Issue date: 9 February 2011
Into a Black Hole…
As we descended deeper and deeper into the dark, dripping interior – where were we going to end up on this cold January day?
Answer: right at the bottom of the amazing Northgate Locks in Chester which have been drained for gate replacement and maintenance. Quite rightly local British Waterways’ manager, Wendy Capelle, decided that this was a real opportunity to show off the kind of work their engineers do best and so Saturday, 29th January, was Northgate Locks Open Day.
‘When the Chester Canal was first built in the 1770s, it connected with the River Dee through a tidal section – including a basin, leading to 5 locks going up in a staircase to just below the Chester City Walls. In 1795, when the Chester Canal joined up with the Wirral Line of the Ellesmere Canal, two of the locks were taken out and replaced by two new locks on the Dee Branch of the canal.
Originally called the Water Tower Locks – and carved out of solid rock – these impressive locks lift the canal up 33 feet from the basin below to the main line. They are a testimony to the engineering skills of the original team who built them over 200 years ago.’ (thanks to Ray Buss, Chester Canal Heritage Trust for the background information)
Down inside the lock, the size of the middle gates reduces even tall people to a Lilliput scale and you begin to understand why it takes so much effort to move those gates sometimes. The stonework in the walls and the sheer magnitude of the original building task is absolutely breathtaking.
The steady stream of visitors watched presentations about the history of the locks and the Chester Canal given by Ray Buss of the Chester Canal Heritage Trust. Kate Lynch, Heritage officer for British Waterways also gave a presentation on the heritage assets in Cheshire that BW manage.
With display stands from other societies as well as IWA Chester & District Branch hopefully many more people will have been impressed and enthused with their waterways heritage. All in all, an excellent day and very well organised by British Waterways Wales & Border Counties staff.
Gillian Bolt - IWA Chester Branch