The HLF support will fund three key initiatives getting underway early in 2015 as part of the museum's ‘Window on the World' project. The first strand will see new exhibitions and interactive displays created, including hands on activities for visitors of all ages, on the currently derelict historic slipway which occupies a unique position overlooking the River Mersey Estuary and Manchester Ship Canal.
Nationally important boats
The other elements of the project will see the restoration of two of the most nationally important boats in the museum's collection – Mossdale and George. Each will be used to inspire new audiences about the history of wide boats and their role in the industrial development of the North West region.
The preservation of Mossdale has been made possible by the grant from the Wolfson Foundation.
Mossdale, the last remaining all-wooden ‘Mersey flat', it to be preserved, displayed and interpreted at the museum. George, a rare-surviving horse-drawn ‘short boat' will be fully restored back to working order and will return to her original role as a working wide boat. Rather than carrying cargoes, George will offer a varied programme of activities and unique learning opportunities as part of a community outreach and education project on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and at the Museum during the winter months.
Through these working boats, the project will celebrate the lives of the many ordinary people upon whose efforts the Industrial Revolution was built and encourage people of all ages to engage with their waterways heritage and the rich industrial history of the North West.
Telling the story
The National Waterways Museum project's vision is to tell the story of Ellesmere Port as a ‘Window on the World' – a once thriving port which was an important transhipment facility between canal craft and seagoing ships. Ellesmere Port provided a link from the 2,000 miles of inland waterways to the River Mersey estuary and the world markets beyond. The town's prime location enabled its transformation into an industrial powerhouse, which played a pivotal role in the industrialization of the North West.
This great news follows the recent announcements of Heritage Lottery Fund support for the Gloucester Waterways Museum (£994,000) and towards restoration of locks on the Grantham Canal (£830,500).
Rich industrial history
Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we've been able to fund a number of projects exploring the North West's waterways. We're delighted to help secure the future of two of Ellesmere Port's nationally important historic vessels and provide a fascinating gateway into their heritage and importance to the region's rich industrial history.”
Canal & River Trust, Chief Executive Richard Parry, said: "I am delighted that our partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund continue to recognise the importance and historic significance of the UK's canal network. Today's announcement will see over £2.6m HLF committed investment into the 2,000 mile network – helping to bring it to life for more and more people. As a relatively new charity, we are particularly delighted with the support being given by the Wolfson Foundation – a significant funder of museums and galleries in the UK – and look forward to a successful partnership with them.