Heritage Lottery Funding
The Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust (MBACT) gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund with its work at Fourteen Locks Canal Centre and with the restoration of the Cefn flight of locks.
This has allowed significant restoration and increased educational opportunities through the Education Through Restoration Project and most recently the development of a Volunteer and Training programme through the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre Future Skills Project.
The Education Through Restoration Project
A New Beginning
The rich heritage of the site and potential as an 'Eco Systems Service Provider' made it an attractive opportunity for restoration and wider audience access and development. The vision to be able to see this opportunity drew together in partnership MBACT and Newport City Council. As a direct result of significant financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the support of other funders the Education Through Restoration Project (ETR) came into being in 2008.
Over a five-year period the aims of the project were two-fold –
1. The full restoration of two pairs of locks.
2. Wider audience access and development.
It is a testimony to the skills of the stonemasons employed in the building of the locks that they have survived largely intact, despite long years of inactivity. Nevertheless, the task of restoration is not one that should be underestimated, especially when the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Care had to be taken with the smallest of details, all of which were monitored by Cadw and Headland Archaeology over the period of time that works were in progress.
Ingress of vegetation posed particular problems, where it was not possible to use machinery because of the risk of damaging the stonework. Some of the canal pounds and ponds were barely recognisable as canal features due to the extensive growth of trees, where again machinery could not be used due to the adverse effect of their weight on the canal bed. This meant patient clearance with hand tools, echoing the labour intense methods employed in the original construction. Removal of old mortar and debris was another labour intensive requirement as the lock chamber walls were prepared for re-pointing with lime mortar. In places, larger scale repairs were needed, necessitating the removal of layers of stone and subsequent rebuilding to ensure that the walls were strengthened for the injection of stabilising grout.
In addition to the physical restoration of the locks an important aspect of the project was training and the transfer of skills. Training included the following:
- the mixing and application of lime mortar
- the use of specialised tools – including the use of wood working tools for trimming the oak used in the construction of the lock gates. Although the lock gates were 'made to measure' each gate needed careful on-the-spot adjustment in order to ensure the best possible fit
- the installation of the lock gates – including the installation of the 'wooden quoins and cills' to create water-tight seals, the installation of the metal 'paddle-gear' necessary for filling and emptying the locks and securing the metal collars used to keep the lock gates in position.
Alongside the restoration, Headland Archaeology carried out a series of digital surveys that not only accurately recorded the water level drop for the entire flight as 167ft., but also enabled the production of digital maps of the restoration area.
The positive impact on the locks and pounds in the area covered by the project has been immense.
Wider Audience Development
"Many of our visitors, including many local people, used to say that they did not know there was a canal in Newport! The modernisation of the Canal Centre and the ETR Project has changed all that."
Phil Hughes, Canal Centre Manager.
Visitor numbers have been recorded meticulously at the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre over the period of the project. From a starting point of around 30,000 visitors, in the year that the remodelled Canal centre was opened, visitor numbers have risen to as much as 50.000, though the present figure is likely to be around 45,000. These figures do not include the number of visitors who simply use the car park for an outdoor experience only – so it is likely that the overall figure is much higher.
School engagement with the project has been very successful both in terms of visits to the locks and in terms of outreach. So far in excess of 80 schools and colleges have accessed the ETR Project, including schools from disadvantaged areas. A variety of workshops including animation, boat testing and pond dipping have proved to be popular with schools. Feedback has always been excellent.
Alongside the more formal educational opportunities, informal education through community engagement has been another significant aspect of the ETR Project in close collaboration with the Canal Centre Manager. Community engagement has included providing opportunities for groups such as the Scouts, Guides and Beavers to understand and look after the environment through pond dipping and litter picking.
Photo – Beaver Scouts Pond Dipping
Community engagement has also involved organising special events such as the annual Heritage Day and other fun days. Community Groups who have regularly participated in such events range from the local WI the 'Rogerstone Roses' to Risca Male Voice Choir.
Photo – Heritage Day
Telling the Story of the Locks
'Interpretation and presentation should be based on evidence gathered through accepted scientific and scholarly methods as well as from living cultural traditions.' (Principle 2, ICOMOS Charter, 2008)
'The interpretation and Presentation of cultural heritage sites should relate to their wider social, cultural, historical and natural contexts and settings.' (Principal 3, ICOMOS Charter, 2008)
In developing a wider audience for Fourteen Locks it quickly became apparent that much of the recent history of the site could be told through the memories of local people. Moreover, it was essential that this was recorded and preserved as accurately as possible. This has been done through digital story telling and blogging as in the history of 'Bowen's Boats'. The entire family album relating to the history of this family enterprise at Fourteen Locks was sent from the Isles of Scilly by Pam Manning (formally Bowen) who later visited the Centre to record her memories orally.
The Heritage Lottery funded Education Through Restoration Project has successfully achieved the set aims for this significant heritage site. Restoration of two pairs of locks has transformed not only how people view the flight, but has also greatly increased public awareness and understanding of this historic feature providing a platform for future development.
The Fourteen Locks Canal Centre Future Skills Project
This ambitious project is central for the future development of the Canal Centre and for the future restoration of the flight of locks. At the heart of the project is the development of a Volunteer Training Programme that will not only embrace the enthusiasm and dedication that Volunteers but also provide opportunities for training.
Although it is still early days for the project, a promising start has been made. Volunteers have already made a significant difference. On a busy day the Canal Centre needs people to provide assistance to visitors requiring information. This can range from a simple enquiry about directions through to answering questions about the locks. Prior to the beginning of the Future Skills project the Canal Centre was largely dependent upon a small staff. Volunteers have made all the difference in so many other ways as well. For example one person who is particularly interested in Social Media now updates the Facebook Account, while another Volunteer has provided invaluable assistance with carpentry skills.
As the project progresses, short term training courses in customer service and basic film making will also form part of the package of opportunities available.
If you are interested on volunteering or if you would like to find out more contact the Canal Centre by email or telephone.