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Gloucestershire Business News

SPECIAL REPORT: A grand day at the docks as Sharpness celebrates 150 years

An historic milestone for the opening of Gloucestershire's international shipping connection to the world will be celebrated this Saturday (March 30) when a campaign is launched to celebrate 150 years since the opening of Sharpness New Docks.

With the original dock at the end of the Sharpness and Gloucester Canal opening in 1827, the arrival of ships during the Victorian era that were too big to travel to Gloucester forced a rethink and the new floating dock was opened in 1874.

A century and half on, despite perceptions of decline and a dramatic reduction in employment since its heyday, Sharpness remains a significant import and export point, with regular dry bulk and mineral traffic and busy operations from Canada and the Baltic (predominantly timber) and Spain (cement), as well as trade in grain and animal feed.

But while casting light on the inception of the port, Mike Sudden, who is part of the organising team coordinating this year's celebration, said #Sharpness150 will also seek to capture and preserve more recent memories - many of which will otherwise risk being lost forever.

Mike said: "One man who worked here a few decades ago was telling me how you could walk across the docks from one side to the other by stepping over the ships, the place was so busy. That's the kind of recollection we are trying to capture - we want to collate an oral and visual history of the docks and now is such a good opporrtunity as, in three years' time, we will also be looking at 200 years since the canal itself first opened."

As a true labour of love from the community, the #Sharpness150 campaign is jointly being organised by three volunteer organisations: the Vale of Berkeley Railway, Stroud Vintage Transport and Engine Club and the Canal and River Trust.

As yet, the trio have no confirmed business sponsorship for their project, which aims to create a website that archives the docks' history and which will be linked to visitor boards around the area that will bear QR codes linking key information.

Saturday's event, from midday until 5pm, will take place at Sharpness Sports and Social Club (formerly known as the Dockers Club), which is close to the Marina and has ample free car parking. After the initial day, the exhibition here for visitors aims to run throughout the year on Saturdays.

During the day, guest speakers will be attending while there will also be family activites including an Easter egg hunt, plus a working display of the Waller stationary steam engine.

Mike added: "The opening of the docks was an event that transformed people's lives in Gloucestershire and we woud love to hear people's memories. Our aim to is to bring those recollections to life and make sure that Sharpness, which is the focus for so much discussion as the county looks towards future development, doesn't lose sight of its fascinating past."

Punchline-Gloucester.com says: Gloucester's historic success was fed by the story of Sharpness and this is an amazing place for a wander down memory lane, not least the story of the Vindicatrix marine training ship, stationed here last century, and, before that, the tourism heyday when paddle steamers from Gloucester brought droves of funseekers to the port's Victorian fair attraction. At a time when Sharpness as the focus for key questions over the area's housing development, this retrospective is definitely worth a visit!

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