Gloucester and Sharpness Canal

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The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal or Gloucester and Berkeley Canal is a canal in the west of England, between Gloucester and Sharpness; for much of its length it runs close to the tidal River Severn, but cuts off a significant loop in the river, at a once-dangerous bend near Arlingham. It was once the broadest and deepest canal in the world.


18th century conception

Conceived in the Canal Mania period of the late 18th century, the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal scheme (as it was originally named) was started by architect and civil engineer Robert Mylne. In 1793 an Act of Parliament was obtained authorising the raising of a total of £200,000.[1] The project rapidly encountered financial difficulties - to such an extent that Mylne left the project in 1798. By half way through 1799 costs had reached £112,000 but only 5½ miles of the canal had been completed.[2] Robert Mylne's role was taken over by James Dadford who had originally been engaged as resident engineer on the project in 1795.[3] Lack of funds resulted in the company ceasing to employ Dadford in 1800.[2]

Decade of capital raising

Between 1800 and 1810 various attempts were made to raise money to allow further building but they came to nothing.[2] Moneys from tolls and rents allowed for some improvements to be made to the basin at Gloucester in 1813.[4]

Eventual completion

From 1817 onwards the Poor Employment Act meant it was possible for the company to loan money from the Exchequer Bill Loan Commission. This along with further share issues provided enough money to bring the scheme to completion.[5] After these significant delays, the canal opened in April 1827. In the course of its construction the canal had cost £440,000.[6] As opened the canal was 86½ feet wide, 18 feet (5.5 m) deep and could take craft of up to 600 tons. The longer of the two locks onto the canal proper was 115 feet (35 m) long.[6]

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