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the Sharpness Canal


Timber Trade

This page highlights the role of the merchants who imported timber through Gloucester and lists the principal firms that traded during the nineteenth century.

Timber Trade
      Timber merchants imported sawn deals and some large baulks, mainly softwoods, and these were stored in open yards on both sides of the canal to the south of Gloucester. Large storage areas were needed because imports were concentrated during the summer and autumn when the supply ports were free of ice. Most of the timber merchants had their own steam-powered saw mills with machinery to cut the wood to size and plane it to suit customers requirements. A few businesses also used the wood to make finished products. (Photo: Glos Archives)


Deal carrier at workHandling Timber
     When a ship or a lighter arrived at a Gloucester timber yard, a gang of men were employed to carry the deals to be piled up in the yard. Two men lifted one or more deals on to another man's shoulder, and he ran along a line of planks to the pile where that size of deal was being stacked. A leather pad was worn to protect the shoulder, but it could still be very painful until the skin became hardened. As the planks flexed when the carrier ran over them, he had to develop a knack of allowing for that movement or he could be thrown off.

     When the carrier reached the right pile, he dropped his load, and another man positioned each deal tidily while the carrier ran back for more. Meanwhile the next carrier arrived and dropped his load - and so on. It was very hard work, but those who were fit enough to do it were comparatively well paid. When the wood was sold, the process was reversed and the deals were loaded into railway wagons or canal boats to be sent away.

     Baulks of timber were usually left floating in the canal or in special ponds to avoid the wood drying out and cracking. When needed, they were lifted out by crane.

Principal Firms in the Timber Trade in the 19th Century

  • Thomas Adams & Co
  • Ashbee Sons & Co
  • Barkworth & Spaldin
  • John Bland & Co
  • Booth & Co
  • John Forster
  • Robert Heane & Co
  • S J Moreland & Sons - match makers
  • Nicks & Co
  • Price & Co later Price Walker & Co
  • J M Shipton
  • Benjamin N Tripp

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