How Stanley Ferry workshop in Wakefield helps keep country’s waterways running

The workshop at Stanley Ferry.
The workshop at Stanley Ferry.

It is no mean feat to craft a lock gate for the country’s waterways.

Weighing an average of 3.6 tonnes, each one can take between five to 20 days to make.

The workshop at Stanley Ferry, pictured above, sits along the Aire and Calder Navigation in Wakefield and is one of only two places in the UK where lock gates are manufactured and refurbished by the Canal and River Trust.

Every year, the two sites build an average 180 lock gates between them, the Trust says, at a cost of more than £2 million.

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And with more than 1,500 locks on its waterways, building new gates to replace those at the end of their working life - usually at around 25-years-old - is certainly a year-round job.

“When our canals and rivers were built there was no standard template for lock gates,” the Trust writes on its website.

“They were constructed using a variety of techniques and designed to navigate the local landscapes.

“As a result no two locks on our canals and rivers are alike so when we’re building new lock gates, each one has to be sized up and built to the exact specifications for each lock.”

In the late 1800s, workshops at Stanley Ferry repaired vessels and made 58ft long cargo boats, according to Stanley History Online.

Then in the Second World War, they went on to store Tom Puddings, as well as repairing boats and lock gates.

In 2012, the workshop at Stanley Ferry welcomed a royal visitor; on a tour of the site Princess Anne witnessed the skill and craftsmanship that goes into preserving the waterways for current visitors and future generations.

Just a stone’s throw away is a family-friendly pub, the historic Stanley Ferry Aqueduct - dating back to 1839 and carrying the Aire and Calder Navigation over the River Calder, and Stanley Ferry Marina - an 81-berth facility offering moorings to all kinds of boats.

In surroundings both picturesque and historic, it is no surprise the area is a popular spot for walkers.

Camera Details: Nikon D5, Lens Nikon 24-70mm, Sutter Speed, 1/640sec, Aperture, f/8.0, ISO 320. Photograph: James Hardisty.