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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


News Archive 2004

Sharpness Arrival on Christmas Day

For only the third time in twenty years a ship entered Sharpness on Christmas Day. MV Independent, carrying a cargo of cement from Dordrecht, was allowed in even though the port was officially closed.

Viking Longship Comes to Gloucester
The replica Viking longship Hugin was delivered to Tommi Nielsen's yard on 9 December for an overhaul. (Photo) Built in Denmark, in 1949 she was rowed and sailed across the North Sea to Broadstairs on Thanet to commemorate the landing of Hengest and Horsa 1,500 years earlier. After touring local ports, she was set up on the cliff-top at Cliffsend as a memorial to that famous landing. 

New Cement Silo at Sharpness
The third ring of a new silo for Dragon Alfa cement was lowered into place at Sharpness on 7 December. The completed silo will be the same as the one next to it, built two years ago, and will serve a recently-built bagging plant. (Photo: Mike Nash)

Demolition of Sack Works
Demolition contractors L A Moore Ltd started taking down the former Gloucester Sack Works building on 6 December. The site to the east of the Barge Arm is being cleared in preparation for building a multi-storey car park. (Photo)

Tramroad Stones Uncovered
Contractors Cowlin Construction started preparing the site for the apartments to be built to the north of the Barge Arm at Gloucester on 1 December, and they soon uncovered some stone sleeper blocks laid in the 1820s for a horse operated tramroad between Gloucester and Cheltenham. For more background and photos, see Tramroad page.

Two Rescued From Canal
Early in December, emergency services were called to two separate incidents involving a person jumping into the canal - one at Sellars Bridge and the other at Rea Bridge. In both cases the individuals were rescued.

Warehouse Demolition Appeal Withdrawn
At the end of November, Sharpness Dock Ltd withdrew its appeal against Stroud District Council's refusal to grant Listed Building Consent for the demolition of the North Warehouse at Sharpness.  

Clearing Silt From Sharpness Tidal Basin
During the last week in November, the tug Tioga B from Harwich used a plough suspended behind her stern to help clear mud from the tidal basin and entrance at Sharpness. The plough loosened compacted mud and moved it to where it could be flushed away by opening sluices or by the action of the tide. (Photo Mike Nash)

Hotel Boats Change Hands
The hotel boats Oliver Cromwell and Edward Elgar, based at Bakers Quay, Gloucester, have been bought by Richard Clements and his family. The new owners do not claim to be boat people, but they have a background in providing hospitality and that is what they intend to concentrate on. (Citizen 25 Nov 04)

Gloucester Quays Scheme Approved
Outline plans for the redevelopment of canalside land to the south of the main docks area were approved by Gloucester City Council on 23 November, subject to certain conditions. This 200 million project by Peel Developments and British Waterways will include completion of the Inner Relief Road across the canal and construction of a 90-bed hotel, a food superstore, a designer factory outlet shopping centre, office and business units and 1000 homes. For more details, see Gloucester Quays page.

Sharpness Rail Plan Discussed
A plan to restore the rail link between Sharpness Docks and the main line at Berkeley Road is being backed by Gloucestershire County Council. The matter was discussed at a conference featuring the Atlantic Arc initiative, a project which aims to promote trading links between Scotland, Wales and the West Country with France, Spain and Portugal. (Citizen 12 Nov 2004)

Sharpness Investment Discussed in Commons
Stroud MP David Drew expressed concern in the House of Commons about the poor state of repair of parts of the docks at Sharpness and called for a new financial package to safeguard their long-term future. Transport Minister Charlotte Atkins replied that British Waterways is committed to keeping the port open and, with the on-going investment programme, it hopes to encourage a continuing increase in freight traffic. (Citizen 6 Nov 2004)

Narrow Boat Craned In at Monk Meadow
The iron narrow boat butty Lyra was launched by crane into Monk Meadow Dock on 5 November, having come from Tardebigge on a low-loader. She was built at Northwich in 1935 for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co and still has a traditional back cabin. Lyra is now moored at Saul Junction and will become a floating workshop where Ben Selfe will demonstrate fender making and other ropework. (Photo)

Heavy Lifts for Cadiz
Two heavy pieces of equipment made at Wickwar were loaded on to BBC Bornholm at Sharpness on 2 November, one being a gas flow meter and the other an oil flow meter. The ship sailed to load further cargo at Swansea and Hartlepool before going on to the discharge port of Cadiz. (Photo: Mike Nash)

New Minister for the Mariner's Church
Michael Swain was formally installed by the Bishop of Gloucester as the new part-time minister of the Mariners' Church, Gloucester, during a service at the church on 1 November. Mr Swain has recently been assisting the vicar at St Saviour's church, Coalpit Heath.

