Pennine Waterways News

Tuesday 23 March 2010

More Heritage to Go?

A historic boat horse stable block is to be demolished at Burscough in Lancashire with concerned canal users saying they have been kept in the dark over the proposals.

The site at Burscough is of historical significance, comprising two stable blocks, harness room, warehouse, workshop, provender house, barn, office and two houses around a central yard.

The complex was built by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company in 1890 after the closure of the original horse department buildings, whenthe original canal terminus was moved back to Pall Mall.

As well as accommodating a number of the canal company's boat horses, the company's horse tackle was also made there.

The former stables to be demolished (Photo: Mike Clarke)

The buildings to be demolished are the larger of two stable blocks, which borders the main A59 road and had a workshop on its upper level, an adjoining canalside cottage and an outbuilding that has accommodated boaters' facilities. The stable block had been known to be in poor condition, possibly worsened by vibrations from the A59 running alongside.

The former stables seen from the road (Photo: Mike Clarke)

The buildings are understood to have been derelict for several years and the site was sold by BW to Thomas Guy Ltd in 2008.

It is proposed that a community facility will be built within a new three-storey building on the site of the stables and cottage. The other buildings would be re-furbished to incorporate retail uses, a micro-brewery and a restaurant.

Sue Day of the Horseboating Society wants the stable block either to be retained or, if unsound, to be re-built as before. “By retaining the building in its existing manner, people can see the way it was used.” Sue quotes an example of Stourport Basin, where one stall has been retained as a heritage interpretation area.

Although the site is no longer in the ownership of British Waterways, it is being cited as yet another example of a development that involves the loss of historic canal features. There has recently been much opposition to development proposals at Marsworth and Marple.

The developers, in their planning statement, insist that they have “consulted widely within the community”. Unfortunately this has not included the waterways community other that BW itself and BW did not publicise the proposals, with the result that waterway enthusiasts are once again feeling angry at not being involved or consulted.

Demolition of the stables and cottage is about to begin at Burscough so it may be too late for the belated protests to affect the outcome.

Diagram of Burscough Yard



  1. What a load of self serving rubbish! This site has been up for sale for over twenty years, and Guys have shown a respect for heritage and community spirit in their development proposals. If the boating community were so interested, why didn't they express some interest when the building could have been obtained on a long term lease at a very small rental? BW has had their funding drastically reduced, so obtained the best price they could for a redundant building, in order to provide for boaters on the canal network.
    When the building was surveyed prior to sale, the surveyors would not enter the stables because of their dangerous condition. The cost of refurbishing them into a safe condition would be unsupportable, and would not allow a viable use if done. The proposals will bring derelict buildings back into use, thereby helping to safeguard the future of other buildings in the complex.

  2. The agents i contacted some time ago stated to me that the site was not for sale or to let , if i am right in my memory it was eckersleys who were acting agents and when i told them i was outside the stables and the signs were still up saying it was for sale they again insisted it was withdrawn from sale and seemed to be quite blunt that they would not enter into further discussion about it.

  3. Yes I also feel it is a great pity to loose a site like this for good. I have just returned from a visit to Temple Newsham near Leeds, where the farm and stables have been preserved as they were, and what a gem they are, the cobbled flooring the wooden hayracks and quality ironmongery everywhere you turn. What a difference from todays mass produced stabling with chipwood kickboarding, soft unseasoned wood and insubstantial cheap door furnishings which bend or snap with the slightest pressure. It was a great pleasure to sit for a few moments on the hayloft stairway and soak up the character of these past working surrounds, the unevenly worn down cobbles with their hoofworn smooth depressions and the knarled old beams chunky hayracks and thick hardwood doors. My children all loved the atmosphere, it would be great to be able to preserve a bit of the stable block at Burscough, for us and future generations. Maybe keep a working horse or two on site even? Possibly incorporate stop over facilities for horse boating enthusiasts: maybe a small entrance fee could help towards upkeep of this site? Gina Blundell


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