Thousands of canal boats pass through Bingley’s Three Rise Locks each year but few on board may realise the skills and craftsmanship needed to care for the 18th century engineering masterpiece.
Designed by John Longbotham as a staircase flight - in which the lower gate of one lock forms the upper gate of the next - it serves the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which this year celebrates its 200th birthday and which has provided a vital trade route across the North of England throughout the last two centuries.
Its sister lock flight, the Five Rise, is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and the only Grade 1 Listed lock flight on the 127 ¼ mile canal.
The original canal builders toiled for 46 years to build the canal and now members of the public are being given the opportunity to see for themselves the skills needed with the chance to view craftsmen at work on a major restoration project at the Bingley Three Rise Locks.
They are invited to watch the specialists replace 25-year-old lock gates and repair the 200 year-old-canal wall from a temporary viewing platform at the site until March 6. Staff from the Canal and River Trust will be on hand to speak to visitors about the restoration and give an insight into this important canal maintenance.
Chantelle Seaborn, waterway manager for the Canal and River Trust said today: “This is skilled work today so it’s simply incredible how the original canal builders created the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
“Their legacy lives on and now repairing the lock gates at Bingley is part of our essential maintenance to enable the local canal and river network to be enjoyed by thousands of people every day.
“Thousands of boats pass through these locks each year so they get huge use but perhaps a lot of people won’t realise the skills and craftsmanship that is involved in caring for them. By showcasing this work we can give the public a glimpse of the scale of the work we do to care for their local canal.”
The new lock gates have been made in the Trust’s specialist workshop at Stanley Ferry in Wakefield.
Every individual lock gate created is unique to its canal and has to be hand-crafted by a skilled team of carpenters to achieve a water-tight fit in its chamber. Lock gates are made from sustainably-sourced British oak and have a working life of 25 to 30 years.
The open event at the Three Rise Locks, which is a short walk down the towpath from Bingley Train Station, will culminate on March 5 and 6 when there will be activities for children, refreshments and a display of items found in the canal. Visitors do not need to pre-book but should note there is no car parking on site.
Works are part of an ongoing £45m maintenance programme by the Trust across the 2,000 miles of waterways in its care. In addition to this year’s programme, the Trust is also launching a three month survey to uncover ‘what lurks beneath’ the canals.
Across the country hundreds of shopping trolleys, traffic cones, car tyres, bottles and plastic bags are hauled out of the canals by the Trust and its volunteers at a cost of nearly £1m each year. The Trust, which is calling for an end to rubbish being dumped in its waterways, will be announcing the results in spring 2016.
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, said today: “The Trust cares for a remarkable network of historic waterways which are still working just as they were designed to 200 years ago.
“Keeping them open and safe requires a huge amount of planning and investment and involves a wide range of experts, from civil engineers and hydrologists to heritage experts and ecologists,” Mr Parry said.