Foxton canal museum closed until spring for a major refurbishment

Steve Bowyer chairman of Foxton Incline Plane Trust and Ann Bushby Festival organiser
Steve Bowyer chairman of Foxton Incline Plane Trust and Ann Bushby Festival organiser

Work has just started on a “radical re-development” of Harborough district’s major tourist attraction, Foxton Locks.

The scheme, costing nearly £200,000, will see the Foxton Canal Museum transformed and the whole Locks site become “app-friendly”, so you can be guided round by your mobile phone.

Interactive interpretation panels will be installed at key sites around Foxton Locks, and a virtual boatman will be your guide.

Foxton Canal Museum’s keeper Michael Beech said: “We are confident that the experience for visitors will be as good as you can get anywhere in the world.

“For me, it’s very exciting, and a little bit terrifying!”

The museum closed last week as volunteers temporarily packed away every item of canal paraphernalia, ready for the modern reinvention.

When it re-opens – hopefully in the week before Easter – it will be the hub of a major new waterways attraction which should pull in an average 700 visitors a week, even on conservative estimates.

One new star of the museum – which is being re-named The Boiler House – will be a digital film of how Foxton’s unique inclined plane worked.

The inclined plane, which operated between 1900-1911, was a boat “lift” that hauled canal boats up the hill at Foxton, allowing them to skip the locks and save journey time.

There will be other inter-active attractions in both the museum and around the picturesque locks site.

And of course many of the existing items will be re-
installed in the museum.

The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust, which runs the museum, is working on the scheme with audio-visual consultants HoloVis International Ltd, a world leader in “sensory experiences” and based in nearby Lutterworth.

Mr Beech added: “We’re seeing a 3D presentation by them in early January, when we should learn more.

“But those who constructed the museum building and the lift, and those who used it over 100 years ago, could never in their wildest dreams have imagined what this site will have to offer when the refurbishment is complete.”

It was a £163,000 grant from Arts Council England, confirmed in March, that has provided the bulk of the money for the project.

The reinterpretation scheme, entitled Revealing the Treasures of Foxton Locks, will have a total cost of about £193,000.

Regular updates on the progress of the refurbishment will be posted on the trust’s website at www.flpt.org.uk and on its Facebook page.