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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Sharpness Docks

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     Sharpness Docks continues as a working port, but most of the old warehouses have been replaced by modern facilities.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. 

Map of Sharpness Docks

     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.

The High Level Bridge at the north end of Sharpness dock with the passenger steamer Wave and some rafts of timber baulks waiting to be towed to Gloucester. (PC M.Boakes)

During the 1970s and 1980s, the High Level Bridge often had to be opened for Bowker & King's coastal tankers, but now it only swings for the occasional sailing vessel.

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