Renewing the lock gates on the River Wey

Morning view of lock gates surrounded by trees along the River Wey

When the lock gates were built along the River Wey over 300 years ago, there was no standard template. Each gate was custom made using local oak to fit the waterway.

As a busy trade route to London, the locks were in constant use from the horse-drawn wooden barges, and inevitably the lock gates became worn and damaged and would need to be replaced.

This would be undertaken by craftsmen using local oak, and a team of maintenance workers, often from the same family, would re-instate them.

Although today the traffic along the Wey today is very different, the locks are still very busy and the wooden lock gates suffer from exposure to the elements and boat damage. 

Old lock gates ready to be removed from the dewatered lock
Old lock gates removed and lying in the bottom fo the drained lock, ready to be lifted out
Old lock gates ready to be removed from the dewatered lock

Replacing old and damaged locks on the River Wey and Godalming Navigations is part of the annual maintenance programme. This has to be undertaken in the winter so as to cause minimum disruption during the least busy period on the waterway.

Using many of the traditional methods and tools employed by their forefathers, the gates are crafted from sustainable oak. The cast iron fittings are taken off the old gates and reused on the new ones.

The maintenance team then spend up to two weeks installing them, in much the same way as has been done for over three hundred years.

Dewatering the lock
Emtying the lock of water so the lock gates can be replaced
Dewatering the lock

While the lock is dewatered they carry out any works that become apparent while the lock is empty. Stoppage works are always demanding in cold and wet conditions but the team say they get a great sense of achievement from seeing work they have carried out being used and enjoyed for many years.

" It’s wonderful to see traditional methods still being used – with the mixture of heavy lifting and artisan crafting reflecting practices handed down through the centuries."
- Robert Miles