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.

Waterways on the Western Front

Untold Stories of World war 1

Exhibition at London Canal Museum from Saturday 11th October until Sunday 12th April 2015

Waterways were a vital lifeline on the Western Front during the First World War, saving millions from starvation and carrying tens of thousands of wounded to safety. But as ready-made lines of defence, many men also lost their lives trying to cross them.

This untold story of human endeavour on a vast scale about the waterways of France and Belgium will unfold in a fascinating new exhibition opening at the London Canal Museum near King's Cross on 10 October.

Using unseen archive film and photos, first hand testimonies and rare objects, the exhibition charts the critical role played by canals in contributing to the war effort. The scale is hard to grasp. Many hundreds of barges took five million tons of food to prevent starvation in Belgium and transported thousands of tons of munitions each day to Ypres.

Nurses sit on top of a barge in line, fishing rods dangle into canal

Nurses taking part in a fishing contest off the side of a hospital barge. Watten, June 1918. Copyright: Imperial War Museum

Watch members of the research team talking about the exhibition

Group of horses being led onto a canal barge over a gangway.

Wounded horses being led onto barges for transport to a veterinary hospital. Canal de l'Aa, Saint-Omer, June 1918. Copyright: Imperial War Museum

Admission is £4 for adults, £3 concessions and £2 for children. (More information on admission here) Open Tuesdays to Sundays 10am to 4.30pm. Admission to this exhibition only is free on the first Thursday of every month between 4.30pm and 7pm. For more information call 020 7713 0836 or email: ww1ex@canalmuseum.org.uk

A group of soliers work a pump, pipes seen in the foreground

Soldiers fill cans with drinking water pumped up from a barge which was part of a canal water purification unit. With permission of the Royal Engineers Museum

The exhibition reveals the unexpected - how troops were billeted in empty lock chambers, how barges were used as hospitals for horses, and how canal water was served up to troops to drink on the front line.

It tells personal stories, including that of Henrick Geeraert, a Belgian tug boat owner whose actions stopped the Germans taking the channel ports and Millicent Peterkin, one of the nursing sisters who worked tirelessly on a hospital barge carrying the wounded to safety.

It highlights the importance of the Royal Engineers who kept the waterways open, blew up bridges behind British retreats and built the bridges that took tanks into the final offensive. In just a few months the Engineers also built the secret port of Richborough on the Kent coast along with a new fleet of barges which supplied the front for the second half of the war.

A group of refugees walking on canal towpath carrying posessions and a bicycle, they are dressed in heavy clothing

A group of elderly refugees from Merville, including a priest with a bicycle and elderly women wearing hats, flee the German offensive using the towpath on the Lys canal. Battle of the Lys. Spring 1918. Copyright: Imperial War Museum