The early life of Les Pugh

A personal reminiscence

By les Pugh

Photo:Les Pugh at home in Bridgend 2008

Les Pugh at home in Bridgend 2008

Judy Chorley

The early years

I was born on August 8th 1915, in a tied cottage belonging to the Teasdale family of Whitminster House.  My profoundly deaf father, William George Pugh, had been directed to manage the Teesdale Estate at the start of the First World War. The cottage was adjacent the house in which the Perrett family lived. Alfred Perrett was responsible for maintaining the balancing ponds, which filled the stretch of canal above the WalkBridge. This water was used to maintain the levels of the Gloucester to SharpnessCanal. The balancing ponds were filled by the River Frome which passed through an aqueduct running under the StroudwaterCanal. As a very small boy I went with my father and fished for roach and bream.

The move to Eastington

In the autumn of 1919, we moved our furniture on a horse drawn hay wagon, to Rose Cottage, Westend, Eastington, where I attended Eastington C of E school from 1920 to 1927. My family moved from Rose Cottage to Number 2, Chipman's Platt in 1925. This was close to the workhouse and was very near the WestfieldBridge and the Dry-dock and Canal maintenance yard. My father was friendly with Jack White, the keeper of the Pike Bridge Lock as well as the craftsmen and shipwrights.

Watching the craftsmen

This friendship enabled me to watch the workmen. I witnessed them hand sawing the timbers from which the lock gates were made. This was done over a 'saw pit' which was about 12 feet deep. The 'top sawyer' directed the cut and the 'bottom sawyer', who stood in the pit, pulled down on the 'cutting stroke' and pushed up on the 'free stroke'. The bottom sawyer was always covered with sawdust.

Last Trow in the dry dock

I also watched the blacksmith forge the ironwork used on the lock gates. I can remember the last boat to be repaired in the Dry-dock. It was a Severn Trow. There were very few of these on the Stroudwater Canal in the early 1920's as Narrow boats, pulled by two donkeys, a mule, or a worn out old horse, were the main craft used.

Engine driven barges

There were two, engine driven, tar Barges, the 'Kathleen' and the 'Alfreda'. The oil engines were of the slow revving 'Hot Bulb' type, probably made by Petter of Yeovil or Bolinder from Sweden. They took on board the tar from the Stroud gas works and transported it to the 'Tar Works' on the River Severn at Sandhurst. The 'Tar Works', became the infamous C.S.G. Chemical works.

Les Pugh 2008

This page was added by Judy Chorley on 04/06/2009.

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