Heritage Lottery Bid to restore more locks in the Woolsthorpe Flight

The Grantham Canal Heritage Initiative (GCHI)

HLF Small

Following the success of this bid, £830,500 has been awarded to the project to restore Locks 12 & 15

Entry: 13th December 2016

Awaiting the last brick to be laid in rebuilding Lock 15 chamber walls – hope it fits…

Good reason for jubilation – the final brick was laid yesterday on Lock 15 chamber walls!  Our volunteers have been working every day, Mon – Fri, for just over a year.  For around half of this time, they were occupied in taking down the two chamber walls, upon finding they were beyond restoring. The walls have been rebuilt using concrete block/poured concrete supporting structures – lined with Birtley Olde English bricks.  These will give an authentic look to the lock when work is finished.

Volunteer Richard is given the honour of tapping the last brick into place – looking in is Iona, Canal and River Trust, Heritage Trainee

There is still some work to be done in restoring the ‘thrust blocks’ and ‘wing walls’.  The thrust blocks (or walls), were left standing, deemed restorable by the engineers.  Thrust blocks form the four corners of the lock, it is these which take the strain of the lock gates.  The upper pair of thrust blocks also house the ground paddle culvert/chamber, used for filling the lock.  Emptying the lock chamber is via paddles (sluices) in the lower gates. Wing walls are the curved walls which form the entrance and exit of the lock.

We particularly wish to thank the volunteers of the Waterway Recovery Group.  Their input has helped us enormously in reaching where we are today.

The Canal and River Trust too, for their ongoing support, both on site and in project management – ensuring we adhere to the requirements of the Heritage Lottery fund, without whom, this important part of our industrial heritage would still lie in a decayed state.

Entry: 23rd November 2016

We were pleased to welcome the Waterway Recovery Group on site at Lock 15 for almost the whole of July.  Along with our own volunteers, much was achieved.


offside chamber wall full height

Nearing the end of November, we have the offside chamber wall rebuilt to full height.  The nearside (towpath side), sees the final concrete pour and awaits the brick and blockwork to be brought up to final height.


thrust walls being restored

The ‘four corners’, i.e. thrust walls are being restored.  Bricks, recovered from the original chamber walls have been cleaned up, and are being used, along with lime mortar.                                                       

The Waterway Recovery Group returned for a weekend camp at the end of November and, supported by GCS volunteers, cleared vegetation from Locks 14 and 13, in preparation for work to move down the flight.


A birds-eye view of Lock 15 before rebuilding of the chamber walls – showing the four thrust walls, haul roads and the dams each end


Grantham Canal Society volunteers continue to work every day Monday to Friday on the restoration of Lock 15.  They are organised into teams – a different team each day.  Some volunteers are in more than one team.

Why not join them?  Even half a day helps the job along!  See our homepage for details – we look forward to welcoming you!

Entry: 28th June 2016

Edit 3rd July

bricklaying training

training available!

After eight gruelling months of demolition we have now turned the corner and can see the rebirth of a lock which has suffered from over eighty years of neglect.
Lock 15, Woolsthorpe Middle lock, has posed many challenges for the GCS volunteers to overcome including some of the wettest weather seen for many years. Despite this, numerous volunteers have gained a new skill which, at long last, now includes bricklaying.
Part of the reason that the previous lock construction may have failed was the surprising lack of foundations. The lock walls were substantially buttressed but without there being equal pressure on both sides a number of them had fractured and hence the inner walls were leaning inwards.
The new walls will now have substantial reinforced concrete foundations which, as the inner walls are rebuilt, will be stepped so as to support the complete structure.l15 view Fortunately the four thrust walls which will ultimately support the new gates are all now fit for purpose after having been thoroughly surveyed and redressed. These will be tied into the overall structure as the rebuilding progresses.
Significant support has been given to the project by local companies who have not only supplied materials at low cost but also offered their help during the project. The GCS are grateful to Newark Concrete, Tarmac’s Barnstone Works and John A. Stephens Ltd have all supported the project.IMG_1095
The next task will be the purchase and laying of approximately 37,000 bricks. These will be traditional bricks which will preserve the authentic look of the lock. As one can expect there is now a need for volunteer bricklayers to assist the newly trained GCS teams, so that this work can be completed during the summer months. If you can offer some of your spare time then please email Volunteering enquiry or take a look at our volunteer section on this website.

