The Canal & River Trust has been awarded £574,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a major repair and refurbishment project for the Anderton Boat Lift, the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ in news welcomed by MP, Esther McVey who is a regular visitor to the attraction.
The grant was awarded following advice provided by Historic England and is part of a larger £1.1 million sum, which will be used to develop a capital and activities programme before submission of a second-round application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Summer 2024.
One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, the Anderton Boat Lift was built in 1875 and in operation for more than 100 years until 1983 when it closed due to corrosion. The lift reopened to the public in 2002 after a multi-million pound restoration, supported by Historic England (then English Heritage) but has been out of action since August last year due to the failure of a safety mechanism.
The lift, based on designs by Edwin Clark, carries boats and barges 50 feet from the River Weaver Navigation to the Trent & Mersey Canal.
In order to keep the lift operational, the entire iron structure requires blast cleaning, repairing and repainting, the timber control cabin replacing and the IT operating system updating. There is also a plan to move the control system to the original building, potentially offering visitors an experience to control the lift.
Proposals also include removing the existing events marquee and replacing it with a new building that would house toilets, changing areas and concessions.
As part of the plans, the Canal & River Trust is hoping to increase opportunities for the community to get involved, from engineering apprenticeships to working in partnership with schools to support learning with STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths). There are also ambitions to enhance the biodiversity of the wider area and to offer bird walks in the local park.
Historic England’s Development Advice Team in the North West provided guidance which supported the major repair and refurbishment project to the Boat Lift, to ensure it remains operational for the foreseeable future. The government’s heritage champion will continue to support the Canal and River Trust with its future proposals for development of the Anderton Boat Lift site.