Cotswold Canals: archive film Sapperton Tunnel 1976 and 1977 (25mins)

Posted on 22. Mar, 2015 by in Environment & Nature, Featured, History

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This great film from Robert Paget: Sapperton Canal Tunnel (Thames & Severn Canal) eastern portal, Coates, Gloucestershire. Archive film from 1976 and 1977 of restoration of the tunnel façade at Coates by the Cotswold Canals Trust (called the Stroudwater Thames & Severn Canal Trust Ltd on incorporation). When built, this tunnel was the longest of its kind in the world, and is the largest structure on the Thames & Severn canal. It is currently blocked by roof lining falls.

In 1976 the 200 year old tunnel portal had fallen into a very poor state, and the trust engaged stonemason Bruce Russell to rebuild the stone structure. “Eco” was not an expression used at the time, but the Trust managed to raise the funds by various methods, including used car batteries and waste paper and cardboard recycling (which involved a van and a small BMC lorry, renting premises and using old farm equipment for compaction – plus a lot of volunteers). On site, Jacquie and Martin Andrews ran a sales and information centre at weekends and bank holidays from a £25 caravan. There were generous donations enabling the £4,000 for the project to be raised.

In 1976 the Trust was using a government Job Creation Scheme to employ a small band of youngsters on the canal in the Stroud Valleys, and were allowed to allocate one of these – Gary Drew – to work alongside the stonemason.
During the summer of 1976, Waterway Recovery Group based a volunteer work camp at Coates, and cleared the “Kings Reach” section of waterway extending eastwards from the tunnel (locally called the “King’s Reach” because King George III had visited the site during the original construction).

By the winter of 1976 a small, outboard powered, family boat ( a wilderness boats “Water Rat”) was trailed to the site, and a band of enthusiasts made their way into the tunnel to near the first roof fall.

In 1977 a Canal Fair celebrated the restoration, with the Earl Bathurst unveiling a plaque. The Trust issued a limited issue commemorative horse brass to mark the event and to raise funds. (Jacquie Andrews tells me that she proudly owns number 8.). The landlord of the nearby “Tunnel House Inn” provided great assistance throughout the project, including housing the summer work camp in a barn.

MIKRON THEATRE GROUP, (led at the time by Mike Lucas) who continue to travel and promote the inland waterways of Great Britain, kindly gave permission for “The Navvy Men” to be used on this film for promotion of restoration of the Cotswold Canals.

Filmed in Kodachrome standard 8mm on Quartz and Quartz 5 clockwork powered cameras.

See film by ‘darkbolten’ of tunnel in 2013:

About Philip

Director and Co-Founder of Stroud Community TV

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