The Canal & River Trust has been awarded a £574,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the development of a major repair and refurbishment project and extensive community engagement plan for the Anderton Boat Lift, near Northwich. The Scheduled Historic Monument, which each year carries around 3,000 boats between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver Navigation, needs a major upgrade to keep it operational. The whole iron structure requires blast cleaning, repairing and re-painting, the timber control cabin replacing, and IT operating system updating.
Daniel Greenhalgh, Canal & River Trust North West director, said: “We are grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for allowing us to take a first vital step in securing the future of this unique boat lift, one of the seven wonders of the waterways. Since the Anderton Boat Lift reopened as a major visitor attraction in 2002, it has become a firm favourite on the tourist trail, as well as bringing a significant boost for the local economy.”
This is the first stage in a major programme of restoration and includes plans to replace the large marquee, which is used to host school groups and events, with an alternative flexible building, including new toilets, plus updates to the visitor centre and grounds to improve the visitor experience, as well as the development of new learning, skills and outreach programmes. This will enable more visitors to enjoy the unique attraction and delve deeper into the site’s fascinating history.
“The essential repair and upgrade work is critically important to maintaining the lift as an operational structure. Constructed in 1875, it holds a unique place in waterway history as the world’s first commercially-operated boat lift and our mission is to ensure that it continues to delight and engage future generations.”
Over the next 14 months Canal & River Trust will be developing a comprehensive plan for ‘Engineering the Future’, with the intention of applying for a further grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund towards the entire £13.4 million project. If the bid is successful, the plan will be to start an 18-month programme of works at the end of the 2024 boating season.
As a foretaste of the urgent necessity for major repair work, the lift has been closed since early August due to the failure of a safety mechanism in one of the lift gates. An emergency £450,000 repair work package is now on course to be completed this winter to ensure Anderton Boat Lift reopens to boaters and the Trust’s Edwin Clark public trip boat in time for Easter 2023.
The work features two key projects. Two giant hydraulic ram cylinders, which each propel a caisson transporting boats up and down, are being given a much-needed overhaul. The large metal tank caissons will be detached from the rams and propped up about two metres above ground level to allow the 20-year-old cylinder seals to be replaced, the ceramic rams re-polished and re-set, and 12,000 litres of hydraulic oil to be changed.
Each of the lift’s ten sets of gates will also have two new ‘fall and arrest’ safety systems installed, which act like a giant seat belt in an emergency. Following the identification of the safety issue in the summer, new designs have been engineered, approved by Historic England and manufactured. Once the repairs have been carried out, the lift will have a short recommissioning period of about two to four weeks before it is once again available to carry boats.
The Anderton Boat Lift Visitor Centre will continue to welcome visitors throughout the winter at weekends – Saturdays and Sundays, 9.30am – 4.30pm. For more information, see the Canal & River Trust website: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/anderton-boat-lift-visitor-centre or call 01606 786777.