Boats, Barges & Trows: On Upper Severn

A Broader Outlook: NarrowBoat, Spring 2006

Barrie Trinder

Barrie Trinder on the vessels of the Upper Severn Navigation

It now seems scarcely credible that the Upper Severn, the unimproved section of the river upstream from Stourport, was once navigable for large craft, yet for several centuries it was a busy commercial waterway supplying several counties with coal, and carrying some of the key products of the Industrial Revolution: pottery from north Staffordshire, textiles from Manchester, hardware from Birmingham and the Black Country, and iron from many directions. Until the 1820s it was part of a logistics chain supplying town traders all over the West Midlands and the Borderland with goods traded in the port of Bristol, imported groceries, wines, spirits and tobacco, lead and glass manufactured in the city, and woollen cloth from the west of England. Severn vessels carried many agricultural products, including cheese, hops, cider and grain. An understanding of the vessels that sailed on the Upper Severn requires some knowledge of the nature of the river, of the prevalent patterns of commerce, and…

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