THE first boat in more than 90 years is set to pass through Lock 15 on the Grantham Canal as part of celebrations marking the culmination of a three-year restoration project to bring the lock back into use.
The Canal & River Trust, Grantham Canal Society (GCS) and the Waterway Recovery Group have joined forces over the past three years to painstakingly restore the formerly derelict lock near Stenwith.
To celebrate the milestone the GCS trip boat Three Shires, which will be the first boat to use the lock since it fell into dereliction in the 1920s, will carry representatives of the various groups that have been involved in the scheme.
It’s all part of a project, which has been awarded a £830,500 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to bring locks 14 and 15 back into use. The locks were both designed and built by renowned canal engineer William Jessop over two centuries ago.
Since summer 2015, the volunteers have been dismantling Lock 15 after its walls moved and crumbled allowing the whole structure to lean inwards. The volunteers have laid new foundations, completely rebuilt the lock walls, created new lock moorings and lifted in new oak lock gates.
Phil Mulligan, regional director for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This is such an exciting time for the Grantham Canal and we’re delighted to welcome the first boat to Lock 15 in 90 years.
“The volunteers’ dedication and enthusiasm for this project has been astounding and it’s been a real Herculean effort from all involved. They’ve been out in all weathers painstakingly taking the lock apart by hand, cleaning each brick and re-laying them once new foundations had been put in place.
“Together they’ve not only helped to restore the historic fabric of the canal but they’ve gained new skills that they can apply elsewhere on the canal, as well as pass to other people through events and workshops.
“The whole project has been a real inspiration and I would like to thank each and every person that’s helped to bring this important part of our heritage back to life.”
David Lyneham Brown, chief executive officer of the Grantham Canal Society, said; “Lock 15 is the culmination of three years of sheer hard work and we’ve been pleased to work in partnership with the Canal & River Trust and Waterway Recovery Group.
“Together we’ve achieved the biggest single restoration project yet undertaken on the 33 miles of the Grantham Canal. We’re delighted to celebrate the official opening of Lock 15 but the hard work continues with restoration efforts on Lock 14 progressing well and as we look towards what needs to be done at Locks 12 and 13. All-in-all it’s an incredibly exciting time in the canals long history.”
Jonathan Platt, Head of Investment, England: Midlands & East, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re delighted that thanks to National Lottery players this integral part of the canal has been brought back into use along with a huge amount of volunteer effort. We hope that interest in the canal will increase as a result of this project and give the local community a real sense of ownership of this fascinating aspect of their local history.”
While lock 15 is welcoming its first boat, restoration efforts are continuing at nearby lock 14. Here volunteers have laid new foundations and rebuilt the lock walls. Work will continue over the winter before new lock gates are lifted into position next summer.
The canal was opened in 1797 as a cheap way of transporting coal from Nottingham to Grantham. It proved prosperous until the opening of the Grantham to Nottingham railway in 1850. Unable to compete with the railway the canal eventually closed to boats in 1929.
By the 1960s most of the locks on the canal were derelict and their lock gates replaced with concrete weirs to control the water levels.
The project has also involved training volunteers in valuable conservation skills and laying the groundwork for the restoration of a further two locks (numbered 12 and 13). In addition to the funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund the project has also received support from WREN, Donald Forrester Trust, the family of Alan Applewhite, and Michael Worth on behalf of the Waynflete Charitable Trust.
As well as the physical works the aim of the project is also to raise awareness of the canal’s built and natural heritage and encourage more people to explore it through walking trails, archaeological activities, on-site information and online resources.