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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Parkend Memories

This page features Bob Woodman's memories of his early years living in Parkend Bridge House.

Parkend Bridge House
     I was born in the bridge house at Parkend Bridge in 1941 and lived there until 1955. My father Bob Woodman was the bridgeman, responsible for looking after the bridge and opening it to canal traffic, which was very busy in those days, passing by at all hours of the day and night, weekends included. He was the only bridgeman on the canal to do war service in the armed forces; during his absence, my mother Joyce took over as bridgekeeper.
     The photo shows Bob and Joyce in front of the house with one of the portico colums on the left. Behind Bob can be seen a bush cut into the shape of a cockerel, and on the wall behind are the drags - used for recovering bodies from the canal.

Castle Inn
     The bridge was always known locally as Castle Bridge, and our house, in Castle Lane, as Castle Bridge House. Nearby, in those days, stood the Castle Inn. This was a very large three storey building with cellars, stable blocks, courtyard and outbuildings. Pieces of broken clay pipes, mainly the bowls, were often unearthed along with old beer bottles. The inn has now been demolished and a new smaller Castle House built in the grounds. The original "castle" (which may have been only a large hall) was less than three quarters of a mile away across the fields behind Moreton Valence church. The deep moat can still be seen.

Passing Traffic
     I remember the longboats travelling up the canal en route to Bournville with the unprocessed chocolate on board. Sometimes a few hard lumps of it would be thrown on to the canal bank when we opened the bridge. It had a wonderful taste and was very much appreciated, especially when sweets were on ration. Other "bits of cargo" also came our way in exchange for eggs, milk, meat and so on. We always seemed to have one Channel Island cow plus many pigs, poultry, geese, ducks and other stock. They lived on the canal bank usually, but even the pigs liked a bath sometimes!

Ice on the Canal
        The harsh winter of 1947 brought canal traffic to a halt at the bridge. The ice proved too thick for the tankers heading fully laden up the canal. They all came to a stop after the first one had passed through. Consequently, the bridge could not be closed again for road traffic to cross. Some of the crew left the petrol tankers and walked on the packed ice. Eventually the steam tug Speedwell (sister tug to the Mayflower) forced a path through the ice to Gloucester.

     In March, after the snow and ice, came the floods, which swamped the ground floor rooms of our home, forcing us to live upstairs for six months. The house being built into the embankment, there was still access on to the canal bank from the upstairs rooms. With the fields and road either side flooded, our only way to a local shop was by going up the canal towpath for nearly two miles. We were flooded again in 1950. I understand the Bridge House was yet again flooded in 2007, when the canal overflowed.

Return to Top Menu   Copyright Bob Woodman 2009