Anderton Boat Lift

©Viewfinder Record
©Viewfinder Record

Region: North West

Owner Type: Government

Funding Body: English Heritage; Heritage Lottery Fund; British Waterways; Raphael EU; Vale Royal Borough; Cheshire County Council

Year of Intervention: 1999 - 2002

Summary: The Anderton Boat Lift is a Victorian marvel of engineering. It has been restored and given a new use, thereby securing its future and providing economic and social benefits.

Description: The Anderton Boat Lift was originally constructed in 1875 to connect the River Weaver with the Trent and Mersey Canal, which is 15 metres above the river. Designed by Edwin Clarke, it was the world’s first boatlift. The boatlift originally used a hydraulic ram system to raise and lower caissons containing boats between river and canal levels but in 1908 an electrically driven gearing system was installed. The boatlift was scheduled in 1976. In 1983 serious corrosion was discovered in some of the main supports and the boatlift was closed.
Issue: Detailed surveys and engineering assessments revealed that the 1908 system of operation, using cables slung from gear wheels on the top of the lift to raise and lower the caissons, had placed great strain on the main supports. Much of the machinery was removed to reduce strain on the structure whilst options were considered.
Strategy: The strategy involved undertaking an options appraisal for the boatlift. Three options were developed; retention of the boatlift as a non-working monument; repairing it and returning it to the electrically driven gearing system of 1908; or restoring the 1875 mechanism. It was concluded that if the 1908 system were to be restored, most of the main structural members would have to be replaced and little of the historic structure would survive. In order to retain the greatest proportion of the historic structure the most appropriate option was to restore the original operating system from 1875 of using hydraulic rams to raise and lower the caissons. A successful partnership including the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and British Waterways offered the necessary funding to undertake the work, which included an operations centre and café.
Outcome: The reopening of the boatlift and the new operations centre and café have had a positive effect on the economy of Northwich and a large increase in visitors to the area. The repair and reinstatement of the Anderton Boatlift was a key factor in the regeneration of the area around the Trent and Mersey Canal and the river Weaver. In securing the funding to develop the most appropriate use of this significant asset, tourism, employment and the economy in the area have benefited.

Keywords: Repair, Reconstruction & Restoration, Research & Archives, Sustainability

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