For centuries the Severn was the most important river for traffic to and from the West Midlands. It was almost certainly used by the Romans for trading purposes. An Act of Parliament in 1430 confirmed that the river was in fact 'The King's Highway of Severn'. Until about 150 years ago, it was navigable by craft in all seasons, except during the periods of extreme drought and flood, from Bristol right up to Pool Quay near Welshpool - a distance of 155 miles.
Trade on the river was considerable and towns on its banks were 'inland ports'. In many places, the remains of the once busy quays and warehouses are still to be seen. Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Upton, Worcester, Bewdley, Bridgenorth, Broseley, Coalport, Ironbridge, Shrewsbury and Pool Quay were all 'ports' at one time.
Owing to rocks and shoals, the estuary of the river between Gloucester and Sharpness is now unsuitable for navigation at low water. The Bore and other factors can render the river unsafe for any craft, instead boats come up from Sharpness, on the estuary, to Gloucester by canal.