Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
West of Beckett's Wood, Sutton


Ordnance survey map of Daresbury
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
West of Beckett's Wood, Sutton
Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The remains of a Mersey Flat sailing barge known as DARESBURY situated within the west end of Sutton stop lock on the Weaver Navigation, near the village of Sutton Weaver.

Reasons for Designation

The remains of Daresbury, an C18 Mersey Flat, are scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: Daresbury represents the only known pre-1840 survival of a once widespread regional sailing vessel; * Survival: despite deterioration as a result of neglect and weathering, the wreck of the Mersey Flat Daresbury survives reasonably well and retains a number of her key characteristics; * Potential: the survival of a number of characteristic features means that Daresbury has considerable potential for providing an insight into late 18th century boat construction techniques; * Documentation: the importance of the vessel is considerably enhanced by abundant contemporary documentation; * Historic: the Mersey Flat was a key link in the distribution process of commercial expansion of the North Atlantic trade.


The flat (Mersey flat and Weaver flat) was the inland and coastal barge of the North West. It was built and operated from the Dee Estuary to as far north as Whitehaven and was a key link in the distribution process of commercial expansion of the North Atlantic trade. The biggest concentration was on the Mersey and its linking navigable waterways, including the River Weaver opened in 1732. They were built in large numbers from the early 18th century and were used to transport goods from Manchester, the Cheshire Salt towns and local coal fields. Large numbers survived into the 20th century but they were abandoned as inland waterway traffic dwindled.

The essentials of the flat, whether at sea or inland, were an apple cheeked bow, pointed or transom stern, very little sheer, especially in the case of canal boats, and a flat bottom. It was typically about 60ft to 65ft long and 15ft beam. Flats were very strongly built, of carvel construction with a huge keelson to compensate for the wide hold openings. Some, like the Daresbury, remained afloat for over a century. Some had a single mast, with a fore and aft rig, while some had an additional mizzen mast. Steering was by a huge rudder with a long curved tiller controlled with the help of a tackle. Steam towage was regularly used on the Mersey from the 1830s and many of the inland flats lost their sails as a result. Most of the Mersey flats had been converted to dumb barges by the end of the 19th century, which were towed by horses or by steam tugs.

Detailed records survive in the archives of the River Weaver Navigation, and these were studied in the 1950s in relation to the Daresbury by John H Scholes, the Curator of Historic Relics for the British Transport Commission. His findings are summarised in a letter of 20th October 1958. Mr Scholes was also able to study the vessel while she was still afloat and his findings are also summarised in the above letter and these form the basis of the following account, up until 1958. The records document the construction of the Daresbury in the latter part of 1772 by a Samuel Edwards, boat builder. In 1792 and 1796 she is recorded as being owned by the Weaver Navigation Trust employed in carrying coals. On 7th April 1802 an account of £4.4s was settled for dry-docking the Daresbury while at much the same time a William Holland was employed to lengthen an un-named flat by 8 feet. Studies of Daresbury by John Scholes established that the surviving vessel was about 8 feet longer than the original build and it seems safe to conclude that the Daresbury was lengthened in the early 1800s. The documents contain no evidence to support a claim by a worker on the Weaver Navigation that Daresbury was built at Leftwich in 1864 and it seems likely that this was the date at which the vessel was converted to a floating derrick, which is how she spent the latter part of her working life.

There are records of further repairs in 1926 and 1934, while a photograph shows her still afloat at Northwich in 1956, at the time of John Scholes’ study. In 1985 Daresbury joined the graveyard of other waterways craft at Sutton Locks on the River Weaver, it being sunk in the smaller of the two disused locks. Notwithstanding this, plans were underway to recover and restore it. The Daresbury Plate, designed and manufactured by Wedgewood and still on sale at the Waterways Museum, was produced as part the campaign to raise the necessary funds. In 1986 divers from HMS Eagle inspected the hull and found it in relatively good condition and the keel sound. The intention was that the vessel would be raised as a training exercise for the Royal Engineers and conveyed on a low loader to the museum at Ellesmere Port. A re-evaluation of the issues involved led to this plan being abandoned.


Daresbury is grounded and largely submerged within standing water of unknown depth, with the upper parts of her hull surviving above the present water line (October 2013). The vessel is of carvel-built timber construction and measures 17.5m long by 4.88m wide. She lies towards the west end of the small lock, closer to its south side than the north. The stern is at the west end and, hence, the vessel appears to have been ‘parked’ facing upstream. The vessel has a flat, or transom, stern and although the upper part survives in a fragmentary fashion, a substantial upright timber might be part of the rudder arrangement. Some of the planks forming the deck of the stern section are visible within the hull. Although the exact position of the stern cannot be established, the slightly inward curving sections of the hull exhibited several square sectioned baulks of timber projecting above the line of the gunwales. These are considered to be the remains of a low, ‘safety’, rail commonly provided around the stern of flats, vessels being steered from this part of the deck. Similar ‘safety’ rails can be seen on the C19 flats at the Ellesmere Port Museum.

A prominent feature about 4.5m from the stern is an upright baulk retaining traces of a cleat for attaching a rope on the side facing the stern. This features in the earlier photographs of Daresbury afloat at Northwich; lying alongside it appears to be the recumbent boom of the derrick and it is considered that the surviving upright baulk is related to the use of the derrick. Forward from the stern deck section is the hold, now full of water. This is about 9m long, and the horizontal ceiling planks that lined the inside of the hold are visible. This planking is fixed to the inside face of the ribs that formed the main structural elements of the hull, the carvel strakes being fitted to the outer face of the ribs and visible on the port side. In three places on the starboard side these ribs project above the line of the gunwales and in each case they exhibit a horizontal, metal peg fitted through them, forming a mooring cleat or bollard.

The bow section, beyond the hold, was also planked over to provide a working deck; a single plank remains visible, but iron knees, for supporting the deck, are visible on both the port and starboard quarters. About 9m beyond the conjectured position of the bow several large metal items and a baulk of timber are visible within the lock. Partly submerged, their identification is uncertain but one at least appears to be a cogged wheel. Photographs of the Daresbury afloat, show a substantial winch mechanism mounted on the foredeck as part of the arrangements for raising and deploying the derrick.

Extent of Scheduling: the scheduling comprises a rectangular area a maximum of 37m by 7m, and includes the full extent of Sutton Lock in order to ensure that any hull fragments and associated fixtures which may have become detached from the vessel are included; the area has been drawn within the lock walls on the north and south sides.


Books and journals
MacGregor, D R, Merchant Sailing Ships 1850-1875, (1984), 234
Mannering, J , The Chatham Directory of In-shore Craft: Traditional Working Boats of the British Isles, (1997), 210
Stammers, M, Mud Flats Archaeology in Intertidal and Inland Waters Around the Mersey Estuary, (1999), 6
Stammers, M K, 'The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in The Archaeology of the Mersey Estuary: Past Work and Future Potential, (1994), 27-33
Hulk Assemblages: Assessing the national context, accessed from http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/hulk_2012/index.cfm
The Daresbury on the Weaver Navigation, accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/the-daresbury-on-the-weaver-navigation-103402
Wrecks on the River Weaver!, accessed from http://www.canaljunction.com/news/info12.htm
D4048: Letter from Mr John H Scholes Esq. (Curator of Historical Relics at The British Transport Commission) detailing his observations on the origins and alterations to Daresbury. National Waterways Museum Archive, Ellesmere Port.,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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