Appeal Over Warehouse Demolition
Sharpness Dock Ltd has appealed against Stroud District Council's refusal to grant Listed Building Consent for the demolition of the North Warehouse at Sharpness. The appeal will be considered by an Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate, Temple Quay, Bristol, who will take account of views expressed within six weeks from 28 October.

TV Star Urges More Funding for Waterways Museums
David Suchet visited the National Waterways Museum on 26 October to help publicise a campaign to obtain Government funding for the three museums run by the Waterways Trust. The Trust is seeking financial support similar to that given to other national museums in order to pay for conservation work and to allow free admission.

Residents Move Into Warehouse
The refurbishment of Vinings Warehouse has been finished, and purchase agreements have been completed on most of the apartments, many of which are being offered for rent. Work on neighbouring Reynolds Warehouse is due for completion early in 2005.

Surprise for Willow Trust Guests
A group from the Newent Association for the Disabled taking a cruise on the Willow Trust's boat Leonard Matchan were surprised to be joined by three stars from Gloucester Rugby Football Club. The Trust is one of three charities being supported this year by the rugby club. (Citizen 20 Oct 2004)

New Vindicatrix Association Branch
A new branch of the Association for former merchant navy men who trained on the Vindicatrix at Sharpness is being set up in the Gloucester area. For more information, contact Keith Osbourn on 01452 380850.

One-legged Canoeist Arrives at Frampton
A canoeist with an artificial leg arrived at Frampton after paddling for 75 miles from Bridgenorth, Shropshire. Christopher Jones, who lost his leg while serving with the Royal Corps of Signals in 1966, said he wanted to promote canoeing to as many disabled people as possible. (Citizen 15 Oct 2004)

Lock Gates Repaired
The inner lock gates at Sharpness have been returned to service following the repair of a failed anchor which had necessitated the temporary use of the tidal basin as a lock.

Barge Arm Apartments Approved
Plans for two large new buildings by the Barge Arm at Gloucester were approved by Gloucester city planning committee on 5 October. A five-storey block on the north side of the Barge Arm (seen left in the picture) will provide 67 one and two-bedroom apartments with two retail units on the ground floor. A long building to the east of the Barge Arm (seen right in the picture) will have 17 apartments and four commercial units with a 256-space four-level car park behind. The designs by Edward Cullinan Architects make use of natural, sustainably resourced materials and energy-saving technology, including water-conserving plumbing, effective insulation and home-working facilities. For a picture, see Developments page.

Tidal Basin Serving as Lock
One of the anchors holding the top of one of the inner lock gates at Sharpness failed on 20 September, and so the tidal basin is being used as a lock until a repair can be effected.  

GLOSCAT Campus Plans Approved
Plans for a new campus at Llanthony for the GLOSCAT further education college were approved by Gloucester city planning committee on 7 September. British Waterways has agreed to release the land, and contractors Sir Robert McAlpine are due to start work early in October. (Citizen 8 & 16 Sep 2004) (For picture, see Developments page.)

Wreath Laid at Vindicatrix Memorial
A service was held at Sharpness on 3 September to mark Merchant Navy Day. During the service a wreath was laid at the foot of the Vindicatrix Memorial in memory of all the merchant seamen who lost their lives in the course of their duties.

A Sad End for Coral Star
After sinking twice in the canal, the 1940s former mine-sweeper and passenger boat Coral Star is being broken up in the dry dock at the Junction. On 3 September, a gang on the bank used a rope to rock the wooden bow section back and forth until it was eventually separated from the rest of the hull.

