The Grade II listed lock at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire will be drained this month to allow fitting of new gates at the top and bottom of the lock.
The lock was originally built in 1795. At the port’s busiest time, in the 1830s, massive quantities of the materials needed to fuel the Industrial Revolution passed through the locks. Records show that in just over six months more than 14 tons of iron ore were transported through Ellesmere Port.
The Wide Lock has been out of use since 2006 but now, after being dredged and fitted with new gates, it will again welcome waterways traffic along the Shropshire Union Canal.
On the weekend of 2 and 3 July visitors to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port will have the rare opportunity to walk along the bottom of Wide Lock, while it’s empty of water. A flight of steps will take them the 5.5m below ground level giving them a unique perspective on the huge hand-crafted gates.
The gates have been made using traditional methods, in specialist workshops at Bradley in the West Midlands and Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire.
A single lock gate can take up to 20 days to build and has a working life of 25–30 years. In order to be watertight they need to be built very precisely, fitting tightly into the masonry of the lock wall and to each other.
They replace the current steel and timber gates which were fitted in 1975 and 1991.
The Wide Lock will re-open on 27 July 2016 and the gates on the Narrow Lock will be fitted later in August.
The new gates arrive at the museum as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations. It also sees the unveiling of a new exhibition – ‘Window on the World’. Visitors will experience life through the eyes of 19th century workers on the historic slipway. Meet carpenter Henry Leadbetter, boatwoman Harriet Price and superintendent Levi William Lindop.
A special 40th anniversary exhibition traces the history of the museum back to 1976. It tells the story of the team of dedicated volunteers who brought the derelict site back to life and lovingly restored the historic boats that form part of the national waterways collection.
The ‘father of English canals’ James Brindley was born 300 years ago and the museum marks his pioneering career with an exhibition of his life and times in Brindley 300.
Our head of museums Graham Boxer said: “The lock gates arrive at an important time for us as we celebrate 40 years. More than 500 vessels move through the site every year and it is vital that we offer the best possible experience for everyone who uses it.”
‘Window on the World’ has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and AIM Biffa. It will showcase why Ellesmere Port was a window on the world with the opening of the port’s historic slipway, which was used for boat building and restoration between the 1840s and the 1920s. As part of the project, the Mersey flat Mossdale has been conserved and the Leeds and Liverpool short boat George restored.