National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

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National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
The Ellesmere Port site of the National Waterways Museum is situated at the northern extremity of the Shropshire Union Canal where it enters the Manchester Ship Canal at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, England ( grid reference SJ406771 ). It contains the largest collection of canal boats in the world.

The site consisted formerly of a canal port which covered an area of 7 acres (3 ha) which initially linked the Shropshire Union Canal with the River Mersey. It was designed by Thomas Telford under the direction of William Jessop and continued to function as a working canal port until the 1950s. The canal port consisted of a system of locks, docks and warehouses, together with a pump and engine room. A toll house was built in 1805. The Island Warehouse was built in 1871 to store grain.

The museum covers the area of the previous canal port and contains all the elements previously present in the port, including the locks, docks and warehouses. The Island Warehouse now includes an 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. The Pump House contains the steam-driven pumping engines which supplied power for the hydraulic cranes and the capstans which were used around the dock, and the Power Hall contains a variety of other engines. The blacksmith's forge was where the ironwork for the canal and its boats was made. A resident blacksmith works in the forge. The stables which housed the horses and pigs are still present. The former toll house hosts temporary and touring exhibitions. In the museum the Waterways Archive contains a wide range of material relating to waterways in Britain and abroad. The site contains a terrace of four houses known as Porter's Row. There were dock workers' cottages which have been decorated and furnished to represent different periods from the 1840s to the 1950s. The museum contains a collection of historic boats. Short boat trips along the Shropshire Union Canal are arranged. The entrance area to the museum includes a café and a shop. The museum is open at advertised times throughout the year. The locks within the museum site are Grade II listed buildings, as is the lighthouse at the entry of the canal into the Mersey and a lock keeper's hut. In 2010, the museum was one of three featured on the BBC Four series Behind the Scenes at the Museum.