The Waterways Archive

The Waterways Archive Reading room, the national archive for the canal network is closed until further notice. Where possible, staff will be working from home and available to contact via email

Black and white photo of foreman D.W.Turner in bowler hat and his maintenance team pose for the camera at the top of Bingley Five Rise Locks in 1912 Maintenance team in lock in 1912

We will keep you informed about when we are able to reopen but in the meantime, we are going to keep you informed and entertained with regular social media posts and things you’ll be able to get involved in. In the meantime you can browse the online collection in the link below.

This important archive holds a wide range of photographs and documents about the history of Britain’s canals and inland waterways. Plus a selection of material from waterways around the world.

At the core of the collection are British Waterways' archives and those of the early canal companies, which trace the history of Britain’s inland waterways back to its very roots in the 17th century.

The document collection includes:

  • boat building plans
  • working records
  • accounts and letters

While our photographic collections include work by:

  • Michael Ware
  • Eric de Mare
  • Herbert Dunkley
  • Arthur Watts

We hold extensive collections about the:

  • Weaver Navigation Trust
  • Middlewich Wharf
  • Charles Hadfield World Canals Research
  • Rochdale Canal

As well as other interesting small private collections.

You can also use a wide range of books and periodicals about canals and waterways history for research.

Opening times

You are always welcome to come and look at the collection.

 The archive is closed until further notice.    


Entry price

When we reopen, you are welcome to visit the archive without going into the main museum, but we still do charge the standard museum entry price. We can carry out up to 30 minutes of research for you for free. If you have a more extensive enquiry, you can use our research service.

Research service

If you need more extensive research, our team of volunteers can research in our library and archives for you. We suggest a donation of £20 for a day of research by our volunteer team - this goes towards improving the access to our archive collections. 

Please contact with as much detail as possible so that our archive team can best answer your enquiry.

Please allow up to four weeks for an initial response but we’ll aim to get back to you as soon as we can in these extraordinary times.

Copying and reproduction for commercial use

If you are using the images and documents for commercial use then please see our charges and contact the archivist at for permissions and information.

Self-service copying

You can photocopy images and documents for your own private use for free. All copies must be for:

  • research or private study (neither of which may be for a commercial purpose)
  • criticism, review or news reporting
  • unless it is impractical, the source of all copies must be acknowledged
  • you should only make and hold a single copy at any one time. If you print or transfer the image then you must delete the original image
  • copies must be for your own use and should not be made for any other person

Publishing images

To publish any of our images you will need our permission. 

Publishing covers any kind of public use, from publication on another website or in a book to reproduction in an exhibition or use in a public lecture. We have recently reviewed our reproduction charges in line with other museums and archives.

Please note: we can only supply copies in line with British copyright law. If copyright (and/or publishing rights) still applies, we can only supply copies of items that we hold the copyright for or have a valid copyright licence.

Contact the archive

For more information about our service, please contact us:


Call: 0151 373 4378  or 0151 355 5017 (once we reopen)

Last date edited: 18 June 2020