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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Canal project makes web splash
Canal and narrowboat
Gloucestershire's canals date back centuries
A three-year project to create an electronic archive of Gloucestershire's rivers and canals started on Monday.

Once complete, the history of the county's waterways will be available at the click of a mouse.

The project started after receiving a National Heritage Lottery grant 400,000.

The archive is expected to give a new insight into life on the waterways over the past two centuries.

The project will deliver benefits for historians and waterway enthusiasts

Nick Kingsley, county archivist
Many of Britain's canals were constructed in the 1790s and early 1800s.

Life on the waterways was not just a case of opening and closing the lock gates for passing craft.

They were once the arteries of the country - enabling the transport of food, coal and manufactured goods.

At the height of the use of waterways, Britain had more than 5,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers.

Although their use today is rarely industrial, some 60% of them are still operational.

National assest

Archive material of the waterways is considered a unique national asset, dating from the late 17th Century to almost present day.

But it is largely unavailable to the public and in danger of being lost altogether.

Now the Heritage Lottery Fund has given 400,000 towards the project's total cost of 650,000 to have the documents accessible on the internet.

The Waterways Virtual Archive Catalogue is being put together by the Waterways Trust.

Records contained in the British Waterways Archive are currently dispersed around 15 offices, including documents which are held at the Gloucestershire Record Office.

Accessible resource

This latest project intends to bring all of these records into one accessible resource.

Gloucestershire county archivist Nick Kingsley said: "The project will deliver major benefits for local historians and waterway enthusiasts and allow people to learn more about the county's canals."

Once complete, the national archive will provide an unparalleled historical resource.

See also:

25 Aug 01 | Scotland
Waterway re-opens after 30 years
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