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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Purton Barge Graveyard

The narrow bank between the canal and the River Severn to the north of the Severn Railway Bridge has long been used as a graveyard for old barges, with the aim of protecting the bank from erosion by the strong currents in the river. This page has been prepared with assistance from Paul Barnett, who leads
guided walks explaining the history of the hulks.

Dumping Barges
     The first barges were dumped on the bank in 1909 when it was realised that a new channel was developing near to the shore, and further craft were added at intervals up to the early 1970s. Each vessel was taken out of Sharpness Dock on a high spring tide, towed by a tug towards the shore and released so that it charged up the bank as far as possible. Then holes were knocked in the hull to allow subsequent tides to deposit silt inside.

     The photograph (right) taken in 1967 shows the motorised trow Edith in the foreground with the topsail schooner New Dispatch behind. (Photo: Norman Andrews)

Rise in Bank Level
     As a result of the barges being dumped, the ground level has built up over the years, and some of the later arrivals are lying on the top of earlier ones. Careful research by Paul Barnett has identified the remains of over 30 wooden vessels protruding above the present surface, but many are rather obscured by long grass which is no longer grazed and others have been damaged by people recovering metal fastenings or by vandals.

     The photograph (right) taken in 1977 shows the barge Rockby in the foreground with the barge Severn Collier behind.

Concrete and Steel Barges
       As well as the wooden barges, 6 concrete barges are on the bank nearby, and 18 steel barges and lighters may be seen protecting the sea wall between the Severn Railway Bridge and the Old Entrance at Sharpness. There formerly was one more concrete barge on the bank, but that was rescued by staff and Friends of the National Waterways Museum in 1990, and it may now be seen in the lie-bye on the opposite side of the canal to the graveyard.

     The photograph (right) taken in 1977 shows a concrete barge lying across the remains of the trow Monarch.

     For more details, see the Friends of Purton website.

Return to Top Menu   Copyright Hugh Conway-Jones 2006