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It’s been a busy time for the team; we’re firming up the arrangements for Mossdale’s lift and the Activity Plan is near completion! This will equip us with a brief for the interpretation and activities on and around Mossdale, George and the historic slipway. So I figured now’s the perfect time to give you a sneak preview of what’s in store for the slipway as part of its exciting redevelopment…
If you’ve read my previous ‘slipway’ blog, you’ll know that it was once a vital facility for the construction and repair of boats from around the mid-19th century, until 1922 when the Manchester Ship Canal Co. took over from the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Co. Nowadays it is a derelict space, used predominantly for storage and is therefore out-of-bounds to museum visitors.
Nevertheless, on the slipway you can still see the original blue brick paving and sandstone block ‘tracks’ which would have once housed the rails and central cable for hauling vessels, as well as the Winch House, the Superintendent’s Office and the Carpenter’s Workshop. Buried beneath the overgrown vegetation is a WWII Anderson shelter, which was used to protect workers from the air-raids that shook the nation during the harrowing war years.
We’re hoping to transform the slipway into an exciting interactive area of the museum for our visitors to explore. The buildings and shelter are to become a range of new engaging exhibitions in an old historic space. Mossdale is to be exhibited on the very spot where boats were hauled up to rest whilst being worked on, to recreate the scene of a working boatyard.
Our aim is to give our visitors the chance to experience history brought to life on the slipway; we want them to feel as if they’ve jumped in a time machine and hurtled back to the days when the slipway was a significant part of a once thriving port. Its redevelopment will enable us to tell the tales of the people who worked on the site from the mid-to-late-1800s through to the frenzied days of World War II.
We hope to restore and interpret the workshop, winch house, superintendent’s office and shelter so that visitors can gain an insight into the workings and functions of the Ellesmere Port site when it was in operation.
The Workshop is to retain its original purpose as the carpenter’s place of work; visitors will get the chance to learn the craft of the carpenters as they engage in volunteer & staff-led woodwork tinkering sessions. After a quick dust-off, visitors may then wind up in the Winch House and watch a projected film about the story of our rare surviving Mersey flat Mossdale.
There may also be an opportunity to take a peek inside the former Superintendent’s Office; this is to be fully refurbished into an intriguing period room exhibition, set in the early 20th century. Visitors will get to snoop around his office space on the slipway and maybe even meet the Superintendent himself.
What’s more, visitors will be able to ‘keep calm and carry on’ into the restored Anderson shelter and relive the Second World War years. The underground shelter is to be resurrected, and used as a space to explore the effects of the war on life in Ellesmere Port. Interpreters dressed as Air Raid Wardens will facilitate stimulating learning sessions to groups, and visitors will get the chance to experience the terror of an air-raid!
On the slipway area surrounding Mossdale and the buildings, there is to be an array of different hands-on activities including table-top games, challenges, puzzles and trails to engage visitors of all ages.
With the Activity Plan being so near to completion, the project is at a very exciting point indeed. I’ll be sure to keep blogging as the plans start to further unfold and let you know if any changes occur…In the meantime, I’ll be spending much of my time researching in the archive, and searching the collection for objects related to our proposed exhibitions. Don’t forget to keep checking back for updates!
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.