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Sowerby Bridge Wharf Becomes West Yorkshire Tourist Destination

The once-derelict Sowerby Bridge Canal Wharf is now a thriving tourist destination, thanks to a multi-million pound investment.

Take a walk through Sowerby Bridge Wharf and you’ll find a chain of picturesque canals, trendy cafés and restaurants, and colourful narrowboats chartering the waterways. It’s a thriving tourist and community hub popular with visitors and local residents alike. But several decades ago, the wharf and its centuries-old canal buildings told a different story.

In 1997, Sowerby Bridge residents approached The Prince's Foundation with a clear vision: to restore the town’s derelict wharf, which had been closed since the 1950s. The wharf, which sits at the head of the Calder and Hebble Navigation and adjoining Rochdale Canals, was once a major canal trans-shipment point in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the closure of the Rochdale Canal in 1952 and subsequent declining trade meant the buildings fell into disuse.

Important headway was made in 1996, when the Rochdale Canal was re-opened thanks to a series of environmental improvements, and the first boat arrived in Sowerby Bridge from Manchester. In the same year, the Sowerby Bridge Wharf Partnership was formed, bringing together local businesses, English Heritage, The Civic Trust and Yorkshire Forward, and the process of transforming the wharf began.

With a £3.8m secured investment, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Yorkshire Forward, the buildings were turned into a mixed-use space with offices, workshops, a canal boat wet dock and restaurants. The project took seven years to complete and the development work led to massive private sector investment in the surrounding vacant heritage buildings. The wharf now provides 270 jobs and is a popular tourist destination.

Today, Sowerby Bridge Wharf continues to grow and evolve, and is considered a precious asset by the community. Without the spirit and determination of local people, this unique and impressive project might have never got off the ground.

When The Prince's Foundation was involved in this project, it was known as The Prince's Regeneration Trust

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