National Waterways Museum
The National Waterways Museum is located in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, England, and is situated at the northern end of the Shropshire Union Canal where it meets the Manchester Ship Canal.(grid reference SJ406771) The museum's collections and archives focus on the Britain's navigable inland waterways, including its rivers and canals, and include canal boats, traditional clothing, painted canal decorative ware and tools.
The museum was founded in the 1970s as the "North West Museum of Inland Navigation", later "The Boat Museum", and then the "National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port" until 2012. In the 1990s The Waterways Trust took on the management of the National Waterways Museum. Funding from Heritage Lottery Fund helped create new displays and improve visitor facilities. In 2012 The Waterways Trust was incorporated to the Canal & River Trust.
The name "National Waterways Museum" was formerly used to include the inland waterways collection at two other museum sites in England, which now are named the Gloucester Waterways Museum in Gloucester, and The Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire.
The museum is entrusted with a collection that has the status of a designated collection, as determined by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council. However, the standard of collection management has been the subject of considerable concern and criticism in the specialist press because, essentially, the museum has insufficient money to fund the upkeep of the many historic boats in the collection. Unlike the National Railway Museum, which receives funding direct from HM Government, the NWM only receives public money through the Canal and River Trust, previously British Waterways. During the winter of 2008-2009 opening hours were cut at Gloucester and Ellesmere Port to just two days per week in an effort to manage a tough financial situation. Some boats were advertised in Museums Journal early in 2009 for disposal, there being insufficient money for their restoration. Visitors to the Ellesmere Port site can see boats, in the care of a National Museum, sunken into the water or kept afloat by automatic pumps. However, the initiative to create a Heritage Boatyard, with lottery and other funding, has spurred a revival in the museum's fortunes and work on addressing the areas of maintenance is now taking place. The Heritage Boatyard trains young people in skills that might otherwise be lost. Two boats, Ilkeston and Ferret, are sponsored by the London Canal Museum, which contributes annually to the cost of their maintenance.
The museum site occupies the former canal port covering an area of 7 acres (3 ha) where the Shropshire Union Canal joined the River Mersey. The canal port was designed by Thomas Telford under the direction of William Jessop was in use until the 1950s. It consisted of a system of locks, docks and warehouses and a pump and engine room. A toll house was built in 1805. The Island Warehouse was built in 1871 to store grain.
The museum, on the site of the canal port, contains the elements present in the port, including the locks, docks and warehouses. The Island Warehouse has an exhibition on the history of boat-building and another describing the social history of canals. The Pump House contains the steam-driven pumping engines which supplied power for the hydraulic cranes and the capstans which were used around the dock, and the Power Hall contains a variety of other engines. The blacksmith's forge was where the ironwork for the canal and its boats was made. A resident blacksmith works in the forge. The stables which housed the horses and pigs are still present. The former toll house hosts temporary and touring exhibitions. The Waterways Archive contains a wide range of material relating to waterways in Britain and abroad. A terrace of four houses known as Porter's Row contains dock workers' cottages which have been decorated and furnished to represent different periods from the 1840s to the 1950s. The museum contains a collection of historic boats. Short boat trips along the Shropshire Union Canal are arranged. The museum is open at advertised times throughout the year.
The locks within the museum site are designated by English Heritage as Grade II listed buildings. Also listed at Grade II are the lighthouse at the entry of the canal into the Mersey, and a lock keeper's hut.
- "About the National Waterways Museum". Canal & River Trust. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- "New charity The Canal and River Trust to makes National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port its focal point". The Chester Chronicle. July 18, 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- "Explore the Site". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Toll House gallery". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Island Warehouse". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "The Pump House". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "The Power Hall". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Blacksmith's Forge". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Stables". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Collections & Archives". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Porter's Row". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Historic Boat Collection". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Daily boat trips aboard Centaur". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Visiting Ellesmere Port". National Waterways Museum. Retrieved November 2008.
- Historic England. "Two wide and two narrow locks between the upper and lower canal dock basins, Ellesmere Port (1139013)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
- Historic England. "Lighthouse (marking entrance from Mersey Estuary to Shropshire Union Canal before Ship Canal was built), Ellesmere Port (1130345)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
- Historic England. "Lock keeper's hut between Lower Mersey Street and lower dock basin, Ellesmere Port (11303)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
- BBC Four: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: National Waterways Museum (accessed 28 May 2010)
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- National Waterways Museum - Canal & River Trust