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The charity making life better by water

The museum collection

The National Waterways Museum holds 90% of the UK's inland waterways collections, with around 15,000 objects and more than 50 boats. It is the most comprehensive collection in the UK and the world.

Helmet, pump pressure and weighted shoe

The collection

The collection was gathered over the last 60 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 50 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 Edited: 13 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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