The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal was the subject of Hugh Conway-Jones' talk to The Thornbury Society. His lecture, illustrated with slides, covered over a century of time on the canal and brought alive how times have changed.
Commerce was the initial impetus for building the canal and the early days saw ever larger ships carrying goods to the major port at Gloucester for transport largely onward to the Midlands by rail. Later, with the decline of the railway and the return of men who had learned to drive in the armies of World War 1, and a wealth of surplus vehicles from the same source, transportation by road took precedence. Although we learned that the transportation of goods produced locally at Gloucester for transportation on the canal network was always a problem and so it was not uncommon for barges to make the return trips lightly or altogether unladen. These days, Mr Conway-Jones pointed out, pleasure barges, walking, cycling and fishing is largely the business of the canal network.
For those who enjoy a stroll on a pleasant day, Mr Conway-Jones highlighted for us the many pretty bridges and locks with their accompanying cottages once inhabited by those whose duty it was to oversee the safe transit of vehicles. At the ends of the canal, towards Gloucester and Sharpness, these vistas include attractive industrial buildings some of which have been given a new lease of life as museums or council offices.
Mr Conway-Jones also set out for us the forthcoming changes planned for the canal. It appears that a looped section of the canal is shortly to be rerouted and straightened in order to accommodate Gloucester City Council's highway plans. This, he added, will be one of the most significant changes to be made since the original construction of the canal so many years ago.
So when thinking about taking an afternoon stroll, or indeed at certain times of year a boat trip, Mr Conway-Jones convinced us that you could do worse than enjoy the easy walking on the level towpaths of the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal.
The Thornbury Local History and Archaeology Society always welcomes new and occasional members. Details of our programme can be found on this website, the library or the Town Hall. Our meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month, held at St Mary's Church Hall beginning at 7.30pm. Visitors are always welcome at the society for the small charge of £2.50.