Canal Company Employees 1923

Stories behind the faces

By Jean Speed

This photograph from the past shows a group of workmen employed by the Canal Company on maintenance. It looks here as if they are clearing a ditch.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Canal Company Employees 1923' page

CAN YOU HELP? I wonder what the poles were used for and what the duties of such a gang was.  Maybe you have a story to tell about one of the faces in the photograph.

Bill Deacon

Bill lived at Slimbridge and was a bridge opener. Bridges back in 1923 were divided in the middle and whilst each bridge had a keeper to open one half the other side was moved by an opener. Bill would have picked up a convoy of tugs with barges and followed them down the canal on his bicycle opening and closing bridges as they passed along the canal.

This page was added by Jean Speed on 11/03/2009.
Comments about this page

Please do not say that Bill Deacon was a bridge opener!

Firstly, the man who cycled along the towpath and opened one span of each bridge was known as a passman.

Secondly, although Bill may possibly have done this job briefly, it is not what he was known for.

The caption should read 'Bill Deacon spent all his working life with the canal maintenance team. The photo shows him as a young man helping to clear out Baldwins Brook. Later he was captain of the dredger and then foreman of the bank gang.' (Hugh Conway-Jones)

By Hugh Conway-Jones
On 25/07/2009

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