Godfrey Jellyman (born 1923)
Occasionally we would go into Stroud, we had to walk down the hill and catch a railcar as there were no buses then. You caught the railcar from Chalford to Stroud, it turned at Chalford. The station at Brimscombe was bigger with a bigger engine to get it up the hill. Express trains were quite long and had a job to get up the hill, they would go up gently behind to get them up top for Swindon and just eased off and the train went on and engine would turn round and come back. There was a big signal box at Brimscombe, they stopped at Bowbridge and Ham Mill. They used to stop anywhere and anyone going to school had to catch the train.
All teachers at school were ladies. In those days they come from Stroud but they had to walk up the hill from Toadsmoor.
Later on when I was older the buses were running; I must have been nearly leaving school then. The buses go from Chalford all the way down the valley to Stroud and then on to Stonehouse. They ran every 20 minutes so people went on the bus rather than on the train. There were two companies, the Red & White and the Western National.
Dulcie Brimfield (born c. 1926?)
(When I bought a new bike, in the war,) my father wouldn’t let me ride it along the Chalford Valley. He didn’t want me to ride through all the traffic on this new, stiff bicycle. I had to push it all the way up to the top of Stroud and come through Bisley, and it was a hot day. Of course His Lordship came home on a bus and I was ages getting home.
I used to go down on the railcar when I was at Gloucester with Pam. The only other time I used the railcar was if we had snow and the buses were off.
I used to walk or run (to work) because I always left it to the last minute, into Chalford Valley and get the bus into Stroud and a connection to Nailsworth and I used to get to Lightpill like that, until I had the car in 1963. (When I worked in Stroud) on more than one occasion I caught the last bus out of Stroud at midnight.
Anne Sutton (born 1927)
For a while when we were at High School we used to get taken in in the car which was then put up during the war, KO 523, that’s imprinted on my memory. We used to drive into Beards Lane, it was a great big old tourer so there were children from every angle getting out.
After that it was on the bus. Some children used to go on the railcar. If you got assisted travel you went on the railcar, you were given a season ticket for that, in those days things were means tested and so if you salary was over so much you didn’t get any help, the fact that there were 11 children didn’t come into the equation. So we had bus season tickets, my father didn’t think it fair to get petrol for the car with the war. Someone had to ferry it across the oceans, so he wasn’t one of those who tried it on or anything. There was a bus at the bottom of the garden every half hour or twenty minutes so it wasn’t right to get petrol.
My two brothers, who were at Marling School, they used to cycle in. About three boys from Chalford Hill would come down to our house where they kept their bicycles and they would all set out in convoy to Marling School, all winds and weathers, with their capes on in the wet.
I went to Stroud School. We had season tickets, double deckers, 8.20 bus and be at school for 8.50. We walked from Stroud to the schools. We had school dinners there and we got home about 5.0 by the time we walked back up the hill. It was a long day.
When we got a bit older we used to play football against different teams like Bisley, Oakridge, Coppice Hill Rovers and Minchinhampton. We used to walk to these places to play. There weren’t any buses between villages. There was one up here (France Lynch) once or twice a day, a National Green bus. On Toadsmoor if it was full, the bus couldn’t cope so we all got off and walked up the hill and the bus followed.
We used the Chalford Railcar to Gloucester. There were lots of little halts on the rail car. I used to go to Swindon on the train to watch the football, every now and again.
The canal wasn’t used a lot. There was a few boats on it but not very many. There was one big open rowing boat left on the side of the canal near the police station, and it rotted away.
George Gleed (born 1930)
We went (to school) on the railcar. We had a season ticket and we didn’t have to pay anything. We always had fun in the railcar. It stopped at every halt. It took 20 minutes or so. There was leg pulling and all good fun, no bullying.
There were buses as well. Marling School was higher school. They used to have tickets for the bus as there were always punch ups!
Cynthia Gleed (born 1933)
When it was bad weather in the winter I used to have to walk over to Stroud with my brother and mother to get the shopping. My mother was a Stroud person and come hell or high water she had to get to Stroud on a Saturday. The worst winter I can remember was 1947, when there was a bus stuck in the snow at Stancombe for three weeks in the snow. There was pictures in the local paper about it.
