top of page


Society History


The idea of forming a Canal Society for the Sankey was to widen the earlier aims of Halton and Warrington Councils so that the country’s first modern canal would be fully restored. 

There is only one 'First Canal of the Industrial Revolution' - the Sankey Canal, which had been allowed to fall into a severely neglected state by the 1970’s.  The Society intends to ensure that the canal’s primacy is fully acknowledged, and that funds are found to return it to full navigation.

The Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS) was formed in 1985, with the help and encouragement of the St Helens Groundwork Trust.  The principal aim of the Society is to achieve full restoration of the canal.  To this end, the Society actively publicises and promotes the cause of the canal, particularly in the three boroughs through which it runs – Halton (Widnes), Warrington, and St Helens.

Since SCARS was formed, St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council has been moved to gain extensive funds for work on the canal within its boundaries.  The most spectacular work involved the restoration of the New Double Locks.  Being connected to the network of restoration societies paid off here, in that the Callis Mill works of the Rochdale Canal Society supplied the gates at a fraction of the quoted commercial price.  If we hadn’t been able to tell the local Council about Callis Mill, the Locks would probably have been restored with solid barriers rather than gates.

The Society supplements and supports the work the three boroughs carry out themselves, particularly through their respective leisure services, covering the canal's length.  In turn, the boroughs have positive policies towards the canal and its restoration.

The Society produced its own 'Statement of Intent' in the form of a booklet entitled 'Sailing the Sankey' (now sold out) - in which the obstructions to navigation were listed.  A feasibility study was completed in the mid-1990's and various studies into linking the canal to other waterway systems have been undertaken.

We continue to protect and restore, where possible, the waterway’s remaining infrastructure.

SCARS carries out a Restoration Programme throughout the year, holding regular monthly work parties.  These are generally mid-month on a Sunday across the length of the canal, and at the end of the month, on a Wednesday or Thursday, at Spike Island.  Sometimes these are in conjunction with the Waterways Recovery Group, which is the practical restoration work arm of the national canals' organisation, the Inland Waterways Association.


The IWA supports the Society's aims, and is represented on its Executive Committee.  From September to April the Society joins with the Chester & Merseyside Branch of the Inland Waterways Association for a series of talks, usually from a guest speaker and illustrated with slides, which are open to members and guests alike.  Subjects covered include many waterway related subjects including other restoration projects in the country, local history in our area, and general transport and industrial history related topics.

A team of Members also staffs the Society's publicity stall at various shows and rallies in the region throughout the Spring and Summer.

During the warmer months, guided walks are also sometimes organised along the canal, and Members undertake visits to other restoration projects.

We are currently concentrating on the Linking the Locks  project which seeks to open up navigation again to the lower sections of the canal between Fiddler’s Ferry and its river entrance at Spike Island, Widnes.


Canal Cuttings.  This journal is published every four months and sent free to Members.  Regular features include: details of forthcoming Society activities, contacts for the various work-parties and volunteering in general, venues for the meetings, articles on a wide variety of waterway topics.  The Editor is David Long.


Last Edited: 12 Jun 17

bottom of page