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Our work: renewing lock gates on the River Wey

New upper lock gates in front of the drained lock and dam at St Catherine’s on the River Wey, Surrey
New lock gates in place at St Catherine’s on the River Wey, Surrey | © National Trust/Will Lloyd-Williams

When the lock gates were built along the River Wey over 300 years ago, there was no standard plan or template. Find out how we’re working today to create custom built gates to fit the section of waterway where they are needed. Discover more about our sustainable working methods to keep the waterways open and the lock gates in good condition.

Renewing the lock gates on the River Wey

Constant use

As a busy trade route to London, the locks were in constant use from the horse-drawn wooden barges. Over time the lock gates became worn and damaged and would need to be replaced. This work would be carried out by craftsmen using local oak.

Gradual deterioration

Today the traffic along the Wey is very different but the locks are still busy. The wooden lock gates gradually deteriorate from exposure to the elements and from boat damage.

An important task

The gates help to maintain the correct water levels in each section, or length, of the waterway. If the levels are incorrect then the locks become difficult to use and could put users at risk. This is why we routinely check the gates as part of our day-to-day work.

Old upper lock gates in place in front of the dam at St Catherine's, River Wey, Surrey
Draining the lock to remove the old upper lock gates at River Wey, Surrey | © National Trust/Will Lloyd-Williams

Annual maintenance

Replacing old and damaged locks on the River Wey and Godalming Navigations is part of our annual maintenance programme. We always complete the work in the winter to cause minimum disruption to all waterway users.

Using traditional methods

We use many traditional methods, tools and sustainable oak for the replacement gates. The cast iron fittings are taken off the old gates and repurposed for use on the new ones.

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

Empty lock with ladders and pumps at St Catherine’s on the River Wey, Surrey
Empty lock at St Catherine’s on the River Wey, Surrey | © National Trust/Will Lloyd-Williams

Cold conditions

When the lock is emptied we’re able to carry out any other works that become apparent. The team work in cold and wet conditions but gain a great sense of achievement from seeing their work appreciated by users of the waterway.

‘It’s been fantastic to see the skill and care taken by the maintenance team to not only ensure that the locks are both safe and operational but to also preserve the heritage of the gates by using techniques that have been handed down through the centuries.

– Tristan Brown, General Manager

Look out for us

We will continue to replace the gates on a rolling basis to keep the waterways safe and fully operational. Look out for us if you’re visiting as we’d be happy to talk about the work taking place.

A length of canal with Pyrford Lock on the foreground and blue skies above


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