MASTER crafstmen who help ensure Britain’s waterways run smoothly got the Royal seal of approval yesterday.
Princess Anne paid a visit to Stanley Ferry lock gate workshops near Wakefield – one of only two sites in the UK where lock gates are made by hand.
Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, learned of the historical significance of the site, which is on the Aire & Calder Navigation.
The lock gates built at Stanley Ferry are used across England & Wales’ network of waterways.
As there are no standardised sizes, each one has to be carefully built using traditional techniques to exact measurements.
Each year, the expert craftsmen at Stanley Ferry build over 200 lock gates which typically last around 25 years.
Her Royal Highness and the Royal Party were escorted around the workshops by Canal & River Trust Chairman, Tony Hales CBE.
Mr Hales said: “We are thrilled that Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal visited our historic workshops, and witnessed the skill, craftsmanship and sheer scale of our teams work to ensure that the waterways are preserved for today’s visitors and future generations.”
Each workshop focusses on a different aspect of lock gate construction.
Work starts from setting out the English oak used to make each gate before the intricate steel work is added.
The mortice and tenon joints are then made and heel and head posts are skilfully shaped before the final assembly of the finished lock gate can be completed.
The visit also enabled Her Royal Highness to meet artist Peter Coates.
He has been commissioned by the Canal & River Trust, the new charity which has been entrusted to care for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, to work on a series of lock gates engraved with lines of poetry to commemorate its inaugural year.
Historically, Stanley Ferry workshops were used to manufacture the famous Tom Puddings, the freight trains of the waterway.
A restored Tom Pudding was on display in the canal basin for yesterday’s Royal visit.