Englandís waterways museums bring to life the story of Britainís inland waterways. The story began 300 years ago and still continues today. The waterways collections at the three museums consist of 80 historic boats, 15,000 waterways objects, and 70,000 records.
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Visitors to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, the Gloucester Waterways Museum and Stoke Bruerne Museum can explore this history through tales narrated by former dock workers, historic artefacts, and interactive displays.
The Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne, located within a restored corn mill alongside the Grand Union Canal, is complemented by the Ďliving canalí with its flight of locks, boats, and historic Blisworth Tunnel. It is sited in the middle of the village of Towcester. The town centre is a conservation area.
The museum, housed in a 1840s former working corn mill, explains the history of canal building. Visitors can experience working models, videos, and pictorial and three dimensional displays. Canal clothing and canal painted ware are on show. Outdoors is a weighing machine, one of only three ever constructed. It calculated the weight of the cargo on a boat.
The construction of the canal began in 1793, and the section at Stoke was finished in 1804. It was supervised by a leading canal builder, William Jessop. The canal was important as it provided a direct Birmingham-London route.
There is an audio trail which takes you along the towpath to the historic 1.75 mile long Blisworth Tunnel, explaining the history behind what you see around you. Closed in 1977 for repairs, it re-opened in 1984. An exhibition in the museum gives more information.
Trips on the canal are available.
Stoke Bruerne Waterways Museum
Stoke Bruerne, Towcester, Northamptonshire
On the banks of the Grand Canal, on the A508
Tel. 0 1604 862 229
Open: Easter to Oct, daily, 10am-5pm
Cafe; shop; pay car park; special events
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard