Port of Gloucester
|Port of Gloucester|
|Gloucester in England|
|Type||Naval Base and Naval Dockyard|
|Operator||Navy Royal, Royal Navy|
|Controlled by||Navy Board|
|Commissioner of the Navy, Kinsale|
The Port of Gloucester was formally established in 1580
Gloucester was given the formal status of a port by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I in 1580. From that time, the coastline of the Severn estuary north-east of the Aust/Beachley area came under the jurisdiction of a new custom house at Gloucester. This meant that vessels could trade directly between Gloucester and foreign ports without having to call in at Bristol custom house, which had previously been responsible for the area. Gloucester Corporation hoped to benefit from the new status because they collected dues on goods handled at Gloucester's riverside Quay. In practice, however, few foreign-going vessels were seen at the Quay because of the difficulties of navigating the shallow tidal stretch of the River Severn approaching the city.
The opening of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in 1827 allowed ships to bypass the difficult stretch of river, and so considerable trade developed with foreign ports. To supervise this better, a new custom house was built in the docks area in 1845. After the new dock at Sharpness was opened in 1874 to accommodate the larger ships then in use, cargo handling activities gradually declined at Gloucester, and in due course customs administration moved to Sharpness.
Pilotage The pilotage of vessels approaching the Sharpness entrance to the canal was originally administered from Bristol and by Trinity House - until a Gloucester Pilotage Board was formed in 1861. (More about Pilotage and Pilots) The provision of lights in the estuary came under the jurisdiction of the Gloucester Harbour Authority formed in 1890. Pilotage and lighting is now the responsibility of the Gloucester Harbour Trustees based at Sharpness.
Main Basin, Lock and Barge Arm The Main Basin was the original terminus of the ship canal from Sharpness, opened in 1827. Here cargoes were transferred to smaller craft which passed through the lock and continued up the River Severn to the Midlands. The Barge Arm was also an early feature to accommodate small vessels bringing goods for local distribution.
Dry Docks The small dry dock was suitable for repairing most of the vessels in the early days, but as larger ships came into service, a second dock was built in 1853 to cater for the largest ships that could pass up the canal fully loaded.
Baker's Quay Baker's Quay was constructed in the late 1830s by a group of local businessmen led by Samuel Baker at a time when the Canal Co. was heavily in debt and could not finance the much needed additional quay-space.
Victoria Dock The Main Basin and Baker's Quay became so busy during the 1840s that ships had to queue in the canal waiting for a place to discharge. To provide more quay-space, the Victoria Dock was opened in 1849.
Llanthony Quay Llanthony Quay was built in the early 1850s by the Gloucester & Dean Forest Railway Co., soon taken over by the GWR, to provide a means of supplying coal from the Forest of Dean as an export cargo. Behind the quay are some ruins of Llanthony Priory that are now looked after by a buildings preservation trust.
Timber Yards and Wagon Works During the second half of the 19th century, much of the east bank of the canal for 3/4 mile south of Bakers Quay was developed as timber yards, with several having their own saw mills and one becoming a wagon works.
Monk Meadow Dock and Quay Monk Meadow Dock was opened in 1892 to provide additional quay-space for the timber trade, and it was later used for receiving petroleum products. To the south of the dock, Monk Meadow Quay was built beside the canal in 1965 for the discharge of timber from motor coasters.
Sharpness Docks developed in the later nineteenth century after a new dock was built in the 1870s to accommodate the larger ships then coming into service that were too big to pass up the canal. Prior to this, the old entrance to the canal had no provision for cargo handling, and all ships continued up the canal to discharge at Gloucester.
Warehouses were built beside the New Dock, principally to accommodate imported grain, and new houses were built on the dock estate for key workers. Railway lines around the docks were linked with the Midland and Great Western main lines and provided an alternative to the canal for distributing imports and receiving exports.
Sharpness Docks continues as a working port, but most of the old warehouses have been replaced by modern facilities. Visitors are welcome at the picnic site on the south side of the entrance to the tidal basin, from where ships can be seen arriving and departing around the time of high tide.
Railways Links Railway lines along both sides of the New Dock were linked via the Low Level Bridge at the north end and were connected to the Midland Railway main line three miles to the south-east. This allowed imports to be distributed without first having to pass up the canal to Gloucester. Another line, linked to the Great Western Railway, brought coal from the Forest of Dean across the Severn Railway Bridge to provide an export cargo and fuel for steamers. The line continued across the High Level Bridge at the north end of the dock to serve the original coal tip overlooking the arm leading to the old entrance and a later coal tip built beside the New Dock. These lines have now closed, and all land transport to and from the docks is by road.