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National Waterways Museum

OS grid ref:- SJ406771

The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port on the Wirral, is situated at the northern end of the Shropshire Union Canal where it enters the Manchester Ship Canal. It contains the largest collection of canal boats in the world. With its fascinating displays housed in a fine collection of Victorian buildings, the museum makes a great day out whatever the weather.

The museum spans the area of the previous canal port and includes the locks, docks and warehouses. The Island Warehouse now includes an interesting exhibition on the history of boat-building and, on the upper level, another exhibition which describes the social history of canals, and a soft-play area for chilldren.

The steam-driven pumping engines which supplied power for the hydraulic cranes and the capstans which were used around the dock are displayed in the Pump House, while the Power Hall contains a variety of other engines. The blacksmith's forge once made the ironwork for the canal and its boats. A resident blacksmith still works in the forge.

The stables which housed the horses and pigs are still present. The former toll house hosts temporary and touring exhibitions. The museum hosts the Waterways Archive, which contains a vast range of material relating to waterways in Britain and abroad.

The terrace of four houses known as Porter's Row were once dock workers' cottages, they have been decorated and furnished for the visitor to represent different periods ranging from the 1840s to the 1950s, complete with cottage gardens. A fascinating collection of historic boats are also not to be missed.They include narrowboats, canal barges, river barges, canal and river tugs, icebreakers and a coaster. It is possible to go aboard many of them and see what working and living conditions were like for the crews and often their families. Both the locks within the museum site and the lighthouse at the entry of the canal into the Mersey are designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed buildings.

Short boat trips along the Shropshire Union Canal are are available. There are family activities every school holiday and events from the Easter Boat Gathering to Santa Cruises.

Café and a shop.


From junction 9 on the M53 follow brown signs for 'The Boat Museum'.

Visitor Attractions