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Avon Lock, Tewkesbury

By Royal Charter of 1636, a rare example of a lock that is still a toll station between two separate river navigations - the Avon and the Severn.

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Avon Lock,

King John\'s Court,


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About Avon Lock, Tewkesbury

Avon Lock, owned and maintained by the Avon Navigation Trust (Registered Charity No. 244951) is located in thecenter of Tewkesbury; a Cotswold Market Town known for its history and heritage tourism. The Lock itself receives1000's of visitors each year from leisure and commercial boaters, school groups, locals and tourists all interested tosee industrial transport history still in use today.

Itforms the junction between the Warwickshire Avon and the River Severn and is rare because it is at, not only aconfluence of two rivers, but at a confluence of two navigation authorities. The River Avon remains one of only ahandful of UK waterways still independently owned and it's been that way since King Charles I granted a charter to aprivate individual. Avon Lock was a toll station then and it remains one today.

The site is easily accessible by boat and on foot. It features as part of Tewkesbury's Riverside Walk, a new initiativeguiding visitors around local attractions providing interpretation boards at key sites. The recently restored VillageGreen adjacent to Avon Lock is now a popular picnic site. For those who wish to "visit" the Lock from thecomfort of their own homes we have two, live feed webcams available to view as part of The Avon NavigationTrust's Riverwatch scheme.

Example of the webcam view:

Screen Shot 2019 06 13 at 20.46.49

There has been a lock on this site since the charter was granted in 1635, then followed a huge engineering project toinstall weirs, locks and river gates to develop the previously unnavigable river into a commercial transport enterprise.

Avon Lock is the gateway, flagship structure completing the trade route linking Warwickshire, Worcestershire andGloucestershire with the River Severn to the Sharpness Docks and the sea. It still operates as a toll station nearly 400 years on.
In 1830 the river was leased to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Company but the opening of rail links locally saw profits begin to fall with commercial transportation moving to the railways until the income was too small to cover thecost of engineering repairs and maintenance on the river. By 1930 the route was abandoned by all but one cargo vessel, the grain barge Pisgah, which continued to operate from Pershore Mill until 1972.

This entry by Nicola Lancaster - lock keeper

In 1636 the history of navigation on the Avon commenced when letters patent were granted by Charles
the First to William Sandys of Fladbury who used his private fortune, estimated between £20,000 and
£40,000, in purchasing the necessary land and property and in the construction of sluices, weirs,
channels and locks to make the Avon navigable from Tewkesbury to Stratford.
In 1758 the Lower Avon (ie the 26 miles/42 km from Tewkesbury to Evesham) was acquired by George
Perrott who discovered that the locks were in such poor condition that in places passage was
impossible, and it became necessary to close the Navigation for some months while repairs were carried
out. Over a period of ten years some £4,000 had to be spent in restoration.
In 1830 the Lower Avon was leased to the Worcester and Birmingham (Canal) Company for £1,000 per
annum for 21 years, during which period they spent considerable sums on repairs. On expiry the lease
was renewed but a lower rental was negotiated as the profits of operation had fallen steadily throughout
the first term, and when the railway linking Evesham to Gloucester was opened the Lower Avon
commenced making substantial losses each year and consequently the lease was terminated finally in
The declining standard led to the formation in 1899 of the River Avon Improvement Association, which
successfully persuaded the Local Authorities in 1903 to call a public enquiry into the state of the
navigation, but unfortunately the Commissioners' recommendations, which would have led to
restoration, were not accepted.
By 1914 the income from the Navigation was insufficient to carry out proper maintenance and the traffic
operators, together with mill owners and Local Councils, were obliged to undertake essential repairs at
their own expense.
In 1919 local borough and county councils became concerned about the condition of the Avon, and set
Up a joint committee to draw up a scheme for restoring the whole river for submission to the Ministry of
Transport. The cost was claimed to be prohibitive, and the scheme was dropped.
In 1924, The Lower Avon Navigation Company Ltd was formed and acquired the Navigation by
purchasing the Perrott interest. Over £2,000 had to be spent on immediate repairs and by 1931 it was
decided that the Navigation would have to be abandoned as the revenue had become too small to
maintain the river in a navigable condition. In order to obtain powers to increase revenue by various
charges to river users, a last effort was made by introducing a Private Bill into Parliament. Possibly
because these powers were being sought by a private company, they were opposed by Local Authorities
and others, and the Bill was rejected.
During World War I! the river became unnavigable above Pershore, and continued to deteriorate, so that
by 1949, as Strensham Lock was rapidly becoming impassable, the river was virtually closed for
navigation. Only a grain barge "Pisgah" managed to trade to Pershore Mill continuously into the post
restoration period until she ceased running in 1972.
Since the days of Charles the First, there have been three names prominently associated with
navigation on the Avon - William Sandys, who started it, the Perrotts who developed it, and Douglas
Barwell who saved it.

Photo of lock from RodW    with thanks



Copyright © 2019 The Transport Trust. All rights reserved. The Transport Trust is a registered UK charity No. 280943 Registered address: First Floor, 26 Station Approach,Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey, KT10 0SR. Registered in England No. 1509733.