Project launches to save Wigan canal lock

A project is now under way to replace failing lock gates at an important junction of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Wigan.

Specialist engineers from the Canal and Rivers Trust have been drafted in to undertake the precision operation at the grade II-listed Top Lock at Aspull.

Top lock in Aspull

Top lock in Aspull

Before starting the main operation, they have removed fish stocks from the immediate vicinity, draining a portion of the waterway to allow the scheme to commence.

Work to remove the old gates and replace them with a new set, top and bottom, started on Monday (January 22).

Last year the Observer reported that the lock gates only had a serviceable life of three to five years.

Mark Overum, the trust’s construction supervisor, said: “The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a very popular waterway enjoyed by thousands of people, either on the water or the towpath, so it’s essential that we carry out regular maintenance.

Project begins in Aspull

Project begins in Aspull

“Replacing lock gates is an important part of the charity’s work to look after the waterways, ensuring they remain open for people to use and enjoy.”

Tests conducted in 2017 showed that the top gates, which were first installed in 1964, would only last for another five years.

But further checks on the bottom gates, which only dated back to 1992, showed they may fail after just three years.

Plans for the Withington Lane site will also see an access ladder for the lock extended to meet current operational standards.

The ladder needs to extend below the waterline and be slightly wider than it currently is.

William Froggatt, in the original application, said: “The existing gates are steel with timber mitre and heel-post. The replacement gates will be timber only.

“Lock gates were originally timber and therefore this represents a reversion to a more appropriate material.”

The work is part of a £38m winter replacement programme on behalf of the trust for their 200-year-old network, also including repairing canal walls and restoring historic brickwork.

Situated at the top of what is known as the Wigan Flight, the lock, numbered 65, was originally the junction of the Leeds and Liverpool and the Lancaster canals.