A heritage destination on Ellesmere Port’s waterfront has secured a near third of a million pound 40th birthday present.
Thomas Telford’s mid-19th century docks, now the National Waterways Museum on South Pier Road, has been awarded a £314,136 grant by Arts Council England four decades after throwing open its gates to the public following five years’ ceaseless work by the founding volunteers.
The grant will secure a bright future for the historic boats at the museum, now in the care of the Canal and River Trust.
The intention is future generations will be able to enjoy the heritage of Britain’s waterways and their traditional skills.
The museum collection comprises 68 nationally important boats the majority of which are on the historic ships register.
Many are still in full working order and take visitors on pleasure trips, while others are used in the museum and on-site for education purposes.
Maintaining such an important collection is said to be ‘a mammoth task’ but the grant will now enable the museum to focus its attention on 16 particular vessels which will be removed from the water for preservation.
A delighted Graham Boxer, head of museums at the Canal and River Trust, said: “This award is extremely timely as this year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our historic museum.
"In 1976 a team of volunteers first opened a museum at Ellesmere Port to create a collection recalling the history of the waterways and its communities.
"Through the years we have worked to ensure this ambition was realised and we can now dedicate specific attention to a significant number of our vessels ensuring their preservation for decades to come.”
The funding is expected to be available this autumn with work due to start at the end of this year.
Improvements that can now be made include providing storage to improve the care of the historic collection of boats to be removed from the water, developing space to improve the visitor experience and taking steps to develop a dry dock to care for the floating collection at the museum.
The museum’s ‘committed and long-standing volunteers’, waterways enthusiasts and other museums will all be involved.
Activities will see clearing the area around Porters Row, the historic dock workers cottages, which will provide a more appropriate setting for Mossdale, one of the most important boats in the collection and probably the last surviving all-wooden Mersey Flat.
The current boat yard area will be used to display boats at the museum, including Mossdale and the area around the Victoria Arm dry dock will be a showcase for traditional skills.