Secrets of the lost Waterway

Les's tales of a forgotten canal

By Judy Chorley

Canals are back in fashion - as the restoration of the Cotswold Canals proves. 

Occasional columnist Les Pugh uncovers the history of a forgotten waterway built by a man with a passion for canals.

The 1960's

IN the 1960s, I was friend­ly with Bob Boakes who lived with his family at Valley View, Bridgend.

Bob, like myself, was very interested in the Kemmett  canal which formed the boundary at the bottom of his garden. He had made an in‑depth research into the history of the waterway, about which very little is known.

Mr Kemmett's Canal

The objective of Mr Kemmett's canal was to utilise the River Frome to transport coal from the Forest of Dean and the Midlands to the many woollen cloth mills built on the River Frome.Originally they used water wheels to provide the power for the weaving looms, but had changed to steam power as a more reli­able source of energy.

No Locks

Because of opposition from mill owners at the use of locks to accommodate the rising levels of the valley, Mr Kemmett devised a scheme which would elimi­nate locks by creating 'pounds' on the new water­way. Double headed cranes were used to lift one ton wooden containers carried in barges from the lower level to barges at the higher level.

Lifting stations

The Kemmett started at Ryeford and the first identi­fiable lifting station is at Downton Road, Bridgend, where the river changes its level and direction.

The next lifting station is at Lower Mills, Bridgend, where there is a weir and the remains of the lifting sta­tion.

From there, the next lifting station is at Beard's Mill which is adjacent to the Railway Viaduct and has a weir. This station would have served Bond's Mill.

After Bond's Mill, the best preserved weir and lifting station is at Churchend, Eastington.This would have served the now derelict Churchend Mill.

From Churchend, the next identifiable weir and lifting station is at Fromebridge Mill, which was demolished many years ago but was sited where the balancing ponds and weir are now located.

On to the Cambridge Canal

From Whitminster, Kemmett used the Cambridge Canal, which was in use from about 1740 and provided a navigable waterway to the River Severn at Framlode.

Mr Kemmett started his canal in 1758, but it had a short life and was aban­doned in 1763. The Stroudwater Canal was started in 1775 and aban­doned in 1933.

Les Pugh 2009

This page was added by Judy Chorley on 04/06/2009.

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