Severn Collier

Severn Collier 2008

The remains

Severn Collier

The plaque at Purton


By the time the Severn Collier was conceived and built at Stourport in 1937, the decline of commercial timber ship building was well advanced. Indeed, if it had not have been as a direct result that her new owners, Cadbury Brothers having had shares in the Midland Shipyard, the vessel may never have been built in this medium in the first place. As a ‘one off’ example, the Severn Collier is therefore the last of her kind.

As a late comer to the site in 1965, the Severn Collier has suffered due in part to her highly exposed location astride Rockby, but mainly as a result of being constructed of ¾ inch oak planking and seasoned oak beams and futtocks.

This, in turn, has resulted in extensive destruction to recover valuable building materials and, latterly, in 1997 the selfish removal of her oak main beam, for use as an ornate addition to a recently refurbished chimney breast within a nearby village. This sad fact is made all the more poignant as the beam is known to contain the official number, given to her upon initial registration.

When all timbers of any value were removed, the Severn Collier was duly set alight and her bows have now been destroyed in a vain attempt to locate and recover phosphor bronze rivets and pins. Fortunately these were absent and the arsonist was defeated and left empty handed.

Sadly, damage continues and as recently as 2006 the Severn Collier attracted the attention of trophy hunters intent on the removal of ornate transom timbers, an event which was only prevented by direct intervention of the author himself.

December of 2008 saw the indiscriminate daubing of senseless graffiti which, in turn decimated an important colony of slow growing lichen, simultaneously whilst effectively robbing the region of an image that has been revered by generations of photographers who have visited the site to capture the vessel’s serene beauty.

Once again the rule of the minority triumphs over that of the majority.

Severn Collier
LPB Identification
No. 21
DRM Identification
No. N/A
AJP Identification
No. 22
Source (CG)(AJP)(DM)(LPB)(EA)(JG)(NCA)(CL)(DJW)(RD)
Name P.o.R Description Dates
Severn Collier Unregistered
No. 584
Wooden screw barge
Towed barge
Official No. not known Code
Builders not known
Dimensions Length 82.6 ft Breath 18ft Depths 7.3ft

Tonnage – ( ) Gross c. 100 ton Net B.D

Engines None By N/A H.P. N/A
Beached date c. February 1965
Beached by Capt Frank Savage, Charles Langford, Eric Aldridge, Dick Woodward, Doug Munday and Bill Deacon
Miscellaneous Canal Boat Public Health Reg (started Glos 1879)
Scripted 14.7.1937 Reg Glos 534/16.7.1937 as New barge with motor
First Owners Severn & Canal Carrying Company

British Transport Commission

Historic overview

Born of a marriage of convenience between the need for coal and the desire to keep costs at a minimum, the aptly named Severn Collier was conceived and built to ensure her owner’s factory had a constant supply of Lydney steam coal.

Originally motorised, the Severn Collier came into being in 1937 to replace Cadbury Brothers towed barges which up to then, had supplied their factory’s incessant weekly demand of 300 tons from the nearby Sharpness coal terminal.

It was initially conceived that the Collier, as she became known, could cut costs even further by navigating the short hop to the Forest of Dean coal port and negotiating with the coal exporters themselves, thus effectively removing the burden of paying Sharpness levied port dues and taxes. Sadly, this was not to be, as it was quickly discovered, during her maiden voyage, that her engine size had been grossly miscalculated. The miscalculation resulted in the underpowered vessel taking some eight hours to reach its destination, a journey of no more than 1.5 miles.

Undeterred the little Collier was duly towed back across to Sharpness, her engine removed and she was unceremoniously used as a dumb barge until her final days in 1965. Severn Collier’s final retirement can be attributed to Cadbury Brothers converting their Severnside Factory from a coal powered facility to become oil powered.

Historic images
Severn Collier 1951

At Junction Yard, Saul 29th September 1951. The Graham Farr Collection

Severn Collier 1976

Before the inundation May 1976 courtesy Alan Aldous

Severn Collier 1967

Mr Norman Andrews photo of 26th February 1967 shows Severn Collier, Rockby and Britannia located at the site. The Norman Andrews Archive (LC 67 – 9))

Severn Collier 1982

The ornate carved transom, a prize protected. The Ron Cowl Collection c.1982

Recent images
Severn Collier 2002

Her bows now gone the Severn Collier lends her remaining strength to the Purton foreshore. L. P. Barnett Collection July 2002

Severn Collier 2002

The Severn reclaims one of her own. L. P. Barnett Collection July 2002

Severn Collier 2002

Lament for the dying, the like of which will never to be seen again. L. P. Barnett Collection July 2002

