Volunteers have exposed historic brickwork for the first time in over 200 years as part of a project to restore a derelict lock on Grantham Canal.
Teams of volunteers from the Grantham Canal Society and Waterway Recovery Group have been working at lock 15 and have uncovered features designed and built by renowned canal engineer William Jessop over two centuries ago.
It’s all part of a project led by the Canal and River Trust, a charity which cares for 2,000 miles of the nation’s historic waterways, and the Grantham Canal Society.
The scheme, which has been awarded a £830,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will see volunteers restoring derelict locks 14 and 15 near Stenwith, south-east Bottesford.
In order to repair the lock walls, which were leaning, the volunteers dug out the earth behind and exposed the brick buttresses, or supports, which would have been built to withstand the water pressure from a full lock.
Over time, the supports and lock walls have moved and crumbled allowing the whole structure to lean inwards and the volunteers have been busy taking them down so that they can be rebuilt.
Karen Rice, project manager for the Canal and River Trust said: “This is really exciting, it’s almost like opening a time-capsule and piecing together how the lock was built all those years ago.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone that has volunteered so far both at the lock and behind the scenes. It’s a big job and we still need lots of volunteers so we’d love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved. They’ll be following in the footsteps of one of the nation’s most celebrated engineers and helping to play an important role in bringing the lock back to life.”
The five-year project is being led by volunteers and will see the two locks brought back into working use for the first time in around 80 years. It will also involve training volunteers in valuable conservation skills and laying the groundwork for the restoration of a further two locks, numbered 12 and 13.
Mike Palmer, chairman of the Waterway Recovery Group, said: “This project has given us an amazing look at lock 15 from a very rare viewpoint. There can’t be many people around the country who have looked at the bottom of a chamber wall from the back.”
Mike Stone, chairman of the Grantham Canal Society, added: “This project has brought both the Grantham Canal Society and the Canal and River Trust together in a problem solving exercise which has taxed the knowledge and experience of all concerned. The end result will be a better understanding by all of how diverse lock building really is together with the heritage knowledge gained in the process. This now presents a first-class opportunity for practical training in heritage skills.”
As well as the physical works, the aim of the project is also to raise awareness of the canal’s built and natural heritage and encourage more people to explore it through festivals, walking trails, archaeological activities, on-site information and online resources.
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