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  Anderton Boat Lift and
Northwich Salt Museum
Heritage Group
The Heritage Group Visit to Anderton Boat Lift & Northwich Salt Museum.
Report & Pictures by Gordon Ashworth

Move directly to:- Anderton Boat Lift  or  Northwich Salt Museum

The CoachWe were collected by the coach from the High Lane village hall car park after a short delay, and then made a rapid journey through Stockport to the motorway. However imaging our surprise when were pulled in to the passenger unloading bay at Manchester Airport. I know I am due to fly from there on Monday but why go today?
It all turned out to have a logical explanation. The starter battery on the coach was faulty and had been the cause of the late start from High Lane. After a very efficient replacement we were off on our merry way.

The country side on route to Northwich and the Anderton Boat lift passes through some very beautiful country, and close to the MARBURY COUNTRY PARK.

The modern attractive Operations Centre houses a fascinating interactive exhibition explaining the history of the lift and its unique place in waterway history.We could see the lift operators at work as they controlled the Victorian mechanism from a bank of high tech computers. Films and displays explained that there a need for a 'boat lift' had manifested itself when the Staffordshire pottery industry started bringing in raw materials from the south-west in the 1700’s. Firstly, the china clay would be loaded onto a boat and brought by sea to the River Mersey, then transferred to a river boat and taken down the River Weaver, and finally it would be transported overland on horse and cart. In 1765 a local campaign was launched to improve transport links to the potteries and, within twelve years, a canal was completed from the River Trent to the River Mersey. Pressure from the Cheshire salt manufactures, eager to exploit the potential of this new inland opportunity, led the Trustees of the River Weaver Navigation to develop the idea of 'linking' the two waterways at a convenient point. The Anderton Boat Lift
Anderton was identified as an ideal location, the two waterways running roughly parallel at this point, with a vertical difference of approximately 50ft (15m). In 1793 work began on excavating a basin on the north bank of the river, to the foot of the valley incline where the canal was situated above. In an attempt to encourage shippers to use the Weaver Navigation for the import of raw materials from the Mersey, two cranes were constructed in 1796 with the sole intention of lifting goods upwards, from the river basin to the canal. During the first half of the 19th century it was decided to construct a boat lift, and in 1871 the Trustees announced their intention to go ahead with this project. Royal Assent was given in 1872. By 1875 the lift was open and operational. Designed by the eminent engineer Edwin Clark, the basic principle behind the operation of the lift was simple but successful. Two large counter-balanced and water filled containers, driven by huge hydraulic rams, were inserted side by side within a gantry, one container (Caisson) was at canal level the other would be at river level. By increasing the volume of water in the top Caisson the extra weight would cause it to descend, thus raising the opposite Caisson from the river. Problems caused by corrosion of the hydraulic components started to occur in the 1890s, and by the turn of the century a radical solution was being considered. In 1904 a comprehensive report prepared by Colonel Santer, engineer to the Trust, recommended the conversion of the Anderton Boat Lift from hydraulics and steam to electrical power. The proposal was eventually accepted, and the newly refurbished lift opened on 29th July 1908. Throughout the first half of the 20th century the Anderton Boat Lift successfully continued operations, but the advent of the Second World War marked the decline of Britain's waterways commercially, so the boat lift became used largely by leisure traffic resulting in much reduced revenue. During the 1970s routine repair and maintenance work could no longer be supported and, in 1983, the Anderton Boat Lift was finally closed. A decade later British Waterways  reconsidered proposals to restore the lift. With the new millennium approaching, it was decided that the lift would be completely restored to the appearance of the 1908 electrical structure, but with the operation reverting back to the original hydraulic concept of 1875. This magnificent structure was re-opened in March 2002.
Aboard the Edwin Clarke Aboard the Edwin Clarke Aboard the Edwin Clarke
before In the 'Lift' After
We experienced the Anderton Boat Lift in the same way boaters did in bygone times. The Edwin Clarke glass top boat took about 40 minutes to descend as the  lift towered above us. The boatmaster recounted its history as the boat descended to the river. The Edwin Clark seats up to 56 visitors but we had a problem because the boatmaster counted 58! To solve this two children sat on the parents’ knees. Once at river level we enjoyed a relaxing 30 minute cruise along the River Weaver to Northwich Town Swing Bridge and back.

Boarding the coach again we drove through Northwich, over the swing bridge we had seen from the river, and to the towns’ salt museum.

The Cheshire County Council acquired Weaver Hall In the 1970s  and the museum moved into its current premises. The building had been built as Northwich Union workhouse and then became an old people’s home. Weaver Hall opened as the new Salt Museum in June 1981 after major renovation work. 
Salt Museum Exhibition Salt Museum Exhibition Salt Museum Exhibition
We had coffee and a short break and then were shown the magnificent board room where the Guardians of the workhouse used to meet to conduct the affairs of this institution. This room is used by school groups during the week  and one was in progress when we went in. The workhouse was built in 1839 to a standard design by George Latham who also rebuilt nearby Arley Hall. It became the Old People’s Home until 1964. Many of the workhouse buildings were demolished in the 1960s leaving the Grade II listed building which we still see today. We were shown many models and films of the salt extraction processes, and the conditions the workers had to endure. The guide gave very interesting, detailed descriptions of many of the workings. Finally at approximately  4-00pm we started home and arrived at High Lane after a very interesting and informative day.

Our thanks must go to Margaret Snape for organising this very enjoyable trip.

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