Gloucester Waterways Museum

Exploring the unique canal heritage and learning about boats

We were in Gloucester with a Saturday afternoon to ourselves and we explored the National Waterways Museum.

The whole experience caught me by surprise since I didn’t expect so much of unknown history and insight into a unique way of life to be packed into this short visit. It was equally entertaining for my 3-year-old toddler who enjoyed himself as he took in the sights and engaged in the activities.

His attention was immediately grabbed by a staff member who engaged with him at the entrance and handed a sheet printed with animals and a pencil. The task he was assigned made him feel important and special for having being given a mission to accomplish. Throughout the tour he kept an eye out for the animals on his sheet and curiously explored the exhibits. He found the play area with  containers he could load in and out of wheelbarrows mimicking the workmen who load boats with cargo rather amusing and he spent quite a bit of time there at the end. Although we didn’t have time for it, the website mentions that the museum also offers special events and cruises

My son is obsessed with planes, cars and trains, perhaps it is because that’s what he sees the most. So actual boats on display,  and audio visuals at this museum gave me an opportunity to speak him about the great canal system and the boats that played an important role in the transport system. If your children are older they would be able to understand the challenges of  families’ living in narrow boats and contrasting life in a house on land.


A peek into this brightly coloured boat pictured above also shows the living conditions of the boat people. A recording of their singing in the background sets the tone to “life on a boat”. In addition to expressing emotions through singing, the boat people’s artistic sensibilities are evident in their brightly colored tools and equipment.

The boat below has quotes from parents about their thoughts and emotions on being on a boat, and were poignant reminders that although there are generations between them and myself, the emotions parents go through are common strands that bind all parents regardless of time.

The milk churn is a symbol of the close association between Cadbury’s chocolate and boats.


The above picture of milk churns lined up in a boat can also be the basis to discuss how different food are made and the processes behind what we eat. The effort and resources that go into eating a small bar of chocolate is unimaginable to a toddler, but images such as this provide a great entry to explain the process.

On display is a diver’s kit. It doesn’t take much to realize that this outfit is clunky and a thing of the past. It is a good reminder for children that products evolve over time to become more comfortable for the user, sleeker in design and packing in features previously unthinkable.

1 Comment

  1. Stuart McWalter (Duty Manager)

    Thank you so much for taking the time to publish this review. We are proud of our museum and the stories it tells. We are pleased you and your family enjoyed your visit and we look forward to seeing you again in the future.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This