Early Cargo Vessels
early days of the canal, most of the vessels bringing cargoes to
Gloucester were sloops, schooners and brigs in the coastal trade
with an occasional brig or barque from more distant ports. At Gloucester,
most of the imports were loaded into canal boats to be taken further
inland to the growing industrial towns in the Midlands. The canal
was also used by trows and barges trading direct between Bristol
and riverside towns in the Midlands. Tugs superceded horses for
towing on the canal.
Later Cargo Vessels
During the course of the 19th
century, the size of vessels in service tended to increase, with
schooners and barques being the most common types of sailing vessels,
and there was a growing use of steamers. During the 20th century,
sailing vessels gradually died out, and motor vessels eventually
replaced steamers. As the size of ships became so big that most
had to discharge at Sharpness, the traffic on the canal changed
to being mainly barges and lighters carrying the cargoes on to Gloucester
and further inland.
Over the years, several different
dredgers have worked to maintain the depth of the canal, and various
means have been tried to dispose of the mud. Floating cranes were
used to lift lock gates and bridge components, and special rigs
were used for driving piles to protect the canal banks. Fire-floats
were stationed at Gloucester and Sharpness.
Passenger steamers operated on the
canal for many years, and a few private steam yachts and motor boats
were to be seen before the Second World War. Now the canal is used
by a large number of narrow boats and cabin cruisers, and there
are two rowing clubs.
Sailing ships still come to Gloucester
for overhaul in the dry docks.
- a vessel with three or more masts, carrying square
sails on the forward masts and only fore-and-aft sails
on the aft mast.
Brig - a two-masted vessel carrying
square sails on both masts and a fore-and-aft sail on
the aft mast.
Schooner - a vessel with two or more
masts carrying fore-and-aft sails on all masts and possibly
square topsails on the foremast.
Sloop - a single-masted vessel carrying
Trow/Barge - a shallow draught vessel,
originally with an open hold and square sails and later
with a covered hold and fore-and-aft sails or no sails.
Lighter - a shallow draught vessel with
an open hold towed by a tug.
Canal Boats - widely known as narrow
boats but in Gloucester always called longboats.