Grace Banyard (born 1930)
(During the war) we used to go to dances up at Aston Down once a week. You had to go down to Chalford bottom, I went on my bike down the hill and if you couldn’t catch the special bus from Stroud you had to walk, then get it back before 12.0. My dad was very strict. We had to be in by 10.0.
We used to catch the railcar to the Subs on a Saturday. We used to catch the railcar from Chalford. You could come out the Subs past the pub called the Post Office and go down an alley to the station.
I always worked for British Rail as Great Western had finished by the time I started. The rail was a sought after job. There was a driver, a fireman and a guard. The fireman stayed with the engine all the time and the driver went across to the accelerator which also linked up to the brake. The guard was collecting tickets and helping people on and off.
5.0 in the morning, by the time you got that engine filled up with water, built the fire up, you’re up to Chalford for 7.0. The first one was about quarter past seven, half past seven. Got into Gloucester for 8.0. Once you’d got that fire right look, built up and nice and warm, you could run for an hour on that.
We took water at Stroud. Chalford had no water but Brimscombe had water. I’ve shovelled a few ton of coal trying to get up that bank at Brimscombe and round the viaducts at Frampton Mansell and then there was that final one up into the tunnel. When you got into them curves it took all the pressure, top gear I can assure you. All the coal dust was flying and everything was banging and clanking.
My shift started 5.0 in the morning and when you went down on the 1.0 that was the end of your shift. Then 1.0 until half past 10 at night. Eight hour shift altogether. We used to work alternate one week on early and the next week lates. If there was any overtime on a Sunday, that was our job.
Then I went on to the railcar and I was working with Chris Graves from St. Marys. We used to take the first railcar down to service the engine at Gloucester at lunchtime. Then I moved over to the other shift with David Pearce. The best bit about it was you knew everyone by name. I would help put the prams on and things like that. Put the mail on if we were taking the mail through. It was a lovely job.
I did a morning shift and an afternoon shift and had every Sunday off. You got paid more mileage on a Saturday than the chappies that went to London and back with the express. It was Gloucester and on to Cheltenham on a Saturday. Busy little job.
The station at Chalford was very nice. In my day at the station you had cattle and sheep. Can’t remember pigs. They had the toilets right by where we stopped. We used to leave the coach there at night and take the engine down to Brimscombe to be serviced because the shed got burned down at Chalford.
You had Fibrecrete who had their own special train so the asbestos didn’t get broken, and the coal people, Smarts, they had their own wagons with the name painted on the side.
There was a goods train that started at Stonehouse, ‘cause that was a busy line with the bricks. Stroud was thriving, I can tell you. They had wheat, meal, food from Townsend’s (?), coal. They stored the coal there and had a weigh bridge and everything. It was a big yard, where all the car parks are now.
The early shift meant getting up at 5.0 in the morning. We’d service the engine, fill up with water and heat the coach up so we could run the first lot of workers through to Gloucester. It was a busy little train that first one down through the valley. It used to get really busy. When the schools were taking people swimming, from Ebley to Dannicotts/Gannicox? we’d have to put another coach on, that’s how busy it got.
We had two deaths at Frampton Mansell. Someone got ploughed into in a land rover not so long ago. In my day we had a signal box at Frampton Mansell and the chappie there worked days and the chap who lived in the house was a Mr. Parker and there was no problem. Once they come out of that tunnel mind they’re bloody moving. You don’t hear ‘em and it’s on a curve as well.
A motorcyclist got killed not so long ago on the same crossing, a Cashes Green boy. They was manned you see in my day. It was manned ‘cause of the school kids going across to school. We used to drop them off a few bits of coal when we went by them.
Jenny David (born 1933) & Vesta Rock (born 1934)
(During the war) we had Americans on the common. We had black Americans one side of the common and white on the other. It was the same on the bus. If there was a black couple on the bus and two whites came on and there was nowhere for them to sit, they made the black ones stand. This one particular time – it was the talk of the village – everyone was on the side of the black couple. They were sat there and these white ones got on and they said ‘out’. This was Brimscombe they’d got to. And the bus conductress said, she stood by the door out and said ‘this bus doesn’t move until you leave them alone’. She wouldn’t have it.