Metal Plates Improve Safety
Work started on 1 September to fit metal plates along the top of the piling north of the Junction to eliminate the risk of boaters stepping into the gap between the piling and the bank. The men from Holtham Canal Contractors of Worcester are also fitting a rubber strip on the front of the piling.

Twin Ship Arrives for Overhaul
A second Russian-built topsail schooner arrived at Gloucester on 31 August and tied up alongside her twin Elena Maria Barbara which arrived a month earlier.  

Frame of West Quay Apartments Under Construction
Work has started on erecting the steel frame of the apartments being built on the West Quay at Gloucester. This is a significant step as it is the first new-build in the current phase of re-development, and it is due to be followed by much further investment in the docks area.

New Car Park at Gloucester in Operation
The new car park between Southgate St and the Victoria Dock was open to the public on 11 August. This new facility will allow the existing car parks near the Mariner's Church to be closed when the space is needed for further developments.

Llanthony Bridge Bearing Failure
The raising of Llanthony Bridge was banned on 3 August due to the failure of a bearing at the bottom end of one of the bridge's vertical tie rods. A new pin was fitted during the evening of 4 August, allowing the bridge to lift again at a limited number of advertised times, but a proper repair will have to await the manufacture of a replacement housing.

Design Style for Public Realm Approved
Design proposals for paving and street furniture for the public spaces around Albert, Vinings and Reynolds Warehouses were approved by Gloucester City Council Planning Committee on 3 August. The quaysides will be surfaced with warm-toned resin bound gravel, and the central area with granite paving and two types of limestone. The central area will have benches that can be moved along rails to suit different activities. Lighting will be provided by wall mounted fittings and by underground lights pointing upwards. (For picture, see Developments page)

Setback for Proposed GLOSCAT Campus at Llanthony
Plans for a new GLOSCAT campus on Llanthony Quay were withdrawn shortly before they were due to be considered by Gloucester City Council Planning Committee on 3 August. Frogeye Estates, the company which owns the adjoining 125 Business Park, claimed that vehicular access was inadequate for the scale of the development, that there are no public rights of way over the two main pedestrian accesses shown on the plans and that there are material errors in the plans regarding land ownership and the position and extent of the access road.

Sea Cadets See Royal Navy Ships
Two fast patrol vessels of the Royal Navy visited Gloucester on 2 and 3 August, and local sea cadets were welcomed on board. Cadets from Gloucester and Ross on Wye were shown around HMS Trumpeter, and cadets from Stroud and Tewkesbury climbed aboard HMS Charger. Both vessels are used for training university students in navigation, operation and seamanship. (Citizen 6 Aug 2004)

Bid to Demolish Warehouse Turned Down
In July, Stroud District Council turned down an application for Listed Building Consent to demolish the North Warehouse at Sharpness, the last of the big brick warehouses. Sharpness Dock Ltd, the private company that leases the land around the dock from British Waterways, claimed that there is no viable use for the building and that its presence is limiting their operational capability. The Company may appeal to the Secretary of State.  

Crowds Witness Arrival of Nelson Tribute Ship
Crowds attending the Gloucester on Water event on 25 July witnessed the arrival at Gloucester of the Russian-built topsail schooner Elena Maria Barbara. Although built in 1995/96 as a sail training ship, her design is in the style of a mid 18th century vessel. She has come to Gloucester to be fitted out as a replica of HMS Pickle which brought the news of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar back to Britain. In 2005, the bi-centenary of the historic battle, she will tour British ports with a troupe of performers who will re-enact the story of Lord Nelson's death and how the news was carried to England. On her voyages between ports, she will be crewed by groups of young people under the flag of the Ocean Youth Trust East.  

Explosion and Fire on a Hire Boat
A family outing was cut short by an explosion and fire on a hire boat moored to the north of Saul Junction on 22 July. A family group had just returned to their boat after enjoying a picnic on the bank when, on starting the engine, the accident occurred. The owner of a nearby boat rushed to the scene with a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, but a woman in the party suffered a broken ankle and two children received minor burns.

Pumphouse Demolished
The pumphouse at the southern end of the West Quay at Gloucester is being demolished. It was built in 1963 to pump water from the River Severn into the canal so that water could be extracted at Purton to supply Bristol. Its role has been superceded by new pumps in a nearby chamber under the West Quay.

