Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Frampton on Severn, Gloucestershire
By the waterside
A lot of Britain is torn by wind and overwhelmed by rain, so here's reminder that the waters can be calm. This is the scene this time last year by the banks of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in Gloucestershire, near Frampton on Severn. Where the canal is crossed by bridges hereabouts, there are little classical bridgeman's houses, built in the 1840s. When first built these houses were tiny – just one living room, a bedroom, and a scullery.* The little buildings stand out because of the classical portico sheltering the front door and showing a face of miniature grandeur to the passing water-borne traffic.
The original wooden bridges had two lifting halves that swung open to let through boats and barges: the bridgeman would swing up one half, someone from the boat's crew would lift the other half, and after the craft had passed through, they'd lower them again, ensuring that the road was clear and the canal traffic could pass with relative speed and ease.
Today the attractive 19th-century wooden swing bridges have been replaced by one-piece steel bridges that open when the bridgeman turns a handle (only one or two have electric motors). The houses have mostly been extended, but this has been done discreetly, at the back, so here at Frampton at least, the Doric portico still dominates the tiny frontage, suggesting the continuity of canal-side life, in fair weather and foul.
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* scullery: My grandparents referred to a room in their house as the scullery. It's an old-fashioned term for a room with sinks and a boiler for heating water; a kind of proto-utility-room.