Shirley Bushell (born 1943)
I remember the last lengthsman that worked on the canal, who lived in the Round House. Cecil King he was. He just looked after a length of the canal. I don’t remember barges (on the canal), it was coming towards its end then in the 60s, things got filled in and built over and it all changed. We used to go fishing in the canal when we were young for tiddlers! The locks were still then in good order. I can’t remember boats coming up.
The yard opposite was where the boats came in with coal and salt. The barge stopped there just in the basin past the Round House, because that was all open. So to get out from here you went over the canal bridge. The yard was where they unloaded the coal from the barges. There’s a bit of a sort of basin by the Round House, bigger than what is now, and that’s the unloading area. The bridge that got pulled down was where you come off the A419 now. That was quiet then. There was a little bit of traffic but I remember my mother saying when she grew up they had hoops and spinning and all that there in the road, it was so quiet.
To get to the playing field we went on the road or on the canal path. Everything was so well kept then somehow, not overgrown like these days!
We had double decker red buses every 20 minutes from Chalford and they went through to Stonehouse and the last bus to leave the bottom of Marle Hill was 20 to 11.0 at night! That was the bus terminus. There was an air raid shelter in the war in the centre of that grass bit at the bottom of Marle Hill! So they say!
You could go on the railcar to Stroud or Gloucester. You went up the Black Gutter and you’d be at the back of Cowcombe Hill and walk up to the station, or you could go down to St. Mary’s halt and get on there. I can remember my grandmother complaining about all the black soot specs from steam trains over the washing. You could see it in those days as there were no trees. I can still smell them now. They went quite slowly because it’s an incline up here. You used to have the bankers on the back. You could catch a train to Swindon. It was easy to get around in those days if you could afford it. You used to take children on with their prams on the railcar. It was very handy.
Gerald Gardiner (born 1933)
This was all fields when I lived along there (Chalford Hill). You used to come out of the woods into wide open fields but it’s now all houses. It’s a very big estate. They didn’t make the roads that good. It’s not very good getting from the road to the bungalow, and all them wants to go to Cheltenham and that they’ve got to go through Bisley and that’s flaming awkward. There’s a path at the back of Bisley where if they’d bought a bit of the land there they could have made a nice wide road like a bypass.
Margaret Mills (born 1934)
(From 1952) I went (to work) on the railcar from Chalford to Gloucester every day. 10 shillings a week that cost me but I was only earning £2.10sh anyway so it was quite a lot. It was packed. It ran every hour. I caught the 8.0 from here to get into Gloucester for 9.0 and caught the 5.0 home. I was allowed to leave a little early to catch it. It was quite something for someone living in Chalford to go to Gloucester to work.
There were also buses from Chalford to Stroud, every 20 minutes, and of course they were pretty full because people didn’t have their own cars. If we went on outings to Weston or somewhere, we went by coach and you could get to Cirencester on the bus. Occasionally we went to Gloucester on the bus – that was quite a thing to go all the way there on the bus. When we were children that was.
The canal we always took for granted – there was a lot of activity, a lot of industry in the valley and a lot of people worked here, they didn’t go away to work like they do now but they worked in the valley.
Beryl (born 1941) & Derek (born 1938) Freebury
(Beryl) I stayed in Eastcombe until I went to school in Stroud. We never went out anywhere else. We never had a car so our life revolved round the village. It was a big thing for me to get on a bus and go to school in Stroud. It was a normal service bus. I left Eastcombe at 5 to 8.0 and got home at 10 to 5.0. I remember a couple of years when we had snow, we used to have to walk down to the garage at Toadsmoor because there was a turning the bus could turn in. One winter we walked all the way down to the main road and I had to go to the headmistress to ask to leave an hour early to get home in the snow.
There weren’t many cars when we were growing up. People used bikes really. You wouldn’t really see a car. We used to make a tent on that bit of grass across the way as there was no traffic, so much quieter.
(Derek) I went to the school at Brimscombe where the port is for 2 years. The school bus used to start from Edgeworth, come all the way through Miserden, Bisley, Oakridge, over to Chalford Hill, and we were the last ones to get on, so when bad weather come you never went to school. It was a 55 seater and there was usually about 70 on it – we used to stand on it. You never got a seat when you got on up here. We used to walk when the weather was bad. One year we heard about a bus stuck in snow drifts at Stancombe, so we walked up there and back down into the school at Brimscombe.
