A major Ellesmere Port tourist attraction celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Renowned civil engineer Thomas Telford’s fascinating complex on South Pier Road, now the National Waterways Museum (NWM), marked the anniversary with a packed programme of events.
The anniversary was said by the Canal and River Trust, which runs the museum, to be ‘an important milestone for the UK’s inland waterways’.
The landmark event was bursting with things to see and do including the opening of the waterway’s new ‘Window on the World’ experience and performances from former artist-in-residence Francesca Millican-Slater.
There was a unique chance to venture into the Wide Lock at the museum which had been specially drained to enable two large replacement oak lock gates to be fitted.
The new gates, the first to be installed at the complex since 1975, had involved the massive feature being emptied of its 120,000 gallons of canal water allowing visitors a rare chance to venture along the bottom of the lock 5.5m below ground level.
A special 40th anniversary exhibition traced the history of the museum back to 1976.
It told the story of the team of dedicated volunteers who brought the derelict site back to life and lovingly restored the historic boats that form part of the national waterways collection.
Head of museums at the charity Graham Boxer said: “Our 40th anniversary gives us the opportunity to celebrate the amazing history of this site, its buildings, boats and waterways.
“But most importantly we’re recognising the people who’ve worked here over the centuries, from the engineers, shipwrights, dockers and boat people through to the team of volunteers and staff who dedicate their time to caring for the site and its precious collection.”
Returning for the anniversary weekend was Francesca Millican-Slater with her sell-out performance of ‘Walking the Shroppie’, devised during Francesca’s 10-month period as Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the NWM.
The acclaimed show followed Francesca recreating a famous walk by workers from Wolverhampton to the Port in the early 20th century.
As part of the Window on the World project, the Mersey sailing flat Mossdale has been conserved and the Leeds and Liverpool canal short boat George restored.
The museum recreated its opening back in 1976 with visitors gathering around historic boats Mendip, Joel, Spey and Gifford.
It also discovered a piece of timber at the bottom of the lock believed to have been felled when the lock was originally built in 1794.
Visitors could meet dock workers from the past, all based on real people, in an ‘Augmented Reality’ feature.
The anniversary weekend welcomed hundreds of people to the museum over the two days with other activities including Mossdale being winched up the historic slipway at the museum.
This was used for boat building and restoration between the 1840s and the 1920s.
Also opened was a new Brindley 300 exhibition celebrating the father of English canals James Brindley who was born 300 years ago this year.
The exhibition, looking at his life and times, will mark his pioneering career until October 2.