A formerly derelict lock on the Grantham Canal has received its first lock gates for nearly 60 years after hard-working volunteers spent three years painstakingly bringing it back to life.

The Canal & River Trust, Grantham Canal Society (GCS) and the Waterway Recovery Group have joined forces to restore lock 15 near Stenwith and have this week craned four new oak lock gates into position. Each of the bottom gates weighs 1.5 tonnes with the top gates weighing 3.4 tonnes each.  

The lock, which was designed and built by renowned canal engineer William Jessop over two centuries ago, is being restored after falling into near dereliction.

It’s all part of a project, which has been awarded a £830,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to bring locks 14 and 15 back into use.

Volunteers join forces

Since summer 2015, the volunteers have been taking the lock apart, piece by piece, after its walls moved and crumbled allowing the whole structure to lean inwards. The volunteers have laid new foundations, completely rebuilt the lock walls and created new lock moorings.

Now the team has finished off the job by lifting the giant gates, which have been made by hand at the Trust’s workshop at Stanley Ferry near Wakefield, into position.

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.

Huge milestone

Karen Rice, project manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This is a huge milestone in the canal’s long history, bringing it back into working use for the first time in over 80 years.

“It’s been fantastic to see the transformation that has been made to the lock and it really couldn’t have happened without the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and hard work of the volunteers over the past three years.

“They’ve been out in all weathers, getting stuck in and their efforts have helped us to move another step along the path to full restoration of the Grantham Canal.

“Our attention will now shift to lock 14 where we’ll be faced with a similar challenge and we’re really keen for more people to come along and help. It’s been incredibly satisfying for the existing volunteers and we’d love to see more people getting involved.”

Next steps

David Lyneham Brown, chief executive officer of the Grantham Canal Society, said; “Lock 15 is the first fruits of the new partnership between the Grantham Canal Society and Canal & River Trust.  Together with the Waterway Recovery Group the GCS volunteers rebuilt the lock chamber completely, using 22,000 bricks, 4500 concrete blocks and 400 cubic metres of ready mixed concrete. 

“The installation of the gates signals the completion of the biggest single restoration project yet undertaken on the 33 miles of the Grantham Canal.  It will be followed by Lock 14, as part of the HLF funded project and later by Locks 12 and 13.  Once Lock 12 is complete the challenge of locks will be replaced by the lifting of bridges for the next 20 miles.”      

The project has 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 HLF funding 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.

For more information on the Grantham Canal go to www.granthamcanal.org or for more details on how to get involved in the restoration contact volunteer@granthamcanal.org.

Images courtesy of Canal & River Trust