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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Crane Base by Victoria Dock

Contractors excavating for the foundations of a tall piece of public art beside the Victoria Dock revealed a massive brick structure with a hole down the centre. This page describes what was found and explains what it was for.

Underground Brick Structure
     The brick structure was found by contractors on the west side of the Victoria Dock towards the north end in January 2010. It measured about 12 feet square and at least 10 feet deep. Five feet from the back of the dock wall was a hole two feet in diameter and at least three feet deep (full of earth). At a radius of 27 inches from the centre of the hole were the stumps of four bolts protruding from the brickwork some 32 inches below the top of the dock coping stones. All this would be consistent with a crane having a central post that fitted in the hole and four side arms that were held down by the bolts. The structure has subsequently been covered over.

Documentary Evidence
     Shortly before the completion of the Victoria Dock in 1849, Canal Company minutes refer to the purchase of two 10 ton cranes from John Stevenson of Preston. The Board of Health map of 1851 shows two cranes associated with the dock, one being in the location of the brick structure and the second at the south end of the dock. The first crane appears on the 1901 Ordnance Survey map but not on the 1921 edition, by which date the railway line along the dock edge had been extended northwards.

Second Crane
     The post of the crane at the south end of the dock is still in situ, and both the diameter of the post and the positions of the fastening bolts are consistent with the measurements noted above. The post is apparently bolted down to stone blocks in the centre of a platform of blocks measuring 12 feet by 10 feet.

     It appears likely, therefore, that the foundations of the first crane also once had a stone platform on top of the brickwork and that the holding down bolts of both cranes were long enough to pass through the stone platforms to anchors in the brickwork below. As the lateral supports are rather limited, it is also likely that the central post went much further down into the brick foundations than the hole depth that could be measured.

     Thanks to contractors Britannia for allowing access.

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