One of the largest cranes in the country, together with a giant purpose-built cradle, have been used to raise a rare surviving boat out of the water for what is thought to be for the first time, ahead of its planned conservation.
Mossdale is thought to be the last surviving all-wooden wide Mersey ‘flat’, a type of barge which was once a common sight across the North West with history dating back 150 years. Now volunteers and staff from the National Waterways Museum have stepped in, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, to save the historic vessel, one of the most important in the Museum’s collection.
Mossdale would originally have been carrying cargoes such as iron, flour and grain – and even sugar for Tate & Lyle - along the Bridgewater Canal as far as Manchester and across the Mersey between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.
The vessel was donated to the National Waterways Museum by Peter Froud in the 1970s and has been cared for by staff and volunteers, but it was not until June 2012 that a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £147,300 gave hope that the boat might be fully conserved. Lifting Mossdale from the water is an important step towards securing further funding for the work early in 2014.
John Inch, general manager at the National Waterways Museum, said: “Old wooden boats – even those as sturdy looking as Mossdale – are incredibly fragile, so everyone was holding their breath when she was first lifted out. We’re all incredibly excited to see her out of the water for the first time and delighted with how well the operation has gone. Boats like this would have been a common sight to our ancestors and she is the last of her kind to survive. She is part of the story of Merseyside, its waterways and people and we want to keep that story alive.”