Temporary Exhibitions

Changing Displays

What's On

We offer a changing programme of temporary exhibitions. There are usually two or three exhibitions per year on varied subjects relating to canals and the ice trade. In addition we occasionally host art installations or other short-term displays.


Brindley 300

The life and achievements of James Brindley

28th March 2017 until 24th September 2017

Image of Brindley's head and shoulders, with text alongside

300 years after the birth of our most famous canal pioneer, the National Waterways Museum produced this major exhibition on the lift of James Brindley, who, together with the Duke of Bridgwater, and his land agent John Gilbert, was responsible for the UK's first modern commercial canal, the Bridgewater Canal, running from Worsley to Manchester, and later extended further west. Brindley was a man of limited education and unlimited ingenuity. He trained as a millwright, and became adept at all things connected with water.

The exhibition was created by the NWM to mark the tercentenary of his birth, in 2016, and now comes to London for the first time to reach a new audience. The exhibition will run until 24th September 2017.

James Brindley is one of our most famous canal engineers. Originally a millwright, he had skills in the management of water engineering that led to his appointment as the engineer of a great enterprise by the Duke of Bridgewater. The Duke led a team of himself, Brindley, and his land agent John Gilbert, who together built the Bridgewater Canal and the ingenious system of underground canals at Worsley, west of Manchester, where the Duke had coal mines. The canal opened in 1761 and was the first modern canal in the UK, operating independently of natural rivers, and entirely man-made. It provided a far more efficient and economical way of getting coal to Manchester and reduced the price of that essential fuel dramatically in the city. Brindley went on to engineer extensions to the Bridgewater, and the Trent and Mersey Canal, and a number of other significant waterways. This pioneering work made the industrial revolution possible - without transport industry was severely restricted.