Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saul, Gloucestershire


Peace be with you

Wandering around the Gloucestershire village of Saul at the weekend, I noticed that several of the houses bore carved or plaster figures. Some, apparently depict the masters of ships who settled here, mostly in the middle decades of the 19th century, and built houses for themselves, according to the Victoria County History, with their own hands. Gloucestershire, one of England’s inland counties, has a venerable maritime history because it contains the tidal stretch of the River Severn, enabling the port of Gloucester, far from the sea though it is, to welcome sea-going ships in its docks. The Sharpness Canal was built to cut out the Severn’s big bend and some difficult stretches of the river, and Saul is close to the canal. Hence the ships’ masters’ presence here.

So I was all set to write a light-hearted post about houses called Dunsailin (although the houses mostly have much more decorous names), jolly jack tars and replacement windows, when I came across this pair above the entrance porch of a house in the main street. They’re said to represent twin brothers who married a pair of sisters, but who both drowned in the Severn. No jokes today, then. Just a respectful recognition that the Severn, with its enormous tidal range, treacherous mudflats, and sudden variations between depths and shallows, can be a very dangerous place. Peace be with you, twins of Saul.

11 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

Ooh, this is one of my favourite parts of England. Just for the names alone: Fretherne, Framilode, Arlingham Passage (that's the bit on the big bend in the Severn). I once drank raw perry in a corrugated iron barn on this 'peninsular' with Ron Combo and it's a wonder I've still got a brain to remember it with.

rig7 said...

A poignant image. It is, I am told, very easy to drown in the Severn.

For those who might doubt the river's power, there is, by the way, a 5-star Bore on the morning of 2nd March. 9.37 am at Over Bridge.

I was, in fact, just down the road from Saul on Sunday morning musing on this whilst taking a tour of the Purton Hulks.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: The names are indeed evocative. Ivor Gurney, who was very attached to this part of the vale of the Severn, used the names a lot in his poetry.

rig7:Thanks for your comment. I've not looked at the Purton hulks yet, but mean to do so.

Vinogirl said...

What a wonderful little story.

Ron Combo said...

Wonderful, haunting countryside and a river that doesn't take any prisoners. And I can vouch for the perry too.

Jon Dudley said...

A very moving post Philip. It's the small memorials that often tell incredibly sad tales.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Jon. A friend said to me the other day that this blog works best when I'm observing small details, and this memorial seemed to me to be an example of how significant, and yes, moving, a detail can be.

Deb Rennie said...

Although it's many years past since this was written I came across it when looking at information on Saul. I believe many of my ancestors are buried there and your story of the drowning brothers made me wonder who they were? I recently found out three generations of my family also drowned in the river Severn in 1797 George Moore senior his son George and his son George 9 (have to love it when they all have the same name) plus a young Issac Ball. Their barge the Betsey took on water during a gale causing it to sink. Thankfully George's son Edward was not one of them or I would not be here! They are all buried together in the cemetery there. The headstone I'm told is in need of straightening. Most of the Moore/Gower/Grimes family members were watermen, mariners, bargemaster etc. sadly Edward Moore died at 30 (1822) after being involved in an illegal boxing match I'm told it was something done during local fairs. Again thankfully he produced three diaghters before he died. His opponent was charged with manslaughter and received 3 months.

Deb Rennie

Deb Rennie said...

Although this blog was posted some years ago I came across it when looking at information on Saul. Many of my ancestors are buried there and your story of the drowning brothers made me think of my own ancestors lost to the Severn including 3 generations in one day in 1797 my 6 x great grandfather 5 x great grandfather and 5 x great uncle all named George Moore thankfully my 4 x great grandfather Edward was not aboard. Their barge the Betsey sank when it took on water during a gale also lost was a teenager Isaac Ball. The 3 Georges are all buried together in a cemetery there. Edward also died young at just 30 during a boxing match which was an illegal activity held during local fairs thankfully he produced 3 daughters before his death in 1822. I've discovered most of my ancestors from this area were all watermen, mariners, bargemasters :-)

Deb Rennie said...

Sorry for double up I thought the first one didn't go through!

Philip Wilkinson said...

No problem, Deb, and thank you for your comment. Always good to hear from people who have a connection with the places I blog about.