your comment. We like Whittington, it's where the Birmingham & Fazeley becomes the Coventry again heading north.

  2. I was so happy to find this blog! I've loved reading it. My little boy was intrigued as to a structure next to Bridge 198 on the Trent & Mersey @ Anderton, and I'm guessing it was a stanking plank store, albeit seemingly unused. Thanks again! ~Matthew

    1. Thank you Matthew. Glad it's been useful. My email is if you have any pictures to share