New venture and historic dry dock restoration

5 August 2014

A unique piece of Burnley’s waterway history ‘Birley’s Dock’, that was once an important working dock at the heart of the North West canal  transportation network at the height of the coal and textile era, has been lovingly restored to its former glory and will once again be used to paint and repair canal boats.

The restoration to bring the dry dock back to its former glory has been a real labour of love by two couples who’ve had a passion for canal boats and the canal for many years.

Semi-retired couples Les and Angela White, and Brian Denison and Jane Garnett, who have a wonderful knowledge of Burnley’s working canal history approached the council, who own the site, with their ideas to bring the derelict site back to life as a working dry dock for canal boat painting and repair. Following several discussions and the development of a business plan for the new venture, the council agreed to lease the site for their new venture, and the hard work began.

The ‘Bank Hall Dry Dock’ which sits on the edge of the former Bank Hall Coal Pit hasn’t been used in over 50 years but will once again become a hub of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal system, under the business name for the new venture of Feather & Gaskell.  

Les White, Joint Partner, Feather & Gaskell said: “The dry dock at Bank Hall had been in a very sad state and had declined into serious disrepair over many years. The dock was actually being used as a dumping ground and was full of rubbish; you wouldn’t really have known it was there.

“After months of blood, sweat and tears, and personal financial investment we have lovingly restored the dry dock brick by brick, cobble by cobble. We recycled cobbles and bricks from the local area, including some of the bricks from the former Barden Mill.

“We’ve had support and advice on restoring the dock from the engineers at the Canal & River Trust, who are delighted with our restoration works.”

 “It has been a real labour of love. We’ve all had a passion for canal boats for many years and have our own boats. It was a wonderful sight to fill the dock for the first time and to steer in a barge to repair for the first time.”

Joint Partner, Brian Denison added: “With the expanding Reedley Marina close by and the rise in popularity of canal leisure boating we saw a real opportunity. The nearest dry docks for the paint and repair of barges are a 4 day sail away in either direction, Skipton and Wigan, so it would take almost 2 weeks to get a boat serviced.”

“Now we can serve the local marina and east Lancashire area in a much shorter time. We’ve already got a list of boats waiting to be serviced and painted.

“We are really proud of our achievement and feel we have created a legacy for future boat users and for Burnley.”

“More work to complete the cover for all weather works and to clean up the yard area is in the pipeline as the business grows. We are now open for business and will be looking to officially launch the site in the Autumn.”

Carl West, technical manager from Canal & River Trust said: “The Trust is delighted to see the restoration of the dry dock completed to such a high standard of workmanship. The waterways contain many gems and it is extremely satisfying to work with private investors in realising their potential. We look forward to working with Feather & Gaskell in developing the wider site to support the dry dock operations.”


Further images of the dock available – Please contact below:

Contact : Joanne Etherington, PR Officer, Communications Team, Burnley Council, Tel. 01282 477315 email: [email protected]

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