We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

The Waterways Archive

The Waterways Archive is the national archive for the canal network. It is housed in the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.

Black and white photo of foreman D.W.Turner in bowler hat and his maintenance team pose for the camera at the top of Bingley Five Rise Locks in 1912 Maintenance team in lock in 1912

This important archive holds a wide range of primary material relating to the history of Britain’s canals and inland waterways and a smaller amount of secondary material from waterways around the world.

The document collection includes boat building plans, working records, accounts and letters. Photographic collections include work by Michael Ware, Eric de Mare, Herbert Dunkley and Arthur Watts.

At the core of the collection are the archives of British Waterways and the early canal companies, which trace the history of Britain’s inland waterways back to its very roots in the 17th century.

We hold extensive collections relating to the Weaver Navigation Trust, Middlewich Wharf, the Charles Hadfield World Canals Research and the Rochdale Canal, together with other interesting small private collections.

A wide range of books and periodicals about canals and waterways history are also available for research use.

Contact the Archive on 0151 373 4378

Research and enquiries

The Archive is open Monday – Friday from 10am to 4pm.

Visitors and researchers are always welcome to come and look at the collection. However, booking is advisable to ensure that space is available and that the records you wish to look at are accessible. Please e-mail or phone to make a booking.

It is also advisable to check in advance whether the collection includes the type of material that you want. We are happy to advise you whether a visit is likely to be worthwhile. Because of the nature of archives we can’t always be certain that you will find the information you require but we may be able to suggest other options.


If you have an enquiry about our collections please contact us at archives@canalrivertrust.org.uk We will carry out up to 30 minutes of research for you free of charge.

If you have a more extensive enquiry you can use our research service.

You are welcome to visit the archive to carry out your own research and our team of volunteers will be happy to provide you with help. We charge the standard museum admission.

Research service

If you need more extensive research our team of volunteers can do research in our library and archives for you. We charge £20 per day of research which we’ll use to fund improved access to our archive collections.

Please fill in our Research Service order form and e-mail it to archives@canalrivertrust.org.uk Please allow up to four weeks for an initial response (we’ll aim to get back to you sooner.)

Archive Research Service enquiry form

Copying and reproduction

If you require copies of images or documents for commercial or private use, we can supply these.

Copying charges

Copying Service Order Form

We allow self-service photocopying in the archive at cost.

Self-service copying information

We also allow photography of images and documents for private use in the archive at no charge.

All copies must be for:

  • research or private study (neither of which may be for a commercial purpose)
  • criticism, review or news reporting
  • unless it is impractical, the source of all copies must be acknowledged
  • you should only make and hold a single copy at any one time. If you print or transfer the image then you must delete the original image
  • copies must be for your own use and should not be made for any other person

Publishing images

If you wish to publish any of our images or you will need to seek our permission.  Publish covers any kind of public use, from publication on another website or in a book to reproduction in an exhibition or use in a public lecture. We have recently reviewed our reproduction charges in line with other museums and archives.

Please note that we can only supply copies in accordance with British copyright law. If copyright (and/or publishing rights) still applies, we can only supply copies of items for which we hold the copyright or have a valid copyright licence.

If you have an enquiry about reproduction or copying please contact us archives@canalrivertrust,org.uk

Last date edited: 2 December 2015