(In 1953) I left school at 15 and started work at George Waller and Sons. It was down where Stroud Brewery is. I caught the bus at 7.20 and got there just before half past. 7.35 we used to start. There were two buses, one round France Lynch and the other started at Eastcombe. If they were short staffed there was no second bus, so we had to walk.
(When I was posted to Brompton Barracks at Chatham during National Service) I used to come home every other weekend. There was another chap who lived at Stonehouse and we’d leave Gillingham at 3.15 on Friday, fast train from Gillingham to Victoria, then the 5.0 down into Stroud, and then back on Sunday. Sometimes we used to go up on the mail train during the night.
Bob Messenger (born 1950)
My dad worked on the buses in Stroud. Father had shifts on the buses but don’t know what they were. Our dad had pushbike. Used to take it down by Lionel Padin’s, leave it there and catch the bus, then bring it back nights.
I started work at 15 straight from school down at Hope Mills. Used to be 8.0 to half past 4.0. Used to catch the bus. I remember the railcar, getting on at Chalford. Didn’t have a stop at Brimcombe. Used to walk down Marle Hill, struggle back up nights!
In the very cold winters the roads was horrible. Couldn’t get no buses up here at all. Usual, months of snow, everything stopped. All the shops used to run out of food an all.
Audrey Bishop (born 1932)
There was a playground attached to the school, of course. And of course there was no traffic about in those days. And if there was, everybody ran out to the gate to have a look. So you could play out in the road and play marbles, or ball or whatever, up and down the road, and if a car came everybody sort of (sucks in breath), ‘ooh, it’s a car!’. (The road) wasn’t too smooth, mind you – you could push the tarmac away, like gravel, you could make a drill…It wasn’t as smooth as it is now. I can’t remember if it was rough like a lane though.
I worked at Woolworth’s. A bus down Chalford Valley. I had to walk down the bottom and in those days you got snow, not a sprinkling. It was a slippery walk down. If you got down to Chalford Valley, it wasn’t so bad because you went along the valley. I don’t remember much problem with buses along the valley.
I don’t remember when they started running the bus coming up here, I don’t know whether it was before I was born or not. There’s always been a bus up here. They didn’t used to start in the morning. There used to be one at 2.0, one at 4.0, one at 6.0 and one at 8.0. I can remember that, but then eventually, as years went by, they started at 9.0 in the morning and more frequent.
I worked until I was 60 so a lot of what was going on up here I wasn’t involved in. When you have to be at work at 9.0, so get the bus at 20 to 9.0 down the valley, you leave here half past eight in the morning, didn’t get back till 6,0 at night you see. I just wasn’t here half the time.
May Smith (born 1924)
When I worked up on the aerodrome during the war, I used to run down Marle Hill to get the double decker to the Aston Down at 7.0 in the morning. I was working round on D site by Cherington, right out of the way.
Judith Newman (born 1943)
My father was on the railway, based at Brimscombe; he drove the banker which pushed the big goods trains up the bank, because it was a steep incline as far as Kemble, up to Sapperton Tunnel. I don’t know if he went further than Sapperton Tunnel, and when he finished pushing the train he would uncouple and come down, rattling back down the railway line at high speed, backwards, back to Brimscombe, and that was his job, up and down, up and down, up and down. Eventually he also became the railcar driver, and that was great because we had lots of trips to Gloucester on the railcar, not free, we had privilege tickets, so we could travel back and forth, and that was great; a lovely way to travel, you could put prams, and bikes and shopping and everything on it, but of course dear Dr. Beeching took it away in 1964 and lost my father his job. They knocked the station down the very next day, in my opinion in an act of vindictiveness because there was such a protest movement to stop it happening, they wanted to keep the railcar because people still valued it, even though there were buses and more people were using cars and yes, it wasn’t getting the use it used to have, but those who liked it liked it a lot, but it went.
One car/carriage usually, but there could be another, I don’t really remember. Much like a train would be now, a little unit, you know. I’ve never counted the number of seats in them, but it was never full, never standing room only; it would pick up at St. Mary’s and Brimscombe, Brimscombe Bridge, Bowbridge, Ham Mill, all the way to Stroud and beyond and then Stonehouse, Cashes Green, Ebley, Beard’s Lane into Gloucester. And we used to come back on that, on the last train at night after visiting our grandparents in Gloucester.
