Two toll houses at the world’s first boat lift, Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich, have been refurbished, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience what it was like to book a boat passage a hundred years ago.
The £90,000 restoration project has been carried out by the Canal & River Trust, the charity which cares for the lift and the nation’s 2,000 miles of historic canals, and was jointly funded by public donations to the Trust and the Saltscape Partnership, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Trust plans to furnish the two tiny buildings as they would have appeared early last century and staff are appealing for the public’s help to send in old photos of the toll house and boat lift, and any memories or stories about the lift.
The public will be offered a first sight of the newly-restored buildings on Heritage Open Day, Saturday 12 September, when they can enjoy free entry to Anderton Boat Lift visitor centre and other heritage buildings across the country.
Nicola Lewis-Smith, enterprise manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “The toll houses were important buildings at the boat lift. Boat owners would be welcomed by the clerk who would weigh the boat’s cargo and collect an appropriate toll before allowing the boat onto the lift. This is the scenario we want to create for visitors as part of the Anderton Boat Lift experience.
“The toll house renovation project involved using traditional materials such as lime mortar for the brick repairs, and the installation of new floors and drainage. The toll houses were in a poor condition and weren’t fully restored in the major boat lift restoration of 2002, so it’s fantastic to see them brought back to life now.”
Anderton Boat Lift, built in 1875, is a scheduled monument and connects the Trent & Mersey Canal with the River Weaver 50 feet below. The lift was originally constructed as a commercial boost to the regional salt and pottery industries but is now the centrepiece of a popular visitor attraction, offering public boat trips through the lift aboard the Edwin Clark boat.
Alison Lomax, Saltscape Manager said. “We are delighted that the Toll Houses will be open to the public for the first time as part of Northwich Heritage Open Day on Saturday 12th September. It’s a great opportunity for people to meet the actor who will re-enact the role of the clerk, find out more about these important buildings and see a new aspect of this much loved local landmark come to life.”
The Anderton Boat Lift and the Canal & River Trust are key members of the Saltscape partnership, launched earlier this year to deliver a range of projects designed to protect, restore and celebrate mid-Cheshire’s unique salt heritage and landscape. The partnership is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and is expected to generate £1.4million of investment in the Weaver Valley during its lifetime.
Anyone with old photos or stories to share should get in touch with the Trust via email on [email protected] or tel 0303 040 4040.
For more information about visiting Anderton Boat Lift and boat trips through the lift and along the River Weaver, check out the Trust’s website: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/anderton-boat-lift.