The historic boat collection

From a 1,000 year old log boat to a concrete barge, a coracle to a steam powered dredger, our collection of boats from Britain's inland waterways illustrates the many different types of craft that have used our canals and rivers over the centuries.

While some boats are exhibited as part of our indoor displays, you'll find most of them where they really shine - on the canal docks outside. Some of them are open for you to climb aboard and get a real sense of the cramped conditions boaters had to work in.

Looking after these boats is an on-going task and you will see boats and narrowboats in various states of repair. We are in the process of lifting 11 boats out using a massive crane so they are ready for storage and conservation. You can read more and follow our progress here.

Top tip...

Take some time to explore our Heritage Boatyard, just behind the Island Warehouse. It's where our dedicated team of volunteers and young trainees work to care for and restore boats from this nationally important collection.

Funding the future

As well as re-vitalising the museum, the grant we recieved from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), AIM Biffa Award grant scheme and the Wolfson Foundation has helped care for two of the most nationally important boats in the museum’s collection – 'Mossdale' and 'George'. Both will now be used to inspire new audiences about the history of wide boats and their role in the industrial development of the North West region. 


Mossdale - wooden Mersey flat built of oak with pitch pine planking, following the design of the original Mersey sailing flatsMossdale, the last remaining all-wooden ‘Mersey flat’, has been preserved and is now on display at the museum. The preservation of Mossdale has been made possible by the grant from the Wolfson Foundation.


George - George is a Leeds & Liverpool Canal horse-drawn short boat'George', a rare-surviving horse-drawn ‘short boat’ has been 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.

Last date edited: 23 October 2019