How Was the Canal Used?

Lesson Plan

By Lois Francis

Learning Intention

To compare an aspect of life with the same aspect in another period

Photo:Page from a Tonnage Book

Page from a Tonnage Book

Company of Proprietors

Activity 1

The page of a Tonnage Book is an extremely useful source as it indicates a number of uses for the canal and also indicates wide-ranging trade with ports further away.

Investigations can include:

  • Mapping the journeys of the cargo.
  • Finding reasons for the journeys.
  • Why was stone being brought from Chepstow? Was it resistance to weathering compared to Cotswold stone and can that be investigated?
  • Why were some journeys started from the River Severn? Was it transhipment of cargo from large boats to boats able to use the canal?

Activity 2

This source and the following sources may all be found on the website. They represent just a few of the examples of how the canal was used by the local population throughout two centuries. They also show how the presence of the canal helped to grow a variety of trades and crafts as well as serve various industries.


The children can:

  • Use the extracts to indicate different historical times and sequence them.
  • Understand historical situations, events and people.
  • Find reasons for the need for the trades and uses that are indicated by each source.
  • Find out how people thought in previous times.
  • Begin to find reasons for the decline of the canal.
  • Labelling and captioning pictures.
  • Start an investigation from raising their own questions.
  • Children can also survey their stretch of the canal as it appears now and compare their surveys with the evidence from the past.

Photo:Framilode Lock 1

Framilode Lock 1

Donated by Joan Tucker

Photo:Locks Framilode

Locks Framilode

Donated by Joan Tucker

Photo:Stonehouse Wharf with Trow c 1900

Stonehouse Wharf with Trow c 1900

Donated by Mike Mills

Photo:Early etching of Brimscome Port

Early etching of Brimscome Port

Donated by Mike Mills

Photo:Class in Primscombe Polytechnic

Class in Primscombe Polytechnic

Donated by Mike Mills

Photo:Unloading the barge Alert at Brimscombe Mills c 1905

Unloading the barge Alert at Brimscombe Mills c 1905

Donated by Mike Mills

The following pages may also be of interest -




The web site provides the story of Alfred Southwood, the last lengthman on the canal at Coates (page_id__101.aspx) and Daphne Hinman's experiences during the Second World War, (page_id__150.aspx)

The Boatyard, Saul Junction

The Boatyard

RW Davis & Son boatyard is still in existence, but not run by Bob, who retired some time ago. I believe he took it over from his father, and was following in the tradition of boatbuilding in Saul and Framilode, either on the banks of the Severn, or the G and B.

There was Frederick Evans of Saul, who in 1878 contracted to build for the Company a  replacement boat for workmen to do repairs on the Stroudwater Canal and deliver over to COPS furnished and fit for use in all respects by Nov. 30th for £70. The contract had been made at the end of August.

Richard Own Cambridge

This area has not produced any persons of fame or notoriety. I am open to be corrected! The only person mentioned in history books, well, literature anyway, is Richard Owen Cambridge, of Whitminster House. You realise I am concerned only with people after the coming of the Stroudwater canal. He was a minor eighteenth century poet and essayist, and succeeded to the estate in 1725. His importance to our story is that he built the first canal in the area by straightening the River Frome or Stroudwater through his grounds from the Severn to the Bristol Road. He set about reconstructing his house, and developing the surrounding land into the picturesque, which was the fashion of the day. A wharf was made near the house for unloading building materials. The adjacent church of St. Andrew of which he was churchwarden was also looked after by him, to quote 'A loftie Tower rears its tremendous height'. One of his other pastimes was naval architecture, and he designed and had built a Venetian barge, and a double-hulled boat, (i.e. 2 keels side by side) which we would call a catamaran. In 1750 Frederick, Prince of Wales was brought to see these wonders and was very impressed.

Photo:Richard Owen Cambridge 1778.  Painted by Ozias Humphrey (1742-1810)

Richard Owen Cambridge 1778. Painted by Ozias Humphrey (1742-1810)

Donated by Michael Handford

Eric Blackman describes his experiences working for the Air Sea rescue unit based at Saul Junction during World War II.  Click on the link below for his story.


This page was added by Iris Capps on 21/04/2010.

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