Banbury Lock out of action for three weeks for repairs

Children on the Banbury Lock gate at Canal Day 2017. Photo: Jane Russell/Canal and River Trust

Banbury Lock is being drained for three weeks of extensive refurbishments to install new gates but the canal closure means people can have a rare look at the empty chamber.

Experts from the Canal and River Trust will be carrying out essential works to repair the lock and swap the 21-year-old gates with handmade replacements.

Banbury Lock by wharf in 1958. Photo: Canal and River Trust

The new gates took two joiners three and half weeks to craft out of sustainable English oak and will be craned into place on a specialised boat as they weigh three tonnes.

The trust, which looks after 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, will give the public the rare chance of venturing into the bottom of the empty lock chamber to view the original 239-year-old brickwork up close on November 18 and 19.

South east waterway manager Tav Kazmi says: “It’s not very often that we get the chance to see our historic locks drained of water.

"The open weekend gives us the opportunity to meet with local people and share some of our hidden history.

Banbury Lock was at the centre of Canal Day 2017. Photo: Jane Russell/Canal and River Trust

"Banbury Lock marks our first open day of this winter and we will be working on over 200 different sites across the country and staging 10 free open days.”

Visitors will be able to speak to the charity’s experts about how the lock gates are made and fitted and about the works being undertaken over the weekend.

The team, from construction supervisors, civil engineers to volunteers and apprentices, will be on hand to explain their varied work and why it is important to pass this knowledge and experience on to future generations.

There will be a pop-up museum showcasing artefacts from the birth of the canals to some of the weird and wonderful finds from below the waterline, and there will be activities for children at nearby Banbury Museum.

Banbury Lock by wharf in 1950s. Photo: Canal and River Trust

There will be a ‘virtual hub’ where people can plug in and watch virtual reality videos of some of the Canal and River Trust’s more unusual and awe-inspiring locations.

Tooley’s Boat Yard, the oldest working dry dock on the inland waterways having been in continuous use since 1790, will be throwing open its doors to the public during the open weekend.

The yard was also the starting point for the fateful narrowboat journey by Tom Rolt in 1939 which led to the formation of the waterway restoration movement.

November marks the start of a five-month-long programme of repairs to England and Wales’ waterways, as the Canal & River Trust spends £38m to restore some of the nation’s best loved sites.

Steel Gate at Banbury in 1961. Photo: Canal and River Trust

This work requires a wide range of knowledge and expertise and the trust’s apprenticeship programme helps to preserve and pass on the specialist skills and expertise needed to carry out this work.

To find out more about the trust’s restoration and repair programme, as well as the open days happening across the country visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.

The open weekend will be held between 10am and 4pm.

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