It wasn’t a diesel train; that was another reason he left the railway, because he’d always driven the steam trains and they were very hard work, and very dirty, but it was a skilled job, very skilled, and he loved it. He had this open-air freedom, not to do as he pleased because obviously there was a timetable, but he had no one breathing down the back of his neck to tell him what to do. He was in charge, and that suited him down to the ground.
Lots of people worked there (the station); there was a station master who was Nat Ollerenshaw then, and there was Vera Damsell, who was the guard, and she kept the gardens nice on the station platforms, and there were several drivers and firemen so it was well staffed. There must have been a dozen or so..six at least, drivers who would have lost their jobs at that time. Whether they were all relocated to Gloucester I don’t know.
My father worked from 2.0 a.m till 10 p.m.; it was three shifts a day. Very unsocial hours. His holidays would have been March/April, he could have them in September, November, or he could have them in July or August. Every third or fourth year he could have a holiday that we could go on as children because we were at school, so it was only once when I was eight, when I was eleven and when I was fifteen we went on holiday. And we went free, because we had free passes on the train….He worked Sundays and Christmas Day, but he didn’t work seven days a week; he’d have a day off and when it was at a weekend we’d go off visiting relatives in Gloucester.
We never had a car. We had nowhere to put one! But my father always had a very large, heavy bike. So he would cycle to work and he would push it back, cycle all the way to Brimscombe and push it back up the hill.
Other transport apart from the railcar: we had the bus, that was our main transport, mainly because there were lots of them. They went from down the bottom. There was an air raid shelter there opposite Chalford Chairs, the air raid shelter was in the middle there, on the green, and the bus shelter was there. There was a France Lynch bus which would go from Stroud, maybe once an hour, and they would go to the top and end up by the shelter by the church. I never used that one, and girls from school, coming from the High School, would all be on the bottom bus.
Peter Clissold (born 1931)
We got to the boys’ school (Stroud) by the rail car, we had a season ticket, and we would run down the banks every morning and if the rail car was coming down and we were a bit late, he’d stop in the station and he’d toot on the whistle and he’d wait whilst we ran on down the bank and across the road and got on – people were very tolerant. When I was at the Central School one of the boys, we were all trying to jump on the rail car to come home and there was a brass handle by the door and we always used to grab this, the first one on to get a window that would wind down. Anyway, Tony Sparks a friend of mine he went to grab the handle, missed and went straight down between the platform and the coach. There was an awful silence and everybody was afraid to go and look over that edge, including me. Believe you me, it was a horrible feeling. Then all of a sudden a hand came up and we grabbed him up. Of course the driver was just pulling up you see, and the wheels were locked so they just pushed him along – these black oily hands came up! You might think the services in those days were pretty slow but by the time that rail car had gone on and we got the boy back on board, very shaken obviously, shaking like a leaf, by the time we got back to Stroud station a mile and a half up the road there was an ambulance here and a doctor and a policeman. Would it be as good as that today? They did have a good serviced didn’t they? Of course roads were quieter, but it was all well done.
I took part in a little milk round, used to come up this drive here on a pony and trap and it was an interesting time then. You know the road that goes along to the cross roads towards Chalford, you go down that steep bit don’t you; well the pony fell down there, going down on an icy morning, got down on his knees and milk churn tipped over and instead of having a brown pony we had a white one with the milk! The trouble with a pony is that, if he gets down and he loses his confidence, unless you can get it up within a short time, it’s no good, it’s finished. We had to try and get this pony up onto his feet and go back and get some more milk and go round again!
Hayden Hunt (born 1941)
(To get to Hartpury) I used to walk down to the station, get on the rail car, get off at Gloucester onto a push bike; and the same the other way. It didn’t take very long, I was fit then. It would take me perhaps say half an hour or 25 minutes because it was straight, it was quite a good road, fairly flat the first bit, then you got a bit of a climb up and then you drop down. And sometimes I’d stop at the White Hart and have a pint. Quite illegally but they didn’t mind.
When Gran used to go to Stroud in the railcar, Gramp always met her and always took our dog with him – an old Great Dane, and his bed was underneath one of the pianos and it snored, but it always went with Gramp and so had to go and meet her; and Gran had to sit near the door because the dog, Wopput was its name, wouldn’t let anyone off the train until Gran came off! The station master was ever so understanding.
