Originally authorised as a ship canal between Gloucester and Berkeley in 1793, the entrance on the Severn estuary was changed to Sharpness to provide better access for large ships, and the canal was opened in 1827. Trade soon developed, raw materials such as timber, wheat, oats and barley being unloaded from ocean-going ships from Ireland, Europe and North America to be carried on by canal to the growing industrial towns of the Midlands. Badly affected by the loss of trade with mainland Europe during the First World War, traffic did not fully recover, but the canal played a vital role carrying cargoes inland from the Bristol Channel ports in the Second World War. Nationalised in 1948, the canal attracted new trade post-war, only to see it die away in the 1980s. Sharpness remains a successful port and this book shows how it has changed and how the buildings at Gloucester Docks have found new uses.
Hugh Conway-Jones is highly respected local historian and leading authority on this canal, having researched it, and Gloucester Docks, for many years. He is the author of several books including a history of the docks, a picture book about the canal and a title about the lives of the people working on the Severn and Canal.