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Anderton Boat Lift

nr Northwich, Cheshire

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By the end of the 17th century a major salt mining industry had developed around the towns of Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich and Winsford. By the end of the 1700's there were two navigable routes to transport the salt via the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal, rather than competing with each the other the two owners decided to work together and in 1793 a basin was excavated at Anderton on the Weaver, which took the river to the foot of the escarpment of the canal 50ft above. Facilities were built to transport the goods between the two waterways including two cranes, salt chutes and an inclined plan and by 1801 a second quay was built and in 1831 a second entrance into the Basin. By 1870 the Anderton Basin was a major interchange for the shipping of goods in both directions with warehousing, 3 separate  double incline planes and four salt chutes. However movement of goods by this means was slow and they needed a more efficient way of getting the vessels from one waterway to the other, canal locks were initially considered and discarded as too much water would be lost form the canal, so the idea of a boat lift was muted and chief engineer Edward Leader Williams was asked to draw up plans. Various options were considered but they finally settled on a design involving a pair of water-filled caissons (tanks).

The Anderton Boat Lift was built in 1875, by the Victorians and was the worlds first hydraulic working lift with each tank supported by a giant ram. Generally two rams are connected hydraulically with one tank balancing the other, whilst one is at the top the other is below at river level. Large pumps below the aqueduct pump the hydraulic oil from one cylinder to the other giving the raising and lowering power. It was built to provide a 50 feet vertical link between to navigable waterways, the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal. The tanks which carry the boats up and down, each weight 252 tonnes when full of water and 80 tonnes when empty. At rest one is level with the canal the other with the river, to move the tanks a small amount of water is removed from the river level tank and the heavier one above then descends and forces the hydraulic fluid into a cylinder to the lighter tank pushing it upwards.

See Larger Image Taken from beside the River Weaver



See Larger Image From on the side of the Trent & Mersey Canal

See Larger Image Click on the images to see a larger version

The boat lift was in use for over 100 years until it was closed in 1983 through corrosion, however in 2001 restoration took place for it to re-open in 2002 as a working boat lift carrying pleasure canal boats from the River below up to the canal above. It is operated by British Waterways and is one of only two working boat lifts in the UK, the other being the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.

So what can you do on a visit today.

There is a two storey Operations/Exhibition Centre. The first floor of the Operations Centre has a cafe area, a welcome desk which also serves as the retail area and provides tickets for the trip boat through the lift, exhibition area and toilet facilities. The lower level has an exhibition, focusing upon the lift’s history and the people who worked on and around it. The exhibition is colour coded to specific themes, with interactive content and an entertaining cinematic centrepiece. The computerised lift control centre is located within the exhibition, enabling visitors to get up close and personal with the lift on its busy daily schedule.

Time travel through the unique structure of the boat lift on board the elegant Edwin Clark trip glasstop boat, journeying between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal high above. A 30 minute ride takes you on journey, in a 56 seat cruiser, through the towering structure that used to transport the salt bearing barges over a century ago. Whilst on the trip the boat master will recount it's history and role in transporting goods through it. Or an hour long combined journey will take you through the lift and further along the River Weaver navigation to the Town Swing Bridge in Northwich, a town built on the mining and export of salt.

You could also take time out on the viewing platform and watch as others ride the lift, also a good spot for those photographs. Browse the gift shop with its heritage and historic content. On fine weather days you take advantage of the picnic areas, located in the shadow of this mighty structure. There is also a children's play area and a maze which has been constructed from the old counterweights that used to hang from the lift.

See Larger Image You could also enjoy a walk in the nearby Anderton Nature Park, on the opposite side of the car park which takes you down on the side of the River Weaver where you can take pictures of the structure from a distance albeit a marquee was in the way when we visited which restricted our view of the lower level. See Larger Image Alternatively you could take a walk along the tow path of the Trent & Mersey Canal, where you get to see wildlife, colourful canal boats and nature at it's best. We visited quite late in the day, there were some boats on the move and very few people on the towpath, so were able to get uninterrupted views of the canal.

See Larger Image Click on the small images to see larger versions

Further information Grid



Anderton Boat Lift, Anderton, Northwich, Cheshire

Ceremonial County: Cheshire

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Other Relevant pages: Cheshire Attractions  


Planning Grid


Anderton Boat Lift, Anderton, Northwich, Cheshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Located 3 miles from Northwich. From M6 J19 follow signs for Northwich. Once in Northwich, out on the A533 towards Runcorn, follow the brown tourist signs to the Anderton Boat Lift.


From car park along the canal to the entrance of the first floor of the exhibition building. Through this building into site for maze, boat trips etc.


Car Park on site with pay and display charges from 10am-8pm daily. Typical charges are £2 for up to 3 hours or £3 for all day. Free for blue badge holders.


cafe, toilets, small gift shop, exhibition hall, picnic areas

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Boat lift, River Weaver, boats on the Trent & Mersey Canal

What to take:

long lens, macro lens for nature reserve wildflowers and insects

Nature highlights:

Heron on River Weaver, wildflowers, butterflies and insects in the Anderton Nature Reserve. Wildfowl on river and canal.


Anderton Boat Lift

Lift Lane







01606 786777

Opening times:

8th Mar-5th Oct Daily 10am-5pm Bank holiday weekends open to 6pm

8th Oct-2nd Nov Thu-Sun 11am-4pm

6th-30th Nov Thu-Sun 11am-6pm


Exhibition & Grounds only: Adult £2; Child £1; Concession £2; Family (2+2) £4.50

Lift Trip Only: Adult £7; Child £5; Concession £6;
Family (2+2) £19

River Trip Only: Adult £4; Child £3; Concession £3.50;
Family (2+2) £11

Lift+River Trip: Adult £11; Child £8; Concession £9.50;
Family (2+2) £30

Under 5's: Free for all attractions.

Cafe and Gift shop no entry fee.

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Accessible for wheelchair users. The Edwin Clark boat trip has a hydraulic wheelchair lift and can take up to 2 wheelchair passengers per trip.
Special Needs Facilities: Disable toilet
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: Guide Dogs only

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By: Tracey Park Section: Canal and Waterway Section Key:
Page Ref: anderton_boatlift Topic: Canals & Waterways  Last Updated: 05/2009

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