Llanthony Warehouse, Gloucester Docks, GL1 2EJ
tel: 01452 318054.
fax: 01452 318066.
The Museum is open daily 10.00am - 6.00pm Summer (10.00 - 5.00 Winter, closed 25 December)
Admission for 2000, Adult £4. „
I have always had an interest in the canal system of this country and the lifestyle that went with narrow boats at the height of canal transport. I have a very romantic picture in my mind of the gentle lifestyle of moving around the country, living on the boats and being part of a closely knit society. However, I know that in reality this is very far from the truth, as life on the canals was harsh and basic, but lets not spoil a dream. At the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester you can take a journey through the waterways of Britain on the three floors of displays and exhibits that comprehensively portray life on the canals over 200 years. The museum is housed in a restored Victorian warehouse in the historic dock area of Gloucester in a wonderful setting, adjacent to the dock basins. Within the museum there are exhibits covering every aspect of canal life including the boats, the history, the people, the canal network, boat decoration, the warehouses and the navies who built the canals. The whole museum is well put together with plenty of hands on exhibits. The displays are complemented by a number of interactive computer screens giving additional information. To see more details of the exhibits you can look on their web site at: http://www.nwm.org.uk In the section about the decoration of the narrow boats there are many displays of the painting craft known as Roses and Castles. This was of particular interest to me as I collect miniatures of these decorated items. These are commonly known as Bargeware. In this section there were a number of computers set up where you could virtually decorate a canal barge with the Roses and Castles. It would have been an added bonus if you could have printed out the final design. Throughout the museum there are many film shows and video displays and the whole museum has a lively and vibrant feel to it. For adult visitors there is Canal Shares challen
ge that you can participate in as you move around the museum through the different time zones. You buy and sell shares on the computers around the museum. We did not find this particularly interesting, but a lot of other visitors did seem to be enjoying this. For the children there were quiz sheets that they could use around the museum. There is a large outside display area and this included a steam train and some railway wagons that were used in the docks area. There is also a large static steam engine that was used for working the equipment in the warehouses. On the water there is a large canal barge and three narrow boats that you can go on and see just what life was really like on the canals. Although the narrow boats seem quite large, most of the boat was of course used for the cargo. The actual living area at the back of the boat is tiny and life on these boats must have been a real challenge. When you see these boats then it just makes you realise how hard life was for the families that lived on the canals. Next to these boats there is an interactive gallery where there is working model of a canal system with locks, lifts, weirs and cranes. Children (of all ages) can spend ages taking the boats around the canal system. There are also boat races showing the difference in boat designs and many other exhibits to "play" with. At the front of the museum there is a café where you can enjoy a drink or a snack. There is also a seating area outside where you can enjoy your food overlooking the dock area. There was not a great choice in the café, but it was quite adequate and the place was very clean and tidy. At the entrance/exit there is quite a large shop where you can buy souvenirs or gifts of the museum and canal craft. There is a good selection in the shop and the prices are quite reasonable. Entrance to the museum is £4.95 for adults and £3.95 for children. The tickets are valid all day so
you can come out and go back later if you want to. If you are planning a visit then look out for a leaflet produced by Gloucester City Council called "Gloucester Days Out". In this leaflet there is a voucher for 20% off the admission price to the museum. (There are also discount vouchers for many other places in Gloucester). We spent a few hours wandering around this museum and probably still did not see everything. If you enjoy seeing all about the history of canals or boats then I am sure you will enjoy a visit to this museum. I am sure that if we return to Gloucester we will re-visit this museum. I can highly recommend it.