The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) History

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Back to 1979


The use of a trip boat on the River Derwent (Yorkshire) caused a dispute between the Derwent Trust and some riverside landowners over the right of navigation. The Derwent Trust prepared for legal action and started a fighting fund to raise 20,000 at the IWA National Rally. IWA offered them 6,000. The Montgomery Waterway Trust was formed and and was visited by the Prince of Wales, whose Committee was to play a major part in the restoration of the Montgomery Canal.

IWA National Waterways Festival was held at Lea Bridge on the River Lee. About 500 boats and 25,000 people attended. IWA membership reached 19,274.


Kings Norton (Wast Hill) Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was reopened after a 2½ year closure for repairs but Leek Tunnel, on the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal and Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line were closed. The Anderton Lift giving access between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver was also closed for seven months.

The Top Lock at Frankton, on the Montgomery Canal, was restored and the top gate ceremonially hung by John Biffen, Secertary of State for Trade (see photograph).

IWA issued two writs against the Middle Level Commissioners one relating to the closure of Horseway Lock and the other to the obstruction of Bevill's Leam.

IWA National Rally and Waterside Arts Festival was held on the Aire & Calder Navigation at Leeds with 410 boats, including many commercial craft, in attendence. IWA membership ended the year at 18,838, a drop of 436 and the first recorded annual decline.

At the end of the year the Government announced that British Waterways would get an extra 7 million to help with its many problems with major structures including tunnels and reserviors.


IWA made a 1,000 loan to the Linton Lock Commissioners so they could dredge the cut above the lock to reopen the lock following winter floods on the River Ouse (Yorkshire) and the River Ure. The Robert Aickman appeal, launched by IWA following his death in 1981, raised 24,000 for the Upper Avon Navigation Trust. Ken Goodwin took over as IWA Chairman after John Heap's retirement.

British Waterways undertook several major engineering projects including work on Boddington Reservior (see photograph) on the Oxford Canal, Coombs Reservior on the Peak Forest Canal, Stoke Bardolph Lock on the River Trent, Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line and Preston Brook Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Around 40.000 people and just under 500 boats attended IWA National Rally at Titford on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. The "National" had been held here in 1978 and this is the first time it had returned to a previous venue.


Legal action on the Middle Level started in 1981 met with success with the Commissioners agreeing to restore Horseway Lock and to build a new lock near Ramsey. The Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation improvements were offically opened (see photograph of Sprotborough Lock) and so was Robert Aickman New Lock on the Upper Avon.

National Waterways Fortnight was held from 14th to 30th May comprising over a hundred events including talks, meetings, rallies and exhibitions to support the waterways. The whole campaign was co-ordindated by John Gagg. The Rochdale Canal Society opened the restored section of canal between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.

IWA Council Members were taken in a truck through Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal to see the new concrete cylinder lining that was being installed.

IWA National Rally was held at Wigan on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Around 50,000 people and 428 boats attended.


Sir Frank Price ended his appointment as British Waterways Chairman after sixteen years. IWA regarded him as an effective ally in the battle for the waterways, a judgement not applicable to previous BW chairmen.

IWA National Rally at Hawkesbury on the junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals had a record entry of 720 boats of which 661 actually attended.


British Waterways and Local Authorities from both ends of the canal met to discuss the Huddersfield Narrow Canal restoration project. BW announced a 100,000 engineering study of Standedge Tunnel.

A "National IWAterways Summer" of over 150 events, as well as a series of IWAalk sponsored walks across the country, was held to publicise the waterways. One of these was held on the Grand Union Saltisford Arm to mark its restoration (see photograph).

A total of 514 boats and nearly 30,000 people attended IWA National Rally held at Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Main Line.


The proposed route for the M66 motorway threatened to make the restoration of the Rochdale Canal impossible. The future of the Anderton Lift, giving access between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver, which had been closed since 1983 was also subject of a restoration campaign, following which the Anderton Boat Lift Development Group was formed.

As part of a Milton Keynes facelift the IWA mural at Wolverton was painted by local Artist Bill Billings - both shown in the photograph.

As befits the fortieth anniversary year there was an IWA National Festival (instead of the usual rally) held at Brentford on the Grand Union Main Line. Around 450 boats attended and on the previous weekend about 70 boats cruised the London Ring.


IWA Waterways for Youth campaign started under the leadership of John Gagg. Another rally was held to support the restoration of the Anderton Lift, between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver. In September the first boat passed through the restored Frankton Locks on the Montgomery Canal, see photograph.

After 3 years IWA National Rally returned to Hawkesbury on the junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals. It attracted around 50,000 people and 530 boats.


A further 100,000 was guaranteed to the Yorkshire Derwent Trust by IWA in support of its legal action to prove Rights of Navigation. The photograph shows Sutton Lock, which was restored by the Yorkshire Derwent Trust in 1972.

In February British Waterways and the Anderton Boat Lift Development Group displayed the first phase of the lift's restoration. On the River Thames IWA was concerned with the lack of capacity at some locks and was able to negotiate some improvements in the provision of visitor licences.

The battle for future navigation on the Rochdale Canal was won when it was announced that the M66 motorway would be built to allow navigation when the canal was restored.

IWA National Boat Rally and Carnival was held at Castlefield at the junction of the Bridgewater Canal and the Rochdale Canal in the centre of Manchester. The Waterways for Youth "Waterways Passport" scheme was introduced.


David Stevenson took over from Ken Goodwin as IWA Chairman.

A discussion on the development of waterside properties was sparked off in IWA Waterways by John Gagg and continued throughout the year. Many restoration schemes continued and some new ones had appeared over the past ten years.

The photograph shows IWA National Festival at Waltham Abbey on the River Lee was sponsored by Volvo Penta. It attracted 525 boats and 50,000 visitors. The National Trailboat Rally was attended by 125 boats at Glasson on the Lancaster Canal. This highlighted the campaign for the Northern Reaches and the Ribble Link. IWA membership reached 22,000.

Forward to 1990

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