Saul Junction Lock — A report by Sarah Brice of Canal & River Trust
After 136 years, four historic lock gates at Saul Junction on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal have seen the light of day.
Unique and historic intersection
Saul Junction was once the only place in the country where there was a level intersection of two independently owned canals.
The Stroudwater Navigation opened for business in 1779. It carried cargoes of coal from the River Severn to fuel the woollen cloth industry in the Stroud Valleys.
Forty-eight years later…
The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal (G&S), sixteen miles long and sixteen feet deep was finally opened in 1827.
This new, broad waterway allowed sea going vessels to avoid the tidal reaches of the River Severn in order to reach the inland Port of Gloucester.
However, the surface of the new canal was four feet above that of the Stroudwater and the two waterways needed to operate in unison.
This necessitated the realignment and raising of the line of the Stroudwater. The two levels were matched when Saul Junction Lock was completed in 1826.
One hundred & seventy-five years on…
The Stroudwater Navigation carried on trading until 1941. Thereafter traffic of all kinds effectively ceased. It was abandoned by Act of Parliament in 1954.
Two hundred & thirty seven years have now passed…
In 2015 Canal & River Trust made a successful application to The Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Grade II listed lock chamber and replicate the historic lock gates using their original ironwork.
Restoration — First Phase
The first phase has seen the lock gates lifted out and surveyed.
Dendrochronology — tree-ring dating, the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings — will be carried out to reveal their age and authenticity.
The paddle or sluice design is somewhat unusual in that water entering the lock was controlled by the operation of pivoting paddle boards. One such pivoting board can be seen in the second photo above.
There has been speculation as to whether the recently removed gates are those installed in 1880. This speculation is based upon historic drawings lodged at Gloucester Record Office. First inspections would suggest that these gates are indeed 136 years old!!
The original metal work has now been recovered from the historic gates, and will be restored and reinstated on the new gates currently being constructed.
Restoration — Second Phase
The second phase will see the lock chamber pumped dry in order that missing stonework can be replaced and repointed. Public open days and school visits will be arranged whilst the lock is empty, so watch this space!
When CRT completes its re-construction work Saul Junction Lock will be promoted as an ‘Open Air Museum’ to tell the story of this important waterways junction.
New footpaths and a seating area are to be constructed whilst a range of interpretation installations will improve the visitor experience at this popular destination.
Find out more