Lloyds register

Nor registered

Mercantile Register

Nor registered

Mercantile Navy List loss

Nor registered

P. A well preserved barge

Severn Collier ancillary information

3rd November 1908 advises that a new coal tip was ordered to be built at Sharpness (Gloucester Record Office entry D2460/4/4/6 (21))
The British Waterways Archive advises that 25th November 1909 saw a new coal hoist built at Sharpness
Built 1937 at Stourport for £1.400 intended to carry coal from Lydney to Cadburys of Frampton to take over from two dumb barges that had previously carried out the job via transhipment the bridge and coal tip at Sharpness.
Not a success as engine caused vast vibration and had to be removed to resume transhipment.
Vessel not seen in 26th March 1946 photo
Graham Farr picture taken September 1951 at Saul Junction
Required to carry 300 ton each week until Feb 1965 when Cadburys factory switched to oil firing.
Vessel located in 13th May 1967 Norman Andrews photo.

Register of Canal Boats Gloucester Records Office entry No. 65

No 534 Severn Collier
Owner Severn and Canal Carrying Company Ltd, The Docks, Gloucester
Master Charles Mann
Route River Severn and adjacent canal
Nature of Traffic Coal
Wide or Narrow Wide, not to be used as a “fly boat”
No. of Cabins One
Aft Cabin Height 6ft
Length 6ft 9 inches
Width 9ft 9inches
Gross cubic capacity or free air space 393
Net cubic capacity or free air space 315
Date of inspection for registration 21st June 1937
Date of examination by office 21st June 1937
Date of registration 28th June 1937
Place registered Gloucester
In aft cabin 5 persons.
This is a new boat and is in every way suitable to be used as a dwelling under the Canal Boat Act


Capt. Vince Aldridge – former skipper
Ira (Jack) Aldridge – life long Cadbury employee
Capt. Frank Pockett – last skipper
Sam Aldridge – former crew
Tom Dangerfield – former crew
Jasper Ely – former crew
Bevan Knight – last crew
Mr Hilman – former crew
Mike Ayland – schoolboy passenger
Dick Woodward – bank beaching party
Bill Deacon – bank beaching party
Eric Aldridge – beaching helmsman
Doug Munday – beaching crew
Capt. Jimmy Common beaching tug Resolute’ skipper
Charles Langford –beaching tug crew
David White – ships carpenter working Davis Yard, Saul

Analogue transcripts
Eric Aldridge

Skipper of Dredger No 4, Date of Interview 01.07.03
Eric identified the Severn Collier and remembers that she was under the command of her last skipper the Arlingham man Frank Pockett in the employ of Cadbury’s. Furthermore he recalls that she had initially taken over transporting 300 ton coal from Sharpness in the place of two dumb barges including the former side clothed Brimscombe built wooden trow Industry which he states can now be found at Broad Oak on the River Severn. (note the other may have been the Gem). Furthermore he recalls that the Severn Collier supplied the training Ship Vindicatrix with coal for her fires and ovens and can remember her frequently running from Sharpness coal hoist to Gloucester City with coal as a dumb barge as he can’t remember it being motorised. Further recalls his brother Vince Aldridge had after a life time deep sea, finished his days as skipper of this little collier

Mike Ayland

The Grandson of Capt. Hugh Shaw, Date of interview 26th June 2003
Mike identified the Severn Collier as being on the Purton Foreshore and recalls family friend and Cadbury plumber Max Cave Ayland, could recall the towed coal vessel Severn Collier during this time. Furthermore Mike recalls that he had sailed on the Severn Collier on many occations as it had been traditional for his school holidays to be spent collecting coal via Sharpness coal hoist and returning it to the Frampton based chocolate factory.

The day would begin with the Severn Collier, “which was a pig to steer”, joining a passing tug and lighter chain and heading down to Sharpness under the command of her last skipper Frank Pockett, who had taken over from Capt. Vince Aldridge, and crewed by Tom Dangerfield. Once there the Severn Collier would be positioned under the old arm coal tip with her bows facing the old basin in order to receive her 60 tons or 6 x 10 ton laden trucks of Lydney /Forest coal.

Mike also fondly recalls that it was a necessity to conduct this operation twice a week as it was vital in order to maintain normal Cadburys production and that the British Waterways Motor Barge Severn Stream was commandeered when ever the Severn Collier was out of action.

Incidentally the Severn Collier had been supplied from the shipbuilders complete with an engine as it was originally proposed to supply Cadburys with coal from source at Lydney, however this idea had been shelved upon the Severn Colliers 8 hour maiden voyage across the Severn as a result of the under powered engine which was subsequently removed and thus the Severn Collier became a towed barge.

