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Gloucester Docks &
the Sharpness Canal


Healing's Grain Barges

For more about Barges, see Barges & Lighters and Sabrina Barges

In the early years of the twentieth century, much imported grain was carried up the canal in wooden barges towed by tugs to supply the mills in Gloucester and further inland. Most of the barges were owned by individuals or small firms, but in the 1930s several of the mill owners started providing their own steel barges, and some of these were motorised. This page features the steel barges used to supply Healing's mill at Tewkesbury between the 1930s and the 1990s.

A New Fleet
     Samuel Healing & Sons arranged for three barges to be built by Charles Hill & Sons of Bristol. The motor barge Deerhurst (pictured right) and the dumb barge Apperley were delivered in 1933, and the dumb barge Bushley arrived in the following year. These made regular trips carrying grain from Sharpness and Avonmouth to Tewkesbury, continuing into the 1970s. (Photo: Eric Perkins)

Larger Barges
     When Healing's Mill was taken over and modernised by Allied Mills in the 1970s, the new management purchased two larger motor barges Tirley and Chaceley (pictured right). These collected wheat from Avonmouth, taking three days on the round trip. Each had a long hopper in the bottom of the hold fitted with a Redlerís chain that was used at Tewkesbury to bring the grain up into a small hopper near the bow from which the millís elevator could lift the grain into the mill. Around this time, however, Liverpool became the main port of entry for foreign wheat, and in the 1980s, the company switched to using lorries on the motorway. The barges were then just used for storage at Tewkesbury, and as coaster traffic to Gloucester was also dying out, it was thought that commercial traffic on the canal was finished.

Another Opportunity
     Within a few years, however, imports of high-quality European wheat by coaster to Sharpness offered another opportunity to supply Healing's mill by water and so save the heavy lorries from passing through the town. In 1993, Chaceley and Tirley were brought back into service, operated by a single two-man crew. While one craft was away collecting a cargo, the other was being unloaded at the mill. As they only had to go to Sharpness, it was a two day round trip and the crew could return to their homes each night. This traffic continued for five years, but it did not prove to be truly viable, and the last loaded barge passed through Gloucester Lock on 3 October 1998. Chaceley and Tirley were moored at Tewkesbury for some years, but in March 2007 they moved to Sharpness to be surveyed for a potential buyer. The older barges have been sold.

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