Newest Review: ... at Anderton on the T and M to more boats on the Weaver, 50 feet below This took time. a flight of locks was considered, but this would ha... more
The Cathedral of the Waterways
Anderton Boat Lift (Northwich)
Member Name: dmandrew
Anderton Boat Lift (Northwich)
Advantages: The only one of its kind in the country
Disadvantages: A bit pricey, but you can spend the whole day there
I first remember becoming aware of the name of the Anderton Lift when it appeared on a postage stamp decades ago, either in the 60s or 70s. I had no idea about canals then, so noticed an unusual structure with a distinctive shape and thought no more of it than other names like Jodrell Bank or the Forth Bridge.
Years passed by, and then I was staying in Cheshire, and was taken to Anderton to see the lift. This was in the early 1980s. In those days, you could park fairly near, and then had to cut your way through undergrowth to get near. The impressive but sad sight that greeted me was of a huge rusting metal mulit-legged beast facing the wide waters of the River Weaver. It was then that I learned what the lift was for.
The River Weaver is one of the oldest navigations (i.e. an improved river) in the country, leading through some of the salt areas of Cheshire to the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey. It thus is and was a useful river for communication. Above it, in the 18th century, the Trent and Mersey canal was built, which connects with the rest of the English canal network. for a long time, goods were transhipped between boats at Anderton on the T and M to more boats on the Weaver, 50 feet below
This took time. a flight of locks was considered, but this would have taken both time and used precious water from the canal, necessitating either back-pumping or an increase in the supply.
Thus it was that in 1875, verylate in the first canal age, that the Anderton Boat Lift was made. Originally, it operated hydraulically, but was converted to electric power in the early 20th century. By 1983, corrosion had set in sufficiently for the lift to be declared unsafe, and it remained out of use until restoration in 2002.
Thus, on one of our canal trips, we came to it just a couple of years later, and we have since been back a few times.
Now, when you get there, everything gleams. the restoration was entire and thorough, and you definitely feel safe on the Lift. If you visit by boat, you can use it without charge, but you might have to wait for a passage, so there is a booking system for £5. We hire boats, (hope to own one day) so decided to book to avoid any panic about being held up.
British Waterways look after you well. You moor up, check in at Reception, and then await instructions. Once invited to bring your boat on to the Lift, you either go straight in (from the Weaver) or on to an integral aqueduct (from the T and M) before into the Lift proper. You boat is then flating inside a big metal bath called a caisson. Look up or down, and you see an identical caisson above or below, possibly containing boats. Final preparations are made, and then the lift begins its slow descent. You don't really feel anything happen, but just become aware of movement through what you see. The journey down takes a few minutes to cover fifty feet, so that gives you an idea that it's majestically slow.
Inside the lift, you see a forest of black metal. The Anderton Lift is sometimes described as the Cathedral of the Waterways, and you get a real understanding of this from inside it. It's also one of the so-called "Seven Wonders of the Waterways".
Coming out on to the River Weaver is magnificent. There are usually quite a few people there, as many come to see the Lift just for a day out, and so you feel very important as you pilot your boat from the mysterious structure. Camera snap, and people wave. Going up is just as good, although there is less of the celebrity feeling, and the canal seems surprisingly small after the wide Weaver.
The Lift makes a great day out even if you don't have a boat. Unfortunately, you have to pay a couple of pounds to park your car, so you might want to park a mile or two away, and walk there along the canal. You can walk around quite a bit of the site free, but you have to pay to get inside the main buildings, where there is a very good exhibition, explaining the history of the lift with diagrams, models and books, complete with refreshments. you can then get close up to the lift down at river level. If you are going there, then you really have to take a trip on the Lift. There is special boat for this, named after the first engineer, Edwin Clarke. For £7, you can go down and up the Lift - better value is to add a short trip up the Weaver for another £4, which allows you to see the Lift from a distance at water level.
Whether you like the rest of the area depends on whether you enjoy industrial architecture. From the canal, you get a great view of Winnington and its chemical works, and if you walk a few miles in either direction, there are fine views of the Weaver.
Pick a nice day to go and see the Lift: if you are a canal enthusiast already, then it virtually amounts to a pilgrimage to go there!
Summary: Magnificent structure and a great canal experience