Building The Canal

Lesson Plan

By Lois Francis

Learning Intention: To recognise primary and secondary sources.


The children could also set themselves up as engineers and investigate different routes for the canal using the O S Cassini map of Gloucester and the Forest of Dean, 1828-1831, Sheet 162. Is the cheapest route necessarily the fastest route?


1.    Why build from Framilode? (Coal was traditionally brought from the Shropshire coalfields and transported down the Severn. Later the Forest of Dean coalfields were frequently used as coal was loaded onto boats at Bullo Pill).


2.    Use the ‘building of a lock document’, D1180/2/72, from the archive of the Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation shown below -

Photo:Part of account relating to the building of a lock at Framilode

Part of account relating to the building of a lock at Framilode

Company of Proprietors

Using magnifiers children need to read through the document in stages. Ask the children to have the following questions in mind –


-       What type of document is it?

-       Who produced it?

-       Do you know anything about the authors?

-       Why was it written?

-       When was it written?


The children can then read through again and underline words and phrases they think they understand.


-       Are there any words that they can substitute for modern words?

-       Can the children make drawings to help them understand what the document is?


The class can then discuss the document.


 The following categories can be drawn from the discussion –

  1. Names of people and/or companies.
  2. Names of Places
  3. Measurements.
  4. Dates
  5. Jobs

Groups of children can investigate the different aspects and create presentations of their findings, using models, ICT and talks.

Names of people and/or companies


The children could become a company of directors and issue shares. They could investigate the following document from the Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation to understand the case for the building of the canal and indeed what the difference was between the term navigation and canal.

Photo:The Case for the Stroudwater Navigation

The Case for the Stroudwater Navigation

Company of Proprietors

The children could then use diagrams of tunnels, locks, aqueducts and embankments to enable them to design


A)  Their least expensive route


B)  Their quickest route. (remembering that locks and tunnels took time to negotiate)


2  Names of Places


Using the ‘Plan of the Navigable Canal from the town of Stroud to the River Severn at Framiload’ the children can match the name of the places against the named plots on the map of the proposed route.  Do they think each owner is happy for the canal to pass through their land?  How will it be of benefit to the individual owners?  Is there an owner who would oppose the scheme? Why?


Children can compare maps of the current settlement by the canal with the map of the route in 1775. What has been the effect of building the canal on the settlement of the area?


Is the effect still the same today or is modern settlement clustered around other features of the landscape?

  3  Measurements


Can the children make a scale model, using card, of the lock pit from the measurements given?


What is the significance of a lock? What job does it do?


Can they convert the measurements to metric?


Can the children estimate the cost of building the Stroudwater 

Navigation per mile?


They could test different geological deposits to determine how much leakage there would be through the rock and how much puddling and why puddling would be needed.


4  Dates


Can the children construct a transport timeline, which shows the developments of transport systems over time?

What effect did canal transport have on the town of Stroud?

What is the significance of the canal building age and why was it so short lived?

Photo:Plan of the Stroudwater Navigation

Plan of the Stroudwater Navigation

Company of Proprietors

5  Jobs


All the tasks mentioned on this document indicate a system for building canals:


  • Rampering
  • Cutting
  • Wheeling clods
  • Pumping water
  • Wheeling to make up bank
  • Puddling in the above works.

The children research what these jobs entailed.

From the description of these jobs and the later photograph below taken from the Stanley Gardiner, Lionel Padin and Mike Mills collection (category_id__90.aspx) can the children deduce how a canal was constructed?

Photo:Lock uner reconstruction, c 1907

Lock uner reconstruction, c 1907

Donated by Mike Mills

Photo:Reconstuction work, Lower Puck Mill c 1907

Reconstuction work, Lower Puck Mill c 1907

Donated by Mike Mills


This page was added by Iris Capps on 30/03/2010.

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