U3A by Pauline Hales

Guest speaker Dave Thomas of the Canal and River Trust spoke with authority and enthusiasm about The Anderton Boat lift when he addressed an audience of 160 U3A members at their recent general meeting. He kept his audience engaged and entertained with a selection of photos and lively speech telling the history of the unusual and truly impressive industrial structure.

Pictures were shown of the lift in its various incarnations, hydraulic, electric, modern hydraulic and photos from the earliest days of traffic at the Anderton Basin pre-lift, when labour intensive chutes and steep planes were the only means of trans-shipping the goods between the two navigable waterways, Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver. For the workers this was heavy, physical employment but for the employers slow and expensive.

With so many boats from the salt industry, and the coal-mining and industry of the Potteries reaching the River Mersey, the interchange needed improvement. In 1870 locks as a solution was rejected so the idea for a lift was born.

Dave gave details of the complexity of the engineering problems and the ingenuity displayed in addressing them, and the huge oversight of using a hydraulic system when the local water was so contaminated. Within only five years corrosion became a problem and the solution to the huge problem was another fascinating aspect of the story.

In its heyday up to 68 boats went through each day. It lay derelict for many years and was under threat of demolition, however, thanks to the enthusiasm and enterprise of local people it is now preserved for future generations. The Anderton Boat Lift or The Cathedral of the Canals is one of the UK's most prestigious industrial heritage sites and is now on the National Heritage List for England.