A HISTORIC Northwich landmark which was forced to close is set to reopen next year after completion of major £450,000 emergency repair works.

The Anderton Boat Lift, one of the most visited attractions in Cheshire, has been shut since early August when a safety mechanism in one of its gates failed due to a broken 'shoot bolt bracket'.

The repair works are set to start in mid-November, with the aim of reopening the 'cathedral of canals', which each year carries around 3,000 boats between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver, by the end of March 2023.

While the boat lift has not operated, its visitor centre and café have remained open and the Edwin Clark trip boat has continued to offer alternative short cruises along the River Weaver Navigation to Northwich and back.

Fran Littlewood, a project manager with the Canal & River Trust, which operates the Victorian Scheduled Monument, said: “The Anderton Boat Lift is a unique structure and one of the Wonders of the Waterways.

Northwich Guardian: A side view of the caissons operating (Canal & River Trust)A side view of the caissons operating (Canal & River Trust) (Image: Canal & River Trust)

"Because of its uniqueness, every operating element is a one-off and needs to be designed specially to work within a structure that is nearly 150 years old.

"This is its charm, but also brings huge challenges when parts need replacing.

"This winter’s work will allow the lift to return to operation in time for Easter and the start of the 2023 summer boating season."

Over winter, the trust will be delivering two key repair projects.

Two giant hydraulic ram cylinders, which each propel a caisson transporting boats up and down, are being given a much-needed overhaul.

The large metal tank caissons will be detached from the rams and propped up about two metres above ground level to allow the 20-year-old cylinder seals to be replaced, the ceramic rams re-polished and re-set, and 12,000 litres of hydraulic oil to be changed.

Northwich Guardian: A hydraulic ram supporting a caisson (Canal & River Trust)A hydraulic ram supporting a caisson (Canal & River Trust) (Image: Canal & River Trust)

Each of the lift’s 10 sets of gates will also have two new ‘fall and arrest’ safety systems installed, which act like a giant seat belt in an emergency.

Following identification of the safety issue in the summer, new designs have been engineered, approved by English Heritage and manufactured.

Once the repairs have been carried out, the lift will have a short recommissioning period of about two to four weeks before it is once again available to carry boats.

Fran added it has been more than 20 years since the last major restoration project on the boat lift and revealed the trust has applied for a £5 million grant to help secure the iconic landmark's future.

She added: "Reopened by King Charles when he was Prince of Wales, it has successfully been carrying boats for two decades.

"But now the lift requires some significant work to bring it up to modern day operating standards, including the introduction of a new wireless computer control system, targeted steelwork repairs and a full repaint.

The trust has applied to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a £5 million grant and we should hear whether we have been successful with our first-round application before Christmas.

Northwich Guardian: The Anderton Boat Lift (Canal & River Trust)The Anderton Boat Lift (Canal & River Trust) (Image: Canal & River Trust)

"If the bid does succeed, we can then start designing this next major phase of works which will ensure a secure future for the lift as a historic working monument for decades to come.

"If all goes to plan, the lift will be fully open to boaters during the 2023 and 2024 boating season, before closing in autumn 2024 for an 18-month programme of works, reopening again in spring 2026."

The Anderton Boat Lift Visitor Centre will continue to welcome visitors throughout this winter at weekends – Saturdays and Sundays, 9.30am – 4.30pm.

The trust’s popular Santa Cruises will run in December. For more information, check out the Canal & River Trust website or call 01606 786777.