George Rowles (born 1928)
Trips to Weston super Mare/ Cheddar Gorge: I was at Stroud at the time, and we went on the railway, we went on the old LMS railway that was where the bypass is to Stroud, you know there, that is where the old LMS (London Midland, Southern) Station was. It used to go that way and then the GWR Station was up where it is now.
I could tell you a little thing about railways; we had a driver that rode the banker from Brimscombe Station; they used to push the trains up (the hill to Sapperton), and (then) this train went off. The Banker they used to call it, which used to be in the back of the train. And we children in, well in the morning, ‘cos the train used to have to go ‘chew, chew, chew to push it up, and we sort of put words with it and said ‘Dam and bugger Chalford Bottom’! It was the rhythm of it…
Keith Weaver (born 1932)
When I started at Central School we had season tickets for the railcar so we had to catch the five to eight from Chalford, arriving back at 5 p.m. It was very dark – because of the war, the clocks were put back two hours.
We liked to get on the platform before the railcar came into Chalford. We liked to get into the truck, get the parcels out the parcel van and often there was a cardboard box of sausages for ……… Chalford from Hilliers. Because of the war, eggs were rationed, but for two eggs the railcar would let you ride on the footplate of the engine with the stoker. I was really lucky ‘cos my Dad kept fowls so we always had eggs. We got off the railcar at Downfield Halt, which was the next stop after Stroud.
In 1947 we had a very cold winter. Everything was frozen, it even bought the telephone wires down which were never replaced. Some of us got off the railcar in Stroud so we could walk along the frozen canal to school.
We used to go to the cinema in Stroud. We used to come back on the last bus – 20 past 10 from Stroud to Chalford and 10 o’clock to France Lynch. You used to have to go to the pictures a bit early for France Lynch. Buses used to be every quarter of an hour, then they changed it to every 20 minutes after the war, which was OK really. They went along the bottom to Stonehouse and turned at Standish.
You had the odd really bad day in winter. Rack Hill was treacherous in the snow but you always had to go to catch the bus.
Ross Forsyth (born 1940)
We had a lot of snow in 1947. I can remember walking up Middle Hill and you couldn’t get up with traffic, and the snow drifts on the sides of the roads were way over the walls and you were walking on top of a snow drift and you were at bedroom level. We seemed to get some snow most years.
Monica Ridge (born 1943)
We had a car. (My father) was in Germany a lot in the war time and he bought a VW and drove it out of the factory from Germany and brought it over here. I can remember in Stroud, by the 4 clocks, there used to be the photographer’s place, and I was sitting in the car (because you used to be allowed to park there), and people stared at the car, it was so unusual, saying ‘what is it, is it a jet car?’ I think it was black and I think it had a little red stripe round it and of course the engine was in the front [back surely]. I had 3 brothers, and my aunt used to live in Cheltenham and we used to go across and I used to go where the luggage used to go, behind the seat and, it shows how tiny I was, because I used to sleep in the back.
I got there (school in Stroud) by bus and I was always late; I used to run as fast as I can from the front door, swing myself on the beech tree, jump off the wall and go down the road. It was a double decker bus with a pole and I’d get hold of that and I’d swing on – unfortunately the satchel would swing and make you swing again. I caught the bus down the bottom opposite Lavender Bakehouse. It used to come in there and as it came round the triangle I used to get on.
I used to go to the station quite a lot. Vera Damsell used to do the tickets and she used to have plaits around her ears. And then I used to go round to the signal box and they used to give me a lot of tea in a tin mug, enamel, with the enamel chipped off. And then they’d let me pull (with their hand on mine) the signals.
I remember steam trains and every Xmas we used to pick the holly and we’d have to wash it because it would be so smutty and then, I think it was ’64, we picked the holly and we danced almost, ‘oh my goodness, we don’t have to wash the holly!’The tennis balls, we’d have to wash the tennis balls every time we played because we used to have a lot of tennis on the bank.
Alan Mayo (born 1943)
The station master, Mr. Ollernshaw (?) used to let us light the fires in the waiting room! Brunel built it. Within a day of Beeching’s axe falling, it was all knocked down, demolished completely. He lived just down the road from Sawyers electricians. Lovely man; he used to hold the railcar. He knew exactly who was going to catch it. My brother Graham was a dental technician in Gloucester when he came out of the army doing his national service, and the times he held it up!
