The charity making life better by water

Anderton Boat Lift: Engineering the Future project

We're delivering a vital project to refurbish Anderton Boat Lift and visitor centre to ensure it remains operational.

About Anderton Boat Lift

Anderton Boat Lift, Cheshire’s historic ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ near Northwich, needs urgent work to prevent it from falling into disrepair and facing possible closure.

The unique 150-year-old structure was the world’s first major commercial boat lift and now requires an upgrade to enable the ageing machinery to continue transporting around 3,000 boats a year between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver Navigation some 50 feet below. Without the lift, boaters would be forced to make long detours.

In addition to the work required to preserve and protect the iconic structure, there is also a proposal for upgrades to the visitor centre, amenities, and grounds surrounding the boat lift, as well as plans to construct a contemporary education and events space and the development of new learning, skills, and outreach programmes.

Richard Parry and Fran Littlewood at the Anderton appeal launch

Image: Winter fundraising appeal ‘Keep Anderton Boat Lift Alive’ launched by Richard Parry (Canal & River Trust CEO) and Fran Littlewood (project manager)

Project timetable

The first milestone was achieved in December 2022, when the Trust was awarded a £574,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the development phase.

By January 2024, we are looking to appoint the main contractor who will design and plan the works programme over the summer. We will be seeking further grant funding and support from local businesses and philanthropists, which will be vital in enabling us to deliver the project.

We are planning to close the lift in early summer 2025 and reopen it 12-18 months later. This means that boaters and visitors can expect to enjoy a full season of boating in 2024 and potentially a short window around the following Easter, before it is wrapped in a protective encapsulation skin to give it a special 150th anniversary upgrade.

Rust on the Anderton Boat Lift

Why is the work necessary?

Anderton Boat Lift is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Monument - it is our mission to keep it operational for future generations.

Project manager Fran Littlewood said: “It is remarkable that this impressive, eclectic heritage structure is still working. If we deliver this important upgrade project now, it will hopefully ensure that we keep Anderton Boat Lift alive for many years to come - continuing to delight thousands of visitors and connecting two busy waterways for boaters.”

Anderton Boat Lift and cabin

Last Edited: 25 October 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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