Waterway to Travel

Bus services around the Canal

Leslie Pugh


Les Pugh casts his mind back to a time when the main form of transport in the Five Valleys was by boat along the canals, a time when a trip from Whitminster to Gloucester took two hours or more.  He also recalls some very uncomfortable shopping trips to Stonehouse by pony and trap and looks back fondly to a time when a few gallons of home-made cider and a good gaggle of friends provided all the enjoyment anyone needed.

For this latest snippet of nostalgia I want to take you back 83 years to 1919 when I was four years old and lived at Whitminster.

To continue my memories of travel at that period, the following paints a true picture of the way we lived.

Berkeley, Gloucester to Sharpness Canal

The outlying villages in the Severn Vale had one very popular way of getting to Gloucester. This was on the Berkeley, Gloucester to Sharpness Canal. There were two,  Wave and Lapwing steam‑ driven boats. They were well patronised by the people who lived near the canal and there were stopping places all the way up the canals, generally near to bridges.

Family life.

My family ‑ father, mother, elder brother and myself ‑ lived in a tied cottage belonging to the Lord of the Manor, the Reverend Teasdale of Whitminster House. My profoundly deaf father, the son of a sheep farmer, was deemed unfit for military service in the Great War (1914‑1918) and was directed to Whitminster House to manage the farm with the assistance of two land army girls. He was also verger, bellringer, sexton and grave digger at WhitminsterChurch in which I was christened.

The Wave and The Lapwing.

Returning to the Wave and Lapwing, my mother would take me on a walk to the bridge over the Stroudwater Canal and along the towpath to Saul Junction, where we would cross the Berkeley Canal on the footbridge and wait at the landing stage on the Gloucester side. There would generally be five or six people from Frampton, Saul, Arlingham, Epney, Longney and Whitminster waiting there.

The journey to Gloucester would take two hours or more, depending on the number of stops the boats had to make. On Saturdays the boats, which had two decks, would be full of passengers.

Blue Taxi bus.

It was about at that time that the Blue Taxis bus service started running between Gloucester and Bristol on what was then known as the Bristol Road, now the A38. Later the Silvey family started to run a bus service from Epney to Gloucester and the Lewis family ran a bus from Frampton to Stroud (I think).

This new-fangled, but less comfortable form of transport was very much quicker and more convenient than the canal steam boats, which soon lost all their trade and the service was discontinued.

Carrier Service to Stonehouse.

After Gloucester, the place most frequently visited was Stonehouse. It had two railway stations and shops that sold most things needed by simple country folk. A carrier service to Stonehouse from Frampton‑on‑Severn via School Lane, Whitminster and Grove Lane through Westend, Eastington, was operated by Mr Betteridge with his pony and trap. He would take people and goods to any destination en-route. One of his main functions was to collect domestic servants and their boxes containing all their worldly goods from the railway stations to take up employment in the many great houses of the aristocracy in the area. Mr Betteridge's fees for carrying these girls going into domestic service were paid by their employer's housekeeper when he delivered them to their destination.

A ride on a wooden seat.

When my mother wished to visit Stonehouse she would arrange for Mr Betteridge to pick us up. We would sit on the wooden seat across the trap next to him, which again was most uncomfortable.

A move from Whitminster to Westend.

In late 1919 my family moved from Whitminster to Westend, Eastington, so that my father could work for a gentleman farmer, Melville Wright of Westend Farm. They had been friends for some time and played skittles together. Melville sub‑let two orchards to my father to enable him to keep poultry and pigs and also to make cider and perry. He was able to make many gallons of each drink.

Making cider and perry.

The apples for the cider and the pears for the perry were taken by horse and cart to Mr White of Fromebridge Mill who provided a cider‑making service for all the local farmers and smallholders.

My father usually had about 60 gallons of cider and 40 gallons of perry made each year. Both were contained in wooden casks made by Coopers', very skilled men. Each cask had a large bung‑hole in the side and a much smaller tap hole in the end.

Storing the cider.

The casks were trammed in our back kitchen in which the coal was stacked in a wooden enclosure. The cider and perry was drunk from a tot made of cows horn. The tot was always left upside down on one of the wooden taps in the casks. Nearly all the tradesmen who called with supplies helped them ­ selves to cider or perry at my father's invitation. This may seem to be inconceivably unhygienic but the tot was never washed. Before each individual drank it from it a small quantity of cider or perry would he swilled around the tot and thrown on to the coal. They would then sit on a wooden bench and enjoy the drink.

The people I can remember enjoying this facility were Joe Dowding, the Co-op horse and cart bread delivery man, Mr Davis, the postman from Stonehouse and Mr Hobbs, who delivered paraffin, carried in what I think were converted milk churns with taps fitted. Mr Davis rode a red bicycle and Mr Hobb used a horse and cart.

Thus ends another very enjoyable journey down memory lane.

Les Pugh

Reprinted with my permission

Fisrt published in Stroud News and Journal, 28.08.2002

This page was added by Judy Chorley on 01/03/2009.

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