News article created on 19 January 2022

Anderton Boat Lift hosts behind-the-scenes public open weekend

We're inviting people to go behind-the-scenes of Britain’s first boat lift, Anderton Boat Lift, Cheshire’s historic Cathedral of Canals, at a special free open weekend on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 February.

Anderton Boat Lift Anderton Boat Lift from the River Weaver

What should you expect?

Visitors will be given unique access and insight into the Victorian boat lift’s complex mechanism, including a chance to view work to replace the gate seals on one of the caissons, the giant tanks which transport boats up and down the lift.

Our engineers will shine a light on the challenge of keeping the lift in good working order and reveal plans for a major upgrade and repair project which is in the pipeline for 2023/24. Visitors will be able to choose from a range of activities, including Let’s Fish! angling taster sessions, Let’s Paddle canoeing, walking tours, children’s Lego and a chance to get a stunning bird’s eye view from the top of the lift.

A start of a special celebration

This open weekend marks the start of a special celebration year for Anderton Boat Lift, which was reopened 20 years ago after a major restoration. Originally constructed in 1875 to connect the Trent & Mersey Canal with the River Weaver Navigation 50 feet below, the boat lift operated for just over 100 years before it was closed in 1983 due to safety concerns caused by extensive corrosion.

More than £7 million was raised to fund a major restoration and the boat lift started operating again on 26 March 2002. Since then it has attracted thousands of visitors to Northwich to marvel at the incredible Scheduled Monument and enjoy a trip aboard the Edwin Clark boat, named after the lift’s designer. A similar fund is likely to be needed to undertake the forthcoming renewal and repair works.

A chance to get close and personal

Daniel Greenhalgh, our North West director, said: “We are delighted to host two special behind-the-scenes open days at Anderton this February – our first in the region since the Covid pandemic.

“They will provide visitors with a chance to get close and personal to the lift in a way that is not possible on a normal boat trip. During the tour, we will also be sharing news of a major refurbishment. The black iron structure needs repainting, the control system upgrading and the hydraulic ram cylinders, which support the two caissons, potentially need remedial work.

“The Trust is awaiting specialist engineering reports to guide exactly what needs to be done, in the least obtrusive way. A comprehensive timetable and schedule of works are currently being prepared, which are also likely to include proposals for updating the visitor centre, new interpretation, re-landscaping, new learning play area, community engagement and a green ‘village’ to replace the temporary marquee, which will house visitor facilities for schools, events, conferences, weddings, exhibitions and crafts. Work on the project is likely to start in the winter of 2023/24 and could take up to three years to deliver.

“It is an exciting period for the lift and the Trust is currently working with the National Lottery Heritage Fund on a major funding bid to potentially cover some of the significant investment needed to preserve Britain’s first boat lift as a living, operational structure.”