An Eye on the Past

Barge on the Stroudwater Canal near Stonehouse Court, c.1910

Barge on the Stroudwater Canal near Stonehouse Court, c.1910 - Credit: Gloucestershire Archives GPS609/13

The team at Gloucestershire Archives dust off the documents

Photograph of the Month

This photograph was taken around 1910 on the Stroudwater Canal near Stonehouse Court (out of shot to the right) close to the Midland Railway bridge. The barge, which is unladen but probably a coal carrier judging by the wheelbarrows on the top, was based at Gloucester and belongs to George Bratston, who is possibly the man at the helm. It is being hauled (no doubt by a horse) from the towpath and is heading down towards Saul Junction, having just passed Ocean Bridge. Classic ‘roses and castles’ decoration can just be seen on the stern, cabin and cabin doors. A southbound mixed goods train of covered vans, coal wagons and stone wagons is passing slowly by the white-walled lineside hut. The purpose of the large building on the right is a mystery. It is covering a small dock on the canal and may have been used by a boatbuilder, although there is access to the railway line, so it might have had a railway connection. To the right of this are some pollarded willow trees and, on the water, a big patch of water lilies are visible, suggesting that the north side of the basin is little used. 

Beech Pike on Ermine Street (now the A419 Gloucester to Cirencester road)

Beech Pike on Ermine Street (now the A419 Gloucester to Cirencester road) - Credit: Reproduced from 1881 Ordnance Survey map with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey

Spotlight on Maps

‘X’ marks the spot at Beech Pike on Ermine Street (now the A419 Gloucester to Cirencester road) where there was once a turnpike booth for the Cirencester & Birdlip Turnpike Trust with gates set across the main road and also the road leading north to Elkstone. The ‘Masons’ Arms’ shown here is known today as ‘The Highwayman’, although it was originally called the ‘Huntsman and Hounds’. It was first recorded in 1781 when it was a coaching inn serving traffic travelling along the Cirencester road. Around 1856, the name changed to ‘The Masons’ Arms’ and it remained such until the early 1960s, when the building, which dated to the late 1600s, was remodelled and was renamed ‘The Highwayman’. At one point in the 1970s plans were put forward to change it into a motel, but these came to naught and to this day it remains a well-liked country pub. As for the new name, although there were highwaymen operating along this road (notably at Birdlip) there are sadly no actual accounts of highwaymen in the immediate vicinity of Elkstone. 

A page from Arlingham parish register, recording a River Severn tragedy on April 27, 1644

A page from Arlingham parish register, 1644, recording a tragedy on April 27, when a boat carrying Parliamentary soldiers capsized on the River Severn - Credit: Gloucestershire Archives P18/IN/1/2

Document of the Month

This is a page from the somewhat faded Arlingham parish register for the year 1644. It records a tragedy that occurred 378 years ago this month, on April 27, when a boat carrying Parliamentary soldiers capsized on the River Severn, with the loss of 17 lives. Five men are named: John Eaton (from London), Nicholas Seabrooke, Arthur Rickets, Francis Harwood and George Langley, but another 13 men were also lost – presumably their bodies were never recovered in Arlingham parish. The register states that they were in a ‘Cocke boate’ (a small rowing boat, usually pulled behind a larger ship and used to ferry goods between ship and shore) which was ‘overturned by the Violence of the waves of the floweing Tide juste against the Hocke Pill’. This strongly suggests that the boat was struck by the Severn bore. Few people could swim at this time and encumbered by heavy clothing, boots, and weaponry it is no wonder that all the men drowned. The men came from Sergeant Major Dobson’s Company and Captain Richard Matthew’s Company. Both companies were part of Colonel Henry Stephens Regiment of Foot, which had been raised in Gloucester by Sir William Waller in April 1643 and was not disbanded until 1647.

Mr Frank Somerton, a Cheltonian who died in the Titanic disaster

Mr Frank Somerton, a Cheltonian who died in the Titanic disaster - Credit: Gloucestershire Archives

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Gloucestershire Character

This is Mr Frank Somerton, a Cheltonian whose sad claim to fame is that he died in the Titanic disaster, 110 years ago this month. He was born in September 1881, the third child and first son of William and Hannah Somerton. William was a weigh clerk at the Cheltenham Gas Company and the family lived at ‘Petersham’, 108 Gloucester Road. Francis went to Christ Church School and after leaving, became an engineer fitter. In 1901 he was living in Wyke Regis, near Weymouth in Dorset, possibly working at the Whitehead Torpedo Factory at Portland. In 1912, he decided to emigrate to America and purchased ticket No. 18509 to sail on the RMS Titanic from Southampton. Titanic sailed on April 10 and after calling at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, headed west towards New York. On April 14, about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11.40pm ship's time and, three hours later, foundered, with well over one thousand people still aboard. Francis’ body was never recovered but he is remembered in Holy Trinity Cemetery in Ilfracombe in Devon.

Gloucestershire Archives, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester, GL1 3DW,