Where history comes to life

A moving experience. Using the latest technology, interactive displays, games and a little bit of magic, transport yourself back over 100 years to when this was the third busiest port in Britain.

Historic docks

Designed by the great civil engineer Thomas Telford, Ellesmere Port was the largest Inland Waterway dock complex in the UK. Just across the River Mersey from Liverpool, goods were moved from ocean going ships onto narrow boats and barges so they could move relatively swiftly along the canal network.

So important was this link, that the docks were still working right up until the 1950s.

Now a conservation area with 19 Grade II listed buildings, when you visit today you can still walk around the locks, docks and warehouses and visit our forge, stables and workers’ cottages.

Old photo of the docks at Ellesmere Port from Waterways archive

Porters Row cottages 

Set aside from the rest of the docks, Porters Row is a passionately recreated picture of domestic life through the ages here in Ellesmere Port.

Originally built in 1833, the four cottages of Porters Row were over the years home to: shipwrights, blacksmiths, railway workers and, of course, porters and their families.

Today the cottages are real-life homes from the 1830s, 1900s, 1930s and 1950s.

Characters from the cut

We love dressing up. If you time your visit for a Sunday you're lucky run into one of our characters from the cut. Full costume, full of stories and in character all day - they're a favourite with visitors.

The blacksmith's forge

This is where the canal company’s ironwork used to be made. Today, resident blacksmith Alex Price is around most days, Monday to Friday (plus some event days) to answer your questions. And if you want to get hands on, Alex runs ‘smithing’ classes - contact him on 0151 355 7267.

The canal docks

Copyright PA

Walking the seven-acre site takes you through a dynamic landscape of Victorian listed buildings, docks, locks, stables, historic boats, cottages and canal basins.

Ellesmere Port's docks played an important role in the North West's development into an industrial powerhouse. Visit our 'viewing point' by the car park to fully take in the site's remarkable location on the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey.

The island warehouse exhibition

The Island Warehouse was built in 1871 as a store for grain. Walk aross the floating pontoon bridge today to find our two largest display areas. Alongside historic boats and re-creations of workshops there are:

  • ingenious hands-on displays and interactive touch-screens
  • archive film of the spectacular launch of a narrow boat
  • find out how canal 'ice breakers' worked
  • see rich displays on the crafts and skills of boat makers
  • explore boats of all shapes and sizes from a coracle to a canoe, a gleaming leisure cruiser to the beautiful narrow boat Friendship.
  • under 5s can take time out in our unique water themed soft-play area

‘Boats of every description’ 

Did we mention interactive? Brand new for 2017 is a huge interactive wall. Voyage into the virtual past, present and future of the waterways and test your skill as a boater.

The power hall

Packed full of gleaming, beautifully maintained engines, all themed around water, the Power Hall is looked after by museum volunteers. If they're on duty when you visit (look for the men in the overalls!), they'll be happy to talk to you about their work.

The volunteers have recently restored the 50HP Bolinder twin diesel engine back to running condition. The engine was originally in the Tug boat "Panama" before finishing its working life at Knowle Locks, where it was used as a pumping engine. Not heard in over 10 years, the starting procedure can be quite spectacular as the heater blowlamps roar into life. The team will start the engine throughout the day on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Look out for the running times when you arrive at the museum.

The pump house

The Pump House contains the mighty steam driven pumping engines that once supplied the power for hydraulic cranes and capstans throughout the dock at Ellesmere Port.

The giant boilers had trouble with limescale, just like your kettle at home. But to clean these monsters a small person had to climb inside with a hammer and tap the limescale away by hand!

The Yarwood steam engine, which used to power the Weaver packet boat Davenham carrying soda ash from Winnington Works to the ICI chemical company, is the star of the show. Today you can power her up - though she won't be going anywhere!

Last date edited: 30 July 2021