Mersey Flat Craned out of Canal for Conservation

Mersey Flat Craned out of Canal for Conservation

24 December 2013

A rare barge has been craned out of the water, ahead of its planned conservation.

‘Mossdale’ is one of the last surviving all-wooden wide Mersey ‘flats’, a type of barge which was once a common sight across the North West with history dating back 150 years.  

Volunteers and staff from Canal & River Trust’s National Waterways Museum will be carrying out conservation work, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, to save the historic vessel.   

Mossdale would originally have been carrying cargoes such as iron, flour and grain along the Bridgewater Canal as far as Manchester and across the Mersey between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.  

Mossdale was built in circa 1863 of oak, elm and pitch pine. Originally named Ruby, she was renamed Mossdale when Abel & Sons of Runcorn, Cheshire, bought her in the 1930s. They extensively rebuilt and deepened her to obtain the maximum load for a minimum displacement.

The boat was donated to the National Waterways Museum by Peter Froud in the 1970s and has been cared for by staff and volunteers. In June 2012, a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £147,300 meant the Museum could start preparations for the conservation by lifting Mossdale from the water.

At one time, Mersey Flats were to be seen trading in their hundreds, not only on the Mersey but along the adjacent coastline, connecting canals and other inland waterways. Flats were the principal carriers, under sail alone, until supplemented and eventually taken over by steam power and finally the diesel engine.  Over time, rail and then lorries took away their trade, and the vessel diminished; now just Mossdale and Oakdale survive as the only two remaining examples.
IWA has acquired the remaining stock of the definitive history of these unique vessels and their working days on the North West inland waterways. Written by the late Mike Stammers, formerly keeper of Merseyside Maritime Museum, this 216-page richly illustrated history, with both archive photos and drawings by Edward Paget-Tomlinson, was published in 1993 at £19.95.  The hardback book, with attractive dustcover is available now at only for only £3.95 plus p&p. Buy Mersey Flats and Flatmen - Michael Stammers from

Photo courtesy of The Waterways Archive: Photographer Bill Leatherwood

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