Time & Tides across the year at Diglis

  • 9 Oct 2011
  • Severn and Canals
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WORCESTER people generally are perhaps unaware, that the River Severn is still tidal from the Bristol Channel as far as Diglis Weir.

The fact was related to Bill by waterways expert and historian Max Sinclair, of Lower Broadheath. He explains that twice daily, and five hours and 10 minutes after each tide at Avonmouth, the level of the Severn below Diglis Weir rises by about 1ft. Max points out that the Admiralty controls all tidal waters so, in effect, it has control of the Severn as far as Diglis.  

Bill confirmed that Diglis Weir and Diglis Lock were constructed in the early 1840s and completed in October 1844. He believed it to be great testimony to the skill of the engineers in charge of the operation that not a songle life was lost in these major and complex works.

However, there was a tragic accident at Diglis Weir in the year it went into full operation - 1844 - though this was nothing to do with the construction work. An unlucky 13 men crowded into a boat to cross the weir to Diglis Island, but the river was in flood, the boat capsized and 11 of them were drowned.

Bill points out that there was originally a chapel or 'Bethel' on Diglis Island - built during the 1840s operation in order to cater for the spiritual needs of the navvies engaged on the project.

'The navvies were certainly a tough lot'  'Among them was an ex-pugilist champion, Tom Sayers, and boxing was a favourite pastime of the men, as well as a means of setting disputes. Old river men used to tell of the battles which took place on the lawn in front of the Diglis worksheds while the men waited for their pay'.