Railcar used to go from Chalford to Gloucester driven by Mr. Pearce who lived up in that wooden bungalow up Cowcombe Hill. He drove the railcar to Gloucester, sat on the railcar and died – in his 60s.
Roger Dainton (came to Chalford in 1970)
If you go up Marley Lane, just before you cross the railway, there used to be a shed there, a little, like a garage sort of shed but it was a wooden shed and it was never used, but it turned out that when this guy who lived there and his wife, they had a son who wanted to buy a car back in the 1950s and his father said, ‘well you can’t park it anywhere here, there’s nowhere to park a car in Chalford’, (even in the fitfties). And he built that garage there and that’s where he had to park his car because he said there was nowhere to park it here. There were no cars really when I was first here (1970) for quite a long time; you know that road gets slightly wider by Anchor House, where Chris and Angela are, if you parked there the police would give you a ticket! Oh deep joy!
Norman Rogers (born in 1914) remembered coal barges going up the canal, and at that time the barges only went as far as Journey’s End – that cottage, it’s the last cottage but one in the High Street, just past, opposite Geoff and Rosie. That was Journey’s End, they were the coal merchants but it was a coal yard probably and that was part of their garden where the house is now. The barges didn’t go through Sapperton tunnel after 1914, as far as I know, but they came to there until probably the end of the 1920s. Norman was born in 1914 so he could remember that. So it was a working canal until then; but I think it had been renovated various times because I think, because of the railway of course which took away an awful lot of its trade, the thing was, it was always a White Elephant canal because from day one it leaked which was the main problem, and the highest point, which is obviously the tunnel, they had to have water there. And what they were doing were pumping water out of the River Frome up into the canal, which is higher than the river, and they used to take up a canal boat full of coal every two weeks just to run the steam pump to pump the water up. It was pretty self defeating, and it continually ran out of water, particularly in the summer obviously because it leaked, because of course it is all limestone and limestone is very porous; and all that they used to call ‘puddling’, which is clay and straw to try and keep the water in, but the problem is, lots of places down the canal, particularly just across by where the millpond was, there’s springs coming out of the side of the canal and that broke through the puddling. So in the winter it’s fine, because the water was coming in, but in the summer the water went back out again. So it was a sort of losing battle and I think that was one of the main problems, that they always ran out of water; and also the high maintenance, particularly in the tunnel. And also apparently the Thames was a problem even at Lechlade, often there wasn’t enough water in the Thames for the barges.
The canal up to Brimscombe is a different canal. That isn’t the same canal, that was built first, that’s the Stroud Water Canal and that goes from the Severn to Brimscombe, and that’s a bigger canal. They used to have sailing trows – I won’t say they sailed up the canal particularly but they could – there are old drawings of sailing barges between Stroud and Stonehouse, and Brimscombe was a port, it was a big area of water, but that’s where it ended. Then after that was all finished then someone thought, let’s join it from Brimscombe to the Thames. So that’s why it says ‘Cotswolds’ Canals’, plural, because it’s actually two canals. Because from Brimscombe onwards it’s a much narrower canal. It’s only just wide enough for one boat, so they couldn’t pass. There are passing places, but they couldn’t pass. I’ve read books about it, they just said it took six weeks sometimes to get from Stroud to London, whether that’s true or not, I don’t know! They used to make clothes in Stroud and by the time they got to London the fashions had changed.
It’s two locks in one I think, there by Carolyn’s, that’s a double lock. It was an incredibly sophisticated business and water went round the side and underneath. It’s really complex, you can see, if you look at different locks, you can see that it was really not at all simple to allow water to flow past the lock gates and things.
The tunnel all collapsed because the tunnel’s built partly through rock and partly through Fuller’s Earth which, as we know, is not the best thing to try and make a tunnel through. . The canal was built before the main road – the main road wasn’t built until 1815 or 14, so they just put these little tiny bridges over it. That bridge by Carolyn’s, that’s interesting that bridge because it’s a big bridge, it’s not a footbridge. There must have been a road up through Cowcombe Woods, you see, because obviously the main road wasn’t there nor the railway, and you would have gone from Bisley down the hill, up there and then up the other one to Minchinhampton. The bridge was built with the canal.