The Policeman's story

The breach in the Gloucester to Sharpness Canal

By Lois Francis

Photo:P C Francis on the bridge

P C Francis on the bridge

Lois Francis

P.C. Paul Francis's account of the breach of the canal.

At the time of the breach I was Officer in charge at Whitminster Police Station.  In the early hours of ?  I was called out to attend the report of flooding in the village of Epney.  As the village is on the banks of the River Severn I assumed the flooding was caused by an exceptionally high tide. When I approached the village I could see that there were several flooded houses being attended by the emergency services.  I was informed that the cause of the flooding was a breach of the canal at Castle Bridge.  As roads were blocked and closed to traffic I had to go the long way round to Castle Bridge.

The picture shows me standing on Castle Bridge looking at the empty canal. I could see that someone had attempted to stem the flow by placing large bales of straw in the culvert.

The culvert, which took a stream under the canal, eventually ending up in the River Severn, was made out of timber and had collapsed.

Once the emergency situation of the flooding was dealt with, there followed  many weeks of activity focused on the problems surrounding the canal breach.  I had to ensure that residents were inconvenienced as little as possible by the works.  It was also vitally important to re-fill the water in the canal to ensure that Bristol had drinking water, as the water treatment works at Purton supply Bristol and they take their supply directly from the canal. When the canal was originally built, it was fitted with breach gates at various locations on the length of the canal, designed to deal with exactly this situation. Unfortunately, they had never been tested 'in earnest' and the breach gates at Saul Junction were found to be inadequate. Hundreds of tons of spoil were tipped into the canal to hold the water back.  The canal was eventually refilled from Saul Junction to Sharpness.  Whilst  other culverts were exposed, they were checked because they would have been in a similar condition to the breach.

This page was added by Iris Capps on 15/04/2009.

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