Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
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Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
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Take a look at our upcoming events here.
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With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
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Join our team
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Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
Scattered around our waterways there are hidden gems; places that deserve more visitors and recognition. Naburn Locks, on the River Ouse six miles from York, is one such place.
If you get the chance to visit Naburn Locks and enjoy its history and peaceful scenery, you should certainly do so.
Here, in the 1750s, to improve navigation on this flood-prone river, two John Smiths (father and son) built a lock and weir combination that is the most impressive piece of engineering on any English navigation before 1760. It created an island which then had a watermill built upon it. In 1823 the Trustees of the Ouse Navigation built the fine-looking Greek Revival Banqueting House nearby.
Further work took place in Victorian times when a new larger lock was built alongside the original one. This was opened in 1888 by Prince Albert Victor (‘Eddy,’ to his friends) and at the same time two lock-keepers’ cottages and a range of offices and workshops were built.
The locks at Naburn are kitted out with impressive cast iron swing-bridges and shrouded paddle gearing. The bridges bear small shields with the City of York arms on them. But just as impressive in their own way are the workshops, one of which contains a huge blacksmith’s hearth complete with bellows. The second workshop contains overhead pulleys and shafts that once ran belt-driven lathes and saws, originally powered by a waterwheel or else by a long-vanished steam engine. In later years this was replaced by an auxiliary engine that is still in the loft space of the workshops. Wall-mounted iron cogs, wooden patterns and other waterway-related tools and artefacts complete the picture.
A continuing problem with Naburn is that it frequently floods (it lies a mere 2.5 metres above sea level). Over time this is damaging the historic buildings on the site and it is not clear yet what might be done to prevent this. But under normal conditions the Trust’s lock-keeper is happy to show visitors around, so if you get the chance to visit Naburn Locks and enjoy its history and peaceful scenery, you should certainly do so.
As national heritage manager, Nigel’s role is to lead the Canal & River Trust’s team of regional heritage advisers in England and Wales. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in the conservation, archaeology and interpretation of historic buildings and places. He is a member of the editorial board of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has written numerous articles concerning heritage conservation and is the author of several longer published works, including the English Heritage Book of Canals.