Caring for our heritage

We're very proud to be the custodians of one of the largest collections of industrial heritage in the UK.

Employee in hi-vis and white hard-hat repairing stonework on bridge Repairing Park Road Bridge, Devizes

Across our 2,000 mile network of canals and rivers, you can discover wonderful pieces of preserved history.

We are proud to be the custodians of the third largest heritage estate and the oldest working heritage network in the UK. We're prouder still that it is freely available for you to explore every time you step foot onto a canal, or visit one of our museums or archives.

Across our canal network, you can find international, national and locally designated bridges, locks, buildings and much more. All are recognised for their high landscape, architectural and historic significance and afforded a level of protection. These contribute to the special character and quality of our blue and green spaces.

Our heritage estate

Our heritage estate currently includes:

  • 2,707 listed buildings
  • 46 Scheduled monuments
  • 304 conservation areas
  • 7 Historic parks and gardens
  • 6 Historic Battlefields
  • 4 World Heritage Sites, one of which is directly managed
A canal boat using an aqueduct high above the valley floor An awesome feat of engineering, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our National Waterways Museum

Our National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port holds 90% of the UK's inland waterways collections.

It is designated by Arts Council England as 'nationally significant', which means it is considered a key part of the arts and cultural sector, and engages and influences signifcant numbers of people beyond their own geographic area.

In other words, it's really worth a visit.

A shot on a sunny day of National Waterways Museum,Ellesmere Port The wonderful, Grade II listed National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

Our humble heritage

Waterways heritage is not always found on a grand scale. History is also brought to life by our humble mileposts, centuries-old rope marks in a stone bridge and iconic woden lock gates.

Our heritage advisors

Our heritage advisors are dedicated to caring for the locks, bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, mileposts and all other historic structures along our waterways. Their efforts will ensure that for generations to come, people will always be able to marvel at our soaring aqueducts, steep lock flights and charming humpback bridges. 

Anchor in the middle of flowers Anchor at Anderton Boat Lift

Preserving history for the future

Change in the historic environment is inevitable, caused by natural processes and people’s responses to social, economic, and technical change.

We know that sustaining our internationally important waterways heritage is vitial in benefitting the lives of present and future generations. 

We do this by balancing our care with the economic and social imperatives of life today.

A Statement of Principles for the Waterways Heritage

To make sure that we continue to care for our canals and rivers in the best possible way, we have enlisted the help of our Heritage Advisory Group to draw up a statement of six principles. These reflect our charitable objectives and our responsibilities to all of our heritage assets. 

  • Base our policies and practice on a sound understanding and recognition of the history and significance of the waterways heritage.
  • Apply the optimum conservation standards to maintain the integrity and authenticity of our heritage assets.
  • Accept a presumption in favour of conservation of these heritage assets, while recognising the wider aims, objectives and resources of the Trust.
  • Work with others to secure the conservation of the wider context and setting of our waterways.
  • Benchmark and report on our heritage conservation performance at regular intervals.
  • Maintain a Heritage Advisory Group to advise us on our policies and to monitor performance.

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Last date edited: 20 October 2021