The museum collection

The National Waterways Museum holds 90% of the UK's inland waterways collections and is ‘designated’ by Arts Council England as nationally significant. Containing some fifteen thousand objects and over fifty boats, it is the most comprehensive and important collection of inland waterways material in the United Kingdom, and the largest in the world.

Reopening the Island Warehouse

The exhibition hall is partially open and things will look a little different for a while. Please continue to follow the one-way system and information signs. You can find out more in our frequently asked questions, but if there is anything else you would like to know before your visit, please do get in touch.


Joe and Rose Skinner on Friendship

Waterways Archive

Alongside our internationally important Waterways Archive and the canals themselves, it is a unique legacy from our industrial past that illustrates the leading role the waterways played in Britain’s economic and social development over three hundred years.

Museum Collection

The Collection was gathered over the last sixty years by three museums at  Stoke Bruerne, Ellesmere Port and Gloucester. It contains a wide range of objects, including tools, engines, horse equipment, models, textiles, ceramics, glass, painted ware, personal items and, over fifty boats, some floating and others on land in covered displays or in store.  These boats range from large vessels such as Basuto, a Clyde Puffer built in 1902, through to smaller boats such as the Starvationer, a wooden built narrow craft used in the 1800s in the Worsley coal mines just outside Manchester. We have narrow and wide-berth craft, service and maintenance vessels – dredgers, tugs and ice breakers - as well as leisure craft, reflecting the change in the use of the canals. We have both powered and unpowered craft, constructed of wood, iron, steel and even concrete!

As well as this broader history, some of our objects tell the personal stories of people who lived and worked the canals, enabling our visitors to get up close to real experiences and providing a means by which history truly comes alive.

National Historic Ships UK

A number of our vessels hold a significant position on the National Historic Ship Register, a database including details of boat designer and builder, dimensions, construction, propulsion, service history, current location and ownership.

The museum is part of the Shipshape Network which brings together historic vessel owners, skilled craftsmen, businesses, heritage organisations, training bodies and all those with an interest in Britain's maritime heritage and ship preservation. 

Last date edited: 22 April 2021