Dowser Finds Buried Railway Lines
A dowser and a metal detector have been used to pin-point the positions of former railway lines at Gloucester docks that have been covered over. The SW Regional Development Agency want some of the lines to be featured in the walkways now being planned as part of the redevelopment of the area. (Citizen 19 Jul 04)

Grant Approved for GLOSCAT Move to Llanthony Quay
The Learning and Skills Council has approved a 15 million grant towards the cost of GLOSCAT further education college establishing a new campus on Llanthony Quay. Additional money will come from the sale of their existing premises in Brunswick Road, from cash reserves and from loans. If planning permission is granted in August, it is expected that the new campus will be open to students in September 2006. (Citizen 9 Jul 2004)

Antiques Centre Under New Management
The operation of the Antiques Centre beside Gloucester Lock has been taken over by Antiques Centre Gloucester Ltd which is run by stamp dealer Mick Cant. The new company plans to arrange a valuation weekend in September. (Citizen 7 Jul 2004)

Saul Canal Festival Draws the Crowds
Record numbers of boats, campers and day visitors attended the annual Saul Canal Festival and Folk on the Water Weekend on 3 & 4 July. Visitors could see a wide variety of boats, browse the trade and charity stands and enjoy a range of musical and theatrical entertainments. The event was organised by the volunteers of the Cotswold Canals Trust to raise money and support for the restoration of the canal link to the Thames at Lechlade. 

Two Boat Accidents at Saul
A pleasure boat moored half a mile north of Saul Junction was badly damaged by a fire during the night of 3 July, but no one was injured. The Festival organisers put into action their pre-arranged plan for such an eventuality, and the emergency services dealt with the incident. Around the same time, a large wooden boat awaiting renovation at Davis's boatyard sank at its moorings.

Sabrina Barge Taken to Saul Canal Festival
Two historic craft from the National Waterways Museum passed down the canal on 29 June to take part in the Saul Canal Festival. The barge Sabrina 5 is having access ways fitted so that her hold can become a performance venue at the festival. She was towed by the diesel tug Severn Progress which will take part in the parade of boats at the festival.  

First Coaster Up the Canal for Seven Years
The German coaster Kormoran passed up the canal on 25 June to collect oil rig plant from the Axsia Serck Baker wharf near Two Mile Bend. At each of the bridges, she was welcomed by interested spectators who had gathered to see what has become a rare event. She loaded on 28 June and passed down the canal the following day. (Photos)  

Work Starts on New Car Park at Gloucester
Contractors moved on to the rough ground between Southgate St and the Victoria Dock on 21 June to start preparing a temporary car park. When ready, this will allow the present car park near the Mariner's Church to be developed as a public square.

Conference Commemorates Historic Legal Case
A conference was held in Gloucester on 7 & 8 June to commemorate the 150th anniversary of an important legal case connected with the City Flour Mills. Nineteen academic papers on aspects of the common law of contracts were presented by tutors from university law schools in America, Britain and Australia.

Car Rolled into the Victoria Dock
A motorist parked his Citroen C3 convertible near to the Albert Warehouse on 4 June, and while he was getting a parking ticket, his car rolled down the slope and into the Victoria Dock. It floated for a few minutes, but there was nothing the owner could do except watch it slowly sink under the water. The car was lifted out the following day. (Citizen 5, 7 Jun 2004)

New Public Square Proposed
Plans are being finalised for a new public square near the Mariner's Church at Gloucester docks. The area will be paved with high quality stone, including some from the Forest of Dean, and will be defined by a number of low walls which will double as seating. To accommodate the cars that currently park in this area, a temporary car park with 170 spaces will be formed alongside Southgate St. (Glo HURCo 28 May 2004)

Deer Rescued from the Canal
Two fire engines and a rescue boat were called to Parkend Bridge on 27 May to help a deer that had become stuck in the canal. It took the crews nearly an hour to free the animal, which escaped unharmed. (Citizen 29 May 2004)

Mechanical Problems with Llanthony Bridge
On 27 May, British Waterways announced restricted opening times for Llanthony Bridge due to mechanical problems. Until further notice, the bridge will only lift at the following times: 8.15 am, 10.30 am, 12.00 noon, 12.45 pm, 13.30 pm, 14.15 pm, 14.30 pm, 15.15 pm, 17.30 pm and 18.45 pm.

