It was bitterly cold on Sunday morning as we walked along the towpath of the Caldon Canal up in the city centre from Hanley Park to Etruria.
We passed one or two other walkers out and about, muffled up in hats, scarves and gloves against the bitter cold.
The canal passes Stoke College and student accommodation along the way.
It took about 20 minutes to reach our destination which was the Bedford Street lock.
The open weekend had been organised by the Canal and River Trust on the last weekend of its closure for the replacement of its middle gates, the re-fitting of the top gate and brickwork.
The Bedford Street Lock is a staircase lock which was built in the late 18th century to a design by James Brindley. It opened in 1778. I say lock but there are actually two locks. It is known as the Bedford Street double lock and is apparently the last of its kind in North Staffordshire.
The engineers and craftsmen who were working on the project were our guides for the tour of the lock. When we arrived the first 18 people were down in the basin of the lock so we waited for the second tour.
We then donned hard hats and descended into the lock. Our guide was the joiner who had made the replacement gates from English Oak sourced in the West Midlands.
Apparently the bottom gate of the top lock acts as the top gate of the bottom lock. This form of lock is used for steep gradients in this case the rise if 19' 3" or 5.87metres.
It was quite a way down! Underneath the wooden flooring there was another 6 or 7 feet down to the very bottom which was why they could only take about 18 people at a time.
One of the men in our group had taken his boat through the locks on a previous visit and had struggled with the system. One of the other guides was the present lock keeper and he explained how to navigate through the locks and gave lots of other information but by this time I was so cold that I didn't take in some of the figures and dates with regards the building and history of the lock.
Time for a warming mug of hot chocolate and a flapjack at the nearby Etruria Industrial Museum which is the former works of the bone and flint mill belonging to Jesse Shirley. It is here that the Trent and Mersey and Caldon Canals meet.
There is a modern visitor centre and lots of activities were being enjoyed. According to the information given the bone and flint mill is the only steam driven potter's mill in the world! The Museum does have steam days usually Here is a link to more history if you are interested.
The Museum and cafe are only open to the public during events weekends of which there are several through the year. The museum which used to be administered by the City council is now run by volunteers. They ask for a donation of £3 per person entry which is very reasonable and all for a good cause in keeping this site of such rich industrial heritage in good shape for future generations to enjoy.
As we passed the locks on our way back along the towpath to Hanley Park there were more and more people arriving to view the staricase lock. According to the news section of the Industrial Museum's website 361 people were recorded as visiting the lock over the weekend most of whom also visited the Museum.