Upon reflection Mike surmises that the end was in site for the Severn Collier following the loss of the Severn Railway Bridge on 25th October 1960 as a result of the mid channel collision and subsequent explosion concerning the M.V Wastedale H and M.V. Arkendale H which can still be seen in the river to this day. This in turn resulted in the loss of rail-borne supplies of coal to the railhead at Sharpness and therefore the coal hoist had to find alternative sources of coal, which was initially supplied via transhipment by road or bulk carrier.

This however was to be short lived as it was soon found to be un – economical to multi handle the cargo. Coupled to that the hoist itself failed to gain a board of trade safety certificate and was thus condemned in approx c1961 – 2. Therefore with the loss of a reliable supply of water-borne coal Cadburys initially utilised the much despised road system and eventually changed to oil fire furnaces and thus the Severn Collier was eventually assigned to the foreshore in c. 1964 -5 were she remains to this day in a last defiant act to control the waters she once mastered.

An interesting footnote however was that in the interim period following the retirement of the Severn Collier and pre oil furnaces at Cadburys, a local man by the name Hartley Everat of Elmore and his partner Jasper Ely attempted to re-establish a coal trade to the factory by employing former mud hoppers, however as with the vessel before them they proved too costly to load and unload and the trade was abandoned but not before entering skipper Everat into the annuls of local history as the last man to ship coal to Cadburys, Frampton.

Jimmy Common

Tug Skipper, date of interview 25.10.2007
Jimmy recalls collecting Severn Collier from Sharpness with Resolute and Charlie Langford and beaching on the foreshore

Don Fowler

Sharpness to Gloucester Canal Superintendent, date of interview 24.06.03
Mr Fowler identified the Severn Collier by name and recalls that she was in the employ of Cadbury’s delivering coal from old dock via the old wooden coal hoist to their factory at Frampton. He further states that the coal hoist operation consisted of a series of counter balances that allowed a loaded 10 tonne coal wagon to be driven onto a supported platform, which would then be allowed to pivot, under the trucks own weight and thus empty its load into the waiting vessel.

The counter balanced arm would then return the now empty truck to the up right position enabling it to be replaced and the operation repeated until the vessel was loaded. Simple but effective. Mr Fowler recalls that the coal hoist is no longer situated on the corner of the old arm, as it had been condemned during his time on the dock and had subsequently been removed.

Charlie Langford

Crew member of the Tugs Addie, Resolute and Primrose, Date of interview 19.06.03
Charlie identified the Severn Collier by the term Collier and recalls he played a role in her beaching whilst on the tug Resolute under Skipper Jimmy Common with Bill Deacon organising the shoreside crew as bank foreman. Charlie further recalls that the Severn Collier was built especially to run Lydney coal to Cadburys under the power of its own engine. However it was soon discovered that the engine was under powered as a result of its eight hour maiden round trip.

David R. MacGregor

Marine Historian, Date of interviews 20.03.03 & 10.07.03
Severn Collier was initially not identified by David during his 1952 visit, however he identified it as being located at a subsequent visit. Furthermore he recalls that the Severn Collier was flat bottomed, had bulwark capping and had the official number cut into a deck beam.

Doug Monday

Crew and Skipper of the Crane Barge Gloucester, dates of interview 21st February 2004,
10th March 2004 and 17th March 2004
Doug advised that he had played a role as crew in the beaching of the Severn Collier. Further he recalled that Jasper Ely and Bevan Knight used to operate the Severn Collier in and out of Cadburys with coal.

Dr Anthony J Parker

PURTON: KEY TO PLAN OF BOAT REMAINS Reference A. J. Parker (1998)
22. Severn Collier (1937). Motor boat.

John Perkins

Lighterman on the Gloucester to Sharpness Canal and River Severn, First interview 26.06.03
JP recalls that he used to tow the wooden coal carrying Severn Collier to Cadburys at Frampton.

Ray Savage

Skipper of the tug Speedwell and canal employee, Date of interview 29.06.03
Mr Savage identified the Severn Collier by the term Collier and states she was used to transport coal.

David Wheeler

First physical description and named by David June 1965 and noted as not present in 1961. Furthermore he listed the vessel at this time as Severn Collier – barge flat bottom

Dicky Woodward

British Waterways as Suction Plant Operator, Date of interview 10th May 2003 and 8th June 2003
Dick identified Severn Collier by name and advised that his former colleague and good friend Eric Aldridge’s cousin (Sam) worked this vessel as helmsman. Further he recalls she was a towed dumb barge as she did not have a motor at this time and remembers that the bows were destroyed to a fire started by children.

Some time later Dick advised that he had played a role in the breaching process at which time he recalls that she had inadvertently been dropped on stern of adjacent boat He also recalls a former dredging operative a Mr Hilman had came off her “to join us on the canal”.

Phase one report