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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Why Two Mile Bend?

The double bend in the canal two miles south of Gloucester was difficult for large vessels to negotiate. This page examines the issues influencing the original choice of route and the work done to ease the consequent difficulties. Other pages describe the construction of the new cut that has bypassed the double bend.

Choice of Routes
     The original surveys for the canal proposed a route (shown dotted) that avoided the high ground to the north-west of Quedgeley, but Daniel Lysons of Hempsted Court objected to this as the canal would have cut through two of his farmsteads near the river. The promoters were so desperate to get their plans through Parliament that they reluctantly agreed to adopt an alternative route (shown solid) which cut through the high ground.

Alignment of Chosen Route
     The primary consideration was to cut through the high ground at the point where the ridge narrowed, and this fixed the position and alignment of the main cutting west of Quedgeley. However, there was also a need to cross the more modest ridge between the two streams on which stood Netheridge Farm (marked N). Again it made sense to cut through this ridge at the easiest point, and there was also a desire to go around, rather than through, the fields of Netheridge Farm which extended close to the Bristol Road. These considerations led to the canal crossing the ridge near to the Bristol Road before turning at right angles to follow the valley of the Daniels Brook for a short distance and then turning again to enter the main Quedgeley cutting.

Easing the Bends
     Right from the start, these two bends so close together were difficult for ships to negotiate, even with the help of men with ropes on the towpath, and they became one of the main constraints on the size of ship that could use the canal. This became particularly apparent during the severe competition with neighbouring ports during the early 1880s, and in 1885 some 3000 tons of hard material was removed from the lower bend by dredging. The issue arose again after the Second World War when a major programme of work was carried out to encourage motor coasters to carry cargoes up to Gloucester. In 1961, the inside corner of the upper bend was dug out by a dragline, and the earth was dumped to the north-west of the bend in the valley of the Daniels Brook, after first providing a culvert for the stream. At the same time, extra-deep piles were driven in around the outside of the lower bend so that dredging could be done closer to the bank and so allow coasters more space to swing their sterns. These improvements allowed many of the coasters to motor round the two bends without needing assistance from tugs or ropes from the bank. It is ironic that the eventual elimination of these bends by the construction of a new cut in 2006 was driven by the need for a major road scheme and came too late to help commercial shipping. For details of the work involved in making the new cut, click here.

     Glos RO Q/RUM 2/2; TNA RAIL 829/1; Glos RO D2460/4/4/1; BW Archives 377/89.

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