Barge sinks - two years after warning to owners
CANAL boaters have been warned to steer clear of an historic sunken barge.
Maritime historian Paul Barnett says he told its owners two years ago it risked going to the bottom of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal but Gloucester Waterways Museum said it made regular checks and was surprised to see the concrete lighter under water at Purton.
"I had it registered on the historic ships register two years ago and I asked the museum (then the National Waterways Museum) then what they were doing about it," said Mr Barnett, whose group the Friends of Purton works to protect vessels known as the Purton Hulks, which saved the canal from being eroded away by the River Severn.
"They came down and pumped it out but it's been lying very low in the water."
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The craft was one of around 80 beached between 1909 and the 1960s on the banks of the Severn as part of a successful attempt to build up the eastern bank between the river and the canal.
Mr Barnett said it was pulled out of the bank about 20 years ago and brought up to Gloucester Docks but was moved to Hempsted, then in 1997 to Purton.
He said the lighter, FCB52, was built in 1941 in Barrow-in-Furness and there are eight similar craft. They were used to transport vital raw materials during World War Two.
It was moored up next to ponds which were once used to store timber being floated up the canal but now all that can be seen is a traffic cone marking the semi-submerged tiller.
Museum manager Doreen Davies said regular checks were made on the vessel.
"As I said to Mr Barnett we check the concrete barge on a regular basis and pump it out," she said. "We were waiting to see if we could get funding to restore it.
"We went to check on it last month and it was tied up, so it came as quite a shock last week to find it submerged."
She said the museum has not yet decided on how to bring it back to the surface.