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28 October 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > Coast > Point 2 - Gloucester Lock

Gloucester Lock

Gloucester Lock

Point 2 - Gloucester Lock

Gloucester Lock is the gateway between the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal and the River Severn. Once busy with cargo barges, today this is a popular visitor attraction where people often stand and watch the pleasure boats passing through...

Gloucester Lock marks the northern end of the Gloucester to Sharpness canal. This is the point where the canal joins the River Severn, allowing craft to safely pass down and out onto the river.

Narrowboat entering Gloucester Lock

Narrowboat entering Gloucester Lock

The lock is 55 metres long and can hold up to six narrowboats. With the lock full of boats it takes about 15 minutes to lower them the 16 feet (5 metres) down to river level.

Look carefully at the wall of the lock, half way along. Notice the point where a third, middle gate used to be housed. This is because when first built the lock was in fact two smaller locks end-to-end, each with a shallower drop. The two were combined in 1892 making it quicker and easier for craft to pass through.

Gloucester Lock

Gloucester Lock viewed from the road bridge

Once the ships had unloaded their cargoes in the main basin of the docks after travelling up from Sharpness their wares could then be transferred to barges and pass through the lock, to continue their journey by river to the Midlands. Vessels bringing cargoes from further upsteam would use the lock to get through to the canal and the docks.

Do you know the difference between a barge and a narrowboat? Many people mistakenly call the long, thin narrowboats (popular today as pleasure boats) barges. In fact barges were wider, allowing them to carry more cargo. Narrowboats are only 7 feet (2.1m) wide enabling them to use the narrow locks of the midland canals.

One famous sailor who would have stood close to this spot was Captain Howard Blackburn who used the canal during his epic single-handed Atlantic crossing in 1899, when he sailed here from Gloucester, USA. The voyage was made without the aid of modern-day navigational equipment and was even more remarkable because Captain Blackburn had lost the fingers of both hands and several toes from frostbite 16 years earlier!

Lock keeper Johnathan Chater

Johnathan the friendly lock keeper

Over the years there have been numerous holders of the title "Gloucester Lock Keeper", some of whom held the position for several decades. They lived in the Lock Keeper's Cottage (opposite the modern bridge control room) and it was their job to collect the tolls from boats passing through.

Today the lock keeper is Johnathan Chater. Look out for him - he won't be far away! He's always busy helping boats in and out of the lock, operating the lock gates, and raising and lowering the road bridge.

Continue the walk by walking to the end of the lock, crossing the narrow road, and continuing straight on, keeping the River Severn on your left. Stop where the river starts to gently bend to the left. You will now be at Gloucester Quay - Point 3.

last updated: 01/04/2008 at 14:55
created: 11/07/2005

You are in: Gloucestershire > Coast > Point 2 - Gloucester Lock

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