Gloucester and Sharpness Canal


Gloucester and Sharpness Canal

The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal or Gloucester and Berkeley Canal is a canal in the west of England, between Gloucester and Sharpness; for much of its length it runs close to the tidal River Severn, but cuts off a significant loop in the river, at a once-dangerous bend near Arlingham. It was once the broadest and deepest canal in the world.

18th century Conception

Conceived in the canal mania period of the late 18th century, the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal scheme (as it was originally named) was started by architect and civil engineer Robert Mylne. In 1793 an Act of Parliament was obtained authorising the raising of a total of £200,000.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=342|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] The project rapidly encountered financial difficulties - to such an extent that Mylne left the project in 1798. By half way through 1799 costs had reached £112,000 but only 5½ miles of the canal had been completed. cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=344|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] Robert Mylne's role was taken over by James Dadford who had originally been engaged as resident engineer on the project in 1795.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=343|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] Lack of funds resulted in the company ceasing to employ Dadford in 1800.

Decade of Capital Raising

Between 1800 and 1810 various attempts were made to raise money to allow further building but they came to nothing. Moneys from tolls and rents allowed for some improvements to be made to the basin at Gloucester in 1813.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=345|isbn=0-7153-4693-8]

Eventual Completion

From 1817 onwards the Poor Employment Act meant it was possible for the company to loan money from the Exchequer Bill Loan Commission. This along with further share issues provided enough money to bring the scheme to completion.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=346|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] After these significant delays, the canal opened in April 1827. In the course of its construction the canal had cost £440,000. As opened the canal was 86½ feet wide convert|18|ft|m deep and could take craft of up to 600 tons. The longer of the two locks onto the canal proper was convert|115|ft|m long. cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=348|isbn=0-7153-4693-8]

Eventual Dividends

By the middle of the 19th century it proved possible to pay a small dividend; the debt to the Exchequer Bill Loan Commission having being repaid with the help of a loan of £60,000 from the Pelican Life Assurance Company.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=348|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] In 1871 the last of the debts incurred in the course of funding the canal including the Pelican Life Assurance Company loan were paid off.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=351|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] When the Severn Railway Bridge (complete 1879) passed over the canal a swing section was constructed to avoid restricting headroom.

The Early 20th century

In 1905 traffic exceeded 1 million tons for the first time.cite book|author=Charles Hadfield|title=The Canals of South and South East England| year = 1969|pages=352|isbn=0-7153-4693-8] To the various other cargos carried by the canal was added oil with bulk oil carriers taking their cargo to storage tank sited to the south of Gloucester. The canal was nationalized in 1948. [cite web |url=http://www.virtualwaterways.co.uk/exhibition.php?eid=12
title=Waterways Virtual Archive Catalogue |accessdate=2007-08-28 |format= |work=
] At the same time the Sharpness Dock Police which had policed the dock since 1874 were absorbed into the British transport police. [cite web |url=http://www.btp.police.uk/History%20Society/Publications/History%20Society/Constituent%20Force/Canal%20Forces/Sharpness%20Dock%20Police%20%20(1874%201948).htm |title= Sharpness Dock Police (1874 - 1948) |accessdate=2007-08-28 |format= |work= ] In 1955 The board of survey of canals and inland waterways released a report that among other things described the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal as carrying substantial traffic and offering scope for commercial development [cite news|title= Uneconomic Canals Use Of 771 Miles "Not Justified" |work=The Times |date=Apr 21, 1955 |page=7]

Recent History

Today the canal can be used by boats up to 64m in length 9.6m in beam and 32m in height. The maximum draft is 3.5m. [cite web |url=http://www.iwashop.com/ecommerce/products.asp?cat=180 |title=IWA : Gloucester and Sharpness Canal |accessdate=2008-02-19 |format= |work=IWA website ] By the mid 1980s commercial traffic had largely come to a halt with canal largely being given over to pleasure cruisers with the exception of a few passages by grain barges.cite book |title=Severn Traders |last=Green |first=Colin |year=1999 |publisher=Black Dwarf Publications |isbn=0953302822|pages = pp.27] The oil trade ceased in 1985 with the closure of the petroleum deport at Quedgeley.cite book |title=The Illustrated History of Canal & River Navigations 3rd edition |last=Paget-Tomlinson |first=Edward |year= 2006|publisher=Landmark Publishing Ltd |isbn=1843062070 |pages=pp124-125 ] In order to allow the A40 south-west bypass to be built the canal had to be diverted. The new section of channel was opened on 6 May 2006. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/4980788.stm |title=Canal's new channel section opens |accessdate=2007-08-25 |format= |work= ]

The canal links directly to the Stroudwater Navigation at Saul junction.

References

External links

* [http://www.gloucesterdocks.me.uk/ Gloucester Docks and the Sharpness Canal Past, Present and Future]


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