Burscough Wharf was a purpose built canal horse site. It’s easy to forget that for many years the boats on the Leeds and Liverpool canal had no engines, but instead were pulled by horses along the aptly named ‘towpath’. In recent years this formerly derelict site has been transformed and most of the original buildings have been converted and retained.
The original site was built around 1890 by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal company. It consisted of two stable blocks, a large warehouse, a provender house, an office, harness room, workshop and two houses. The whole complex was built around a central yard. The site was used to maintain the canal boat horses in good condition- there was accommodation, veterinary services, food storage and tackle production all in one place.
The site had become derelict in recent years and when the decision was made to renovate it not all the buildings were saved. A large building next to the A59 Liverpool Road was in poor repair. It consisted of a stable block, workshop and canal-side cottage. The decision was taken to demolish it and replace it with a modern building, but built in keeping with the older surrounding ones.
The buildings that were saved include the canal side warehouse and provender house, a barn, the smaller of the two stable blocks, the harness room and one of the houses. The large warehouse and provender house (that face onto the canal) are now home to a bar and a separate restaurant. The harness room and stables have had shops and a café installed. The large modern building is home to an arts centre which features music, cinema and comedy evenings.
The site used to contain the ‘Gallery at the Wharf’ which was the home of the Art and Craft Guild of Lancashire. This has now moved to Churchtown, Southport and is called ‘Lancashire Makers’. It’s only about 20 minutes by car, if you want to visit their shop. Have a look at their website and you can marvel at the skills of the guild members and buy their goods – click here.
The canal towpath has recently become a cycle route that links Southport Pier to Wigan Pier. Leaflets about the route are available on site, as are bikes for hire. There are canal cruises from the wharf, some of which feature food from the restaurant.
Visiting this site reminds us that for a historical building to survive, it must have a purpose and be used. In this case Burscough Wharf is functioning both as a hub for the local community and as a place for people from outside the area to visit. Each year the town hosts a Heritage Week in late June, centred around the canal.
It’s been a large investment, but hopefully one that will enhance the town. While you are there, look out for the stone and wood artworks along the main A59 that depict the history of Burscough Bridge and its people. There are granite carvings, etched photographs of bygone residents, and images and rhymes recalling Burscough’s pace egging past.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2014
Opening Times: Open every day. For details about all the services and things to do at Burscough Wharf, have a look at their website: www.burscough-wharf.co.uk
Lancashire Makers (The Art and Craft Guild of Lancashire) now relocated to Churchtown Southport www.lancashiremakers.co.uk
Parking: Parking is free in the nearby car park
http://www.burscough-wharf.co.uk – (history page, accessed 28/9/14)
http://waterwaynews.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/more-heritage-to-go.html (accessed 28/9/14). This site contains photographs of the demolished large building and a plan of the former buildings and their functions.