A Timewalk around Saul Junction

How the use of the Junction has changed over time.

By Lois Francis (With thanks to Hugh Conway-Jones)

The Junction may be approached from Whitminster Lane or from the Heritage Centre.

A walk Around Saul Junction.

Over time, the Stroudwater Canal has had an enormous influence on the type of businesses, housing and transport of the area. It has been substantially, researched and written about by Michael Handford, Joan Tucker and Hugh Conway-Jones and so the following text is not a comprehensive history. It is more of a collection of notes to be accessed before a stroll around a very interesting part of Gloucestershire.

The notes, as presented, start at Walk Bridge in Whitminster Lane simply because the bridge is nearest to the home of one of the key people in the enterprise of building one of the earliest canals.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A Timewalk around Saul Junction' page

Richard Owen Cambridge was the owner of Whitminster House and estate during the latter half of the 18th Century and, as a gentleman of his time, he was very interested in improving the environment of his estate. To work at improvements he needed to move heavy loads such as stone from the River Severn and also about his land. Thus, he changed the flow of the River Frome, which flowed through his land, so that barges could use the river for the sole purpose of carrying substantial loads around his property.

Nothing exists now of the changes he made to the river, but he was subsequently helpful to the Company of Proprietors when the Stroudwater scheme finally came to fruition by selling parts of his land for canal building.

Walk Bridge

Walk Bridge was originally a steeply arched bridge carrying a private road that belonged to the Whitminster Estate. Over time, however, residents of Saul used the road to get to and from the Bristol Road. In 1885 the then owner of the estate, Mr H.H. Wilton paid for it to be replaced by a swing bridge, which subsequently had to be modified to allow the ship canal company's  steam dredger to pass.

The swing bridge was replaced by Gloucestershire Highways when the canal company agreed to an Act of abondonment in 1954. The new bridge was fixed and so ended navigation beyond.

Photo:The Present Walk Bridge.

The Present Walk Bridge.

Lois Francis

The Junction of two canals.

Saul Junction is the only place in the country where there is an intersection of two independent canals. The Stroudwater canal, built along the valley of the River Frome, was opened in 1779 to allow barges to carry coal from the Forest of Dean up to the woollen cloth mills in the Stroud valleys, and the deeper Gloucester and Sharpness ship canal was constructed to avoid parts of the River Severn that were difficult to navigate and was constructed between 1818 and 1827.

Photo:Saul Junction

Saul Junction

Photo:The Junction in 2008.

The Junction in 2008.

In order to accomodate the River Frome, and various landowners who wanted to keep their rights over water supply, the course of the Stroudwater was tinkered with and a substantial  change made when the Gloucester Sharpness Canal was built.

Photo:The Course of the canal has changed.

The Course of the canal has changed.

Lois Francis

The initial Junction of the two canals was about 40 yards north-east of the present position, behind the Junction House with the water then being at the existing level of the Stroudwater, and the first barges were able to pass between the two canals in February 1820. However, as the size of ships increased it became necessary to raise the water level by about four feet to provide the depth.The present lock and Junction were built on a new alignment, and this was commissioned during the Summer of 1826, after the old line was closed off. The picture above shows the present curve of the canal, whereas it initially ran straight.

Junction House

Photo:The Junction House.

The Junction House.

The house adjoining the Junction was built for the official whose duties included recording traffic passing from one canal to the other and collecting tolls where appropriate, supervising the lock and stop gates when necessary and opening the footbridge which carried the towpath of the Stroudwater Canal over the ship canal.

Photo:The Junction showing both canals.

The Junction showing both canals.

Lois Francis

The Junction Boatyard.

Photo:The Junction Boatyard.

The Junction Boatyard.

Lois Francis

The boatyard was for many years shared by private boatbuilders and the ship canal company's craftsmen. The boatbuilders built and repaired small sailing vessels, and the craftsmen constructed and maintained bridges, lockgates and maintainance craft.

In 1869 the dry dock was built across one corner of the Junction with gates to allow vessels to move easily between the two canals as it had already become apparent that the Company's dredger  was too large to turn the sharp corner.

The Boat House

Close to the former entrance to the dry dock, is a covered arm off the Stroudwater Canal, which was built by the ship canal company about 1840 to house their ice boat. This eventually became a facility where work could be carried out on boats under cover.

Photo:Covered working area.

Covered working area.

Lois Francis

Sandfield Stables.

This building was built to house the horses that towed the canal. It is now converted to a cafe.

Photo:Sandfield Stables.

Sandfield Stables.

Lois Francis

Sandfield Wharf.

These shed were built during the 2nd World War as a strategic food store. The site was later developed as a wharf for handling coasters bringing imports.

Photo:Sandfield Wharf.

Sandfield Wharf.

Lois Francis

Other Items To Observe.

We would be grateful for any more information about these places at Saul Junction.

Photo:2nd World War Pill Box.

2nd World War Pill Box.

Lois Francis

Photo:Culvert carrying a branch of the River Frome.

Culvert carrying a branch of the River Frome.

Lois Francis

Photo:Wycliffe School Boat House over the Footbridge.

Wycliffe School Boat House over the Footbridge.

Photo:A capstan for mooring or controlling boats.

A capstan for mooring or controlling boats.

Lois Francis

This page was added by Lois Francis on 18/03/2009.
Comments about this page

The last photograph on this page does not show a capstan - which is a type of winch. The caption should read 'One of the many checking posts along the towpath of the ship canal that could be used to take a rope from a passing ship that needed help to maintain its course in the narrow water of the canal.'

By Hugh Conway-Jones
On 25/07/2009

Regarding the Pill Box - see


in particular S04

By Dr Ray Wilson
On 25/07/2009

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