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The charity making life better by water

Thousands Gather to Celebrate Wonder of the Waterways

Bingley Five Rise Locks 250th anniversary celebrations. Highlighting the continuing importance of canals to communities.

A group of people standing on a bridge over a lock waving to camera

Thousands of people joined the celebrations on Saturday 23 March to mark the 250th anniversary of the Grade I Listed Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Yorkshire.

We welcomed the tremendous show of support for this ‘wonder of the waterways’ together with the nearby Grade II* Listed Bingley Three Rise Locks.

Fashion designer and star of BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee Patrick Grant, joined comedian, actress and writer Jessica Knappett (who grew up in Bingley), and other local dignitaries, for a special boat trip during the celebrations.

Thank you

Sean McGinley, our regional director for Yorkshire & North East, said: “A massive thank you to everyone who came along to support the celebrations. It was fantastic to see so many people coming together. We had thousands of local people as well as visitors who had travelled from as far as Cumbria and the Netherlands.

“At a time when these centuries-old canals are under threat from extreme weather events bought about by climate change, combined with cuts in vital funding from government, it’s heartening to see people coming together to celebrate and support our waterways and demonstrate their importance to our communities.

“It is hugely important that the Trust continues our work to keep canals alive, and I’m hugely proud of our team who have helped to make this event such a success. Special thanks to Bingley Town Council for supporting the costs of the activities and to Bradford District Council, Damart, Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society, Sport England, BD25, Sustrans, Players of People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) and Northern Rail for helping make this a ‘town to towpath’ celebration.”

Two people pushing a lock gate wearing victorian costume

A fantastic event

Fiona Mannion, managing director at Damart said: “Damart are proud to have supported such a fantastic event. This was the first time we have opened our 1871 cafe to the public and it was fantastic to see the space bustling with so many visitors enjoying the 250th anniversary celebrations. We plan to continue to open our 1871 cafe in conjunction with our Bradley Mill sales, with various community arts groups and exhibitions taking place over the course of the next year.”

Cllr Philippa Gibbons (Bingley Town Council), who volunteers with the Canal & River Trust as a lock keeper, said: “This event has been a great opportunity to get footfall into the town and to put Bingley on the map with the Five Rise Locks as our major tourist attraction. We’ve had some brilliant feedback from the community and local businesses and it would be great to make this an annual canal festival for the community, and we hope it’ll be part of Bradford 2025.”

Cllr Marcus Dearden (Bradford Council, Bingley Ward), who also runs The Five Rise Locks Café next to the historic locks, said: “We had a very, very busy day at the café – far busier than normal, with thousands of people coming out. The town centre was busy all day long – a really good day for Bingley.”

Two people on a boat with arms out smiling to camera

A 'wonder of the waterways'

Celebrating what makes Bingley Five Rise Locks one of the seven ‘wonders of the waterways’, the event showcased the past, present and future of locks and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Visitors had the chance to meet our experts who care for the canals and locks, and get afloat on the water with free paddle sports and boat trips. Free family-friendly activities were on offer along the towpath, with an arts programme of talks, weaving demonstrations, readings by our Canal Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane.

Local community celebrations helped to extend the event from the canal towpath into the town centre, with Bingley Town Council hosting an artisan market, plus live music and performances and businesses running special promotions, including a commemorative Five Locks beer.

Ruth Garratt, our Yorkshire & North East heritage advisor, explains: “With just 2.5% of the country's listed houses and structures awarded Grade I listing, Bingley Five Rise Locks are of exceptional historical importance and puts these locks in the same category as Buckingham Palace and York Minster.

“Constructed in Georgian times, the locks were a vital part of a commercial thoroughfare to transport goods across the Pennines to the North Sea. Thanks to the work of our charity to keep canals alive, it is staggering to think that 250 years later these locks are still in daily use by boaters, but also by thousands of walkers, cyclists and runners who come to enjoy spending time by water.”

Last Edited: 26 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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