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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Sharpness New Dock

The new entrance and dock at Sharpness were opened in 1874 to accommodate the larger ships coming into use around that time. The entrance has wooden piers projecting into the river as well as a single pair of entrance gates leading into the tidal basin, and the lock gives access to a large dock and a dry dock.

Entering Sharpness from the River  

MV Katja Approaching the Entrance

MV Katja Between the Piers

MV Katja Entering the Lock

     Ships come up the river with the tide, and pilots time their approach so they can turn to stem the last of the flood. As the tide eases, they come close to the north pier, sometimes putting a rope ashore, and then turn to come through the entrance into the tidal basin. Ships usually arrive 30 to 60 minutes before high water, and the entry manoeuvre can be watched from the picnic area, signposted from the dock gates at the end of the B4066. For tide times and expected shipping movements, see the Gloucester Harbour Trustees' website. Usually a ship will go straight into the lock, but when necessary it can be moored temporarily against the jetties in the tidal basin.

Sharpness Lock
     The lock is 320 feet long and 57 feet wide, and longer vessels can be accommodated by leveling the whole tidal basin (as in the pictures below). The gates and sluices are now worked by employees of British Waterways who have an office beside the lock.

Sharpness Lock Old

Sharpness Lock Current

The buildings beside the lock (to the right of the picture) were occupied by a ship's chandler, a butcher and a restaurant for dock workers. The chimney behind belonged to the hydraulic station that provided power to work the lock gates and sluices. (Photo: GA GPS 287/18)

Sharpness Dock

The gates and sluices are now worked by local hydraulic units powered by electricity and controlled from the elevated white cabin. The blue building houses the staff of British Waterways and the Gloucester Harbour Trustees who manage all shipping movements.

Sharpness Dock Old

Sharpness Dock Current

Originally, the dock only had a quay wall along this south-east side, where ships discharged grain into the warehouses built alongside the quay. Ships bringing timber moored along the north-west side, where there was just a shelving bank, and most of their cargoes were transferred to lighters which carried the timber on to Gloucester. (Photo GA GPS 287/52)

The south-east quay is now used by ships discharging cargoes such as cement and fertilizer and for loading scrap metal. The north-west side now also has deep water berths in place of the earlier shelving bank. The cargo handling areas are now managed by the Sharpness Dock division of the Victoria Group.

A Busy Tide
It was a busy scene in the tidal basin for the morning tide on 23 Mar 2004, with three ships departing and one waiting to enter. The Monika Muller (left) had brought cement from Santander, the Pongo (middle) mixed fertilizer from St Malo and the RMS Rheinhausen (right) fertilizer from Hamburg. In the background can be seen the Antabe making her approach to pick up scrap metal bound for Bayonne. (Photo: Mike Nash)

Three Ships in the Tidal Basin 23 Mar 04

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