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Digital archive unlocks canal secrets

We've digitally published over 37,000 archive records and over 22,000 historic images from our archives for the first time ever. The £50,000 project is the first phase of a major project to open up public access to the national waterways collection.

The Waterways Archive is housed at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port and is the largest archive of waterway-related materials in the country. This important collection, which holds a wide range of primary material relating to the history of Britain's canals and inland waterways, will be available for the public to access online from

Margaret Harrison, collections manager, Canal & River Trust said: “We're so excited to be able give the public online access to these images for the first time. The website includes over 20,000 archive images many of which help show the often hidden social history of the canals; the navigators who built them; the boating families that traded on them; and more recently the volunteers who campaigned to save them. These images sit alongside engineering plans, toll tickets, songs and maps amongst others.”


The archive images will be available for the public to purchase later in the year and we are already putting in place plans to digitise a further 15,000 images.

Wendy Capelle, head of museums and attractions, Canal & River Trust said: “The Canal & River Trust cares for an extraordinary treasure-trove of historic images, documents and artefacts that trace the story of the nation's inland waterways as far back as the 17th century. This project starts to throw some light on our wonderful collection and make it more accessible for students, historians and enthusiasts.”

Explore the archive now

Last Edited: 30 September 2014

photo of a location on the canals
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