Blog entry: 15th January 2016

Inception to realisation

Consider for a moment the general feeling of excitement when, in 1793, the announcement had been made that the Grantham Canal was to be built. Possibly the first thoughts of designer, William Jessop were, “well that’s another one under my belt!”; for during that year nineteen other canals had been given the go-ahead and this was to be Jessop’s seventh.  In modern day terms the achievement of these early pioneers was phenomenal. The Grantham Canal, which is 33 miles long with 18 locks and over 60 bridges, was built in four years at a cost of £129,000 – £13,500,000 in today’s money.

Canal and River Trust Trustees visit

Canal and River Trust Trustees visit

These were very turbulent times with the Anglo French wars in full progress and the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo hadn’t yet been fought! Despite this, labour appeared relatively easy to find, albeit with 80 to 90% being of Irish descent. Thousands of Navigators, or Navvies as they became known, were employed to build the canals. They were usually camped near the section of canal they had been allocated. Most likely one of their first tasks was to set up a wood yard to process timber for planking, scaffolding and cart building. Kilns were built to fire the bricks which were often sold to local homesteads for building houses. The canal not only contributed to the prosperity of the area by encouraging trade but also brought a considerable amount of skill to the area. Once the canal was completed the builders either settled nearby or moved to the next project.

Lock 15 prior to restoration work starting

Lock 15 prior to restoration work starting

And so to our present day where numerous hours of work have already been spent on restoring one of Jessop’s locks back to its former glory. The lock concerned is Woolsthorpe Middle Lock, so named as it’s the middle lock in the Woolsthorpe Flight of seven. This will be the sixth lock to be restored on the canal and is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Canal & River Trust (CRT) and the Grantham Canal Society (GCS). Contributions have also been received from the Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd (WREN) and several generous sponsors without whom costs would have been substantially greater. Apart from missing both the top and bottom gates the lock walls were leaning inward and it was obvious that a significant amount of restoration work was necessary. Many hours had been spent planning the project by members of the CRT & GCS in order to determine the best method for this work to be carried out. The eventual and most cost effective approach was for the work to be carried out by volunteers.  In this way costs would be kept to a minimum and all volunteers would be given the opportunity to learn a skill that would enable work to be continued on to the three further locks in the flight which are also in need of restoration.

Volunteer workforce breifing

Grantham Canal Society volunteer workforce briefing

Blog 5a WRG start work

The Waterway Recovery Group on site excavating the lock walls and preparing haul roads

Since July 2015, when the compound was erected and site hut installed, a team of volunteers have been on site 5 days a week under the supervision of a qualified CRT site engineer. The compound area, including a small copse of trees, had previously been cleared and prepared by a team of Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) personnel together with a large group of GCS volunteers. Further preparation work was then undertaken by GCS volunteers which, included the installation of drainage pipework and the construction of a haul roads to enable plant to work on both sides of the lock. WRG then returned to site with heavy plant to excavate the area around the lock walls so that preparation could be made for re-lining them.

Buttresses (counterforts) were found to be in poor condition

Buttresses (counterforts) were found to have failed

Blog 10 Area cleared

Lock walls taken down in preparation for rebuilding

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Brick cleaning; so repetitive – and as it turned out – competitive too between teams!

However, it was then found that the buttresses supporting the walls had failed, so the decision was made for them to be demolished. Whilst demolition work progressed the by-wash was constructed. This by-wash, which may not be used after the lock becomes operational, was necessary in order to circumvent the lock so that work within the lock chamber could be carried out. The lock walls have now been reduced down to approx. 1 metre high and the face of the haul roads coated with a thick layer of clay to form a dam so that the remaining walling can be removed and the lock fully drained.
GCS volunteers have been trained on site for operating mini-diggers, dumper trucks, abrasive wheels and numerous other associated equipment. Brick cleaning, a soul destroying task at the best of times, has been carried out in a thorough and professional manner. The several thousands of cleaned bricks will continue the heritage of the original builders, if not on lock 15, then certainly somewhere on the canal as work progresses.

Construction of the new bywash completed

The new bywash completed