Queen Galadriel Departure
Ketch Queen Galadriel has left Gloucester on 14 May after an eleven month overhaul by Tommi Nielsen and his craftsmen. She moored overnight at Sharpness and left on the following morning's tide. 

Trip Boat Operating from Saul Junction
Volunteers from the Cotswold Canals Trust started operating their boat Perseverance from Saul Junction on 2 May. Trips will run from the Trust's Heritage Centre to Walk Bridge on the Stroudwater Canal and back on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays until late September. (Photo)

Realignment of Severn Road Started
Work has started on clearing the ground between Severn Road and the River Severn in preparation for realigning the road nearer to the river. This will make way for constructing two new blocks of apartments along the West Quay of the Main Basin.

Cornish Young Farmers on Sponsored Cycle Ride
Members of the Cornwall Young Farmers Club cycled along the canal towpath from Sharpness to Hempsted Bridge on Saturday 24 April. This was the first stage of a long-distance cycle ride and walk along several waterways in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance charity. The next stage was due to be a walk along the Severn Way and then more cycling to end up in Lancashire on Friday 30 April.

Queen Galadriel Re-launched
After a ten month refit by T Nielsen & Co in the large dry dock at Gloucester, the ketch Queen Galadriel was officially re-launched in the Main Basin on 19 April. Tory shadow minister for young people, Charles Hendry, cut a ribbon, and a group of invited guests went on board to look around. The ketch is used by the Cirdan Sailing Trust to give mentally and physically disabled youngsters a taste of life at sea.

Pilot Cutters' Centenary
Members of the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Owners Association gathered at Gloucester on 4 April to celebrate the centenary of several surviving cutters launched in 1904, particularly Mascotte and Alpha which have spent the winter at Gloucester.

Missing Mileposts Replaced
British Waterways maintenance staff have installed three new mileposts cast by the Cannop Foundry, Cinderford. These replace those missing from positions one, nine and eleven miles from Gloucester. All fifteen mileposts along the canal, including the three recently replaced posts, were repainted at the end of March. (Photos)

Horse Rescued from Canal
A horse and rider went into the canal near Splatt Bridge on 11 March. The rider was helped ashore by a nearby boater, but the horse was unable to get out because of the height of the banks. Fire and rescue appliances attended, and heavy lifting equipment was used to lift the horse back on to dry land. (Citizen 12 Mar 2004) 

Gloucester Quays Document Delivered, Feb 2004
An environmental impact assessment of the proposed Gloucester Quays development to the south of Llanthony Bridge has been delivered to Gloucester City Council by developers Peel Holdings and British Waterways. The 130-page document took more than two years to prepare as it includes several studies that had to be undertaken over a full one-year period. (Citizen 1 Mar 04)

Hedge Laying
British Waterways staff are once again laying hedges in the traditional way. Following a trial length at Purton last winter, work is currently in progress on a length near Sellars Bridge. This practice not only improves the visual appearance of the hedge, but it also makes the hedge better for wildlife.

Former Lifeboat for Sale
A 70-year-old former RNLI lifeboat is for sale near Parkend Bridge. She was originally based at Rundswick near Whitby and later used for survey work around South Wales. Then she was bought by the Gloucester pilots for use at Portishead pilot station and named Alaska 1 after a former sailing pilot cutter built at Saul in 1886. When she was no longer needed by the pilots, she was converted for pleasure use.

Stop Gates Closed at Gloucester Lock
As the River Severn was rising following heavy rain in the Welsh mountains, the stop gates at the river end of Gloucester Lock were closed on Wednesday 4 February to avoid any risk of the river flooding into the Main Basin. In the event, the peak river level was only comparable with the Basin level and there was no serious risk to property.

Sharpness Lock Gates Removed
On 27 January, the middle gates at Sharpness between the lock and the tidal basin were taken out for refurbishment. To move each gate, water from inside was pumped out so that it floated off its bearing and could be towed to the dry dock. While the gates are being refurbished, the whole tidal basin will be used as a lock.

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