Memories of the canal and Frampton on Severn in the twenties

Wing Cmdr John Vick

The earliest days

I was born at Walford House, Frampton on Severn in 1917 where my grandfather had lived from 1875. I lived there until 1940. I attended the village school until I was eleven and the headmaster was Harold Nelmes.

Swimming in the 'cut'

My earlier memories of the canal, known locally as the "cut", were of fishing and swimming there. In the summer locals went to the "cows' drink", a shallow access for that purpose and non-swimmers could safely go out as far as the "ledge" where the bottom dropped steeply. Changing into bathing gear was accomplished in the "tumps", mounds of clay covered in bushes. They had remained from the time the canal was built and the clay used for lining the bottom. Both adults and children used this local lido and many learned to swim there as I did with the aid of a couple of pieces of cork that had floated in from some passing boat. The banks on either side of the cows' drink offered a good place from which to show off diving skills, providing the dive was far enough out to be over the ledge. I remember one youth called Punch (all the locals had nicknames), whose special feat was to take a running dive from the bank and surface the other side of the canal. Others would swim out to the slow moving timber barges that were towed by steam tugs, climb up to the top of the load and do a high dive into the canal to the applause of the spectators.


All the boys went fishing in the canal. Some proudly carried ancient family rods but many did as I did; obtained a bamboo from a friendly gardener and made a float out of a goose feather. Roach and bream were the main catch apart from the ubiquitous small gudgeon and there were favourite spots from which to fish. One was from a large iron pontoon that had been used to prop up Fretherne bridge when heavy loads passed and this was moored opposite Saul Lodge.

The Gloucester Sharpness canal

Photo:Ada off Portishead

Ada off Portishead

Frampton always had a connection with the sea and the canal brought this even more into local lives. In the 1920s my neighbour, Mr Herbert, had a one-masted sailing ketch called the Ada which he sailed to Ireland from Sharpness and sometimes brought up the canal and moored by the field called the Cantleas, the nearest point to his house. His son Charlie was a contemporary of mine and it was with great delight that I was shown over this boat which sailed to "foreign parts".

Getting to Gloucester

In the early 1920s there was no bus service to Gloucester from Frampton but a carrier operated a horse and wagon at intervals for freight and would take passengers. This started from the thatched cottage at the beginning of Whitminster lane and the doors to the wagon shed are still there. I was told of the son of a Frampton grocer who went to school in Gloucester by passenger boat. There were two of these, the Wave and the Lapwing, both steam boats and it was a treat to go to Sharpness on one of these and to have tea at the pleasure gardens. The nearest railway station was at Stonehouse and Mr Betteridge ran a daily parcel service from the station by horse and cart.

This page was added by Iris Capps on 10/03/2009.
Comments about this page

The Carrier, Mr Betteridge was Frank Selwyn Betteridge and he resided at Kempsey House, Frampton Green. My great grandfather's family William Knight) lived in the house until c1886 when his wife Ann died. It was taken over as a private school run by Margaret Saunders and her daughter, Margaret Jane Saunders. Frank Betteridge married at Frampton and moved into the house on Frampton Green. His father, William was born at Kempsey Nr Worcester where he ran a butchers shop. Frank hence called the house at Frampton, Kempsey House.

By Brian Humphreys
On 31/05/2018

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