Dog & Duck Ferry

  • 9 Oct 2011
  • Bridges and Ferries
  • Back
This is a very pretty spot opposite Pitchcroft, and a very ancient crossing of the Severn. The ferry takes its name from the old waterman's inn of that name, which in its turn, got it from a sport practiced by watermen on Sunday mornings. It was a sport which involved the catching of ducks by dogs. The tendons of the duck's wings were cut so that it could not fly, and then it was taken out in the middle of the river and the dogs were loosed from the bank, with the usual opportunities for betting. The sport disappeared in the 1840s as a result of pressure from churchmen. The inn ceased to be a public house at that time and became the private residence of the ferryman. Before the days of the locks and weirs, this place was fordable at times. The antiquity of the crossing is confirmed by finds of flint house above the river was known as King Stephen's Mount, and the site is reputed to have earthworks erected there by that King to guard the ford in the 12th century. In the 18th and early 19th centuries the grounds adjoining the house on the north side, were those of the popular Porto Bello Pleasure Gardens. An enthusiastic writer of these days described it as superior to the London tea gardens, 'so full of dust and imposition, for the beauty of the views of the vale of the Severn, of the City enlived with its lofty spires, graced with its bridge, and backed by the sublime towers and pinnacles of its cathedral, infinitely, surpasses anything that London can boast of ...' Sadly, it was closed in the 1850s 'because of rumours of evil reports, spread maliciously to the regret of the great majority of the citizens .....' In the tangle of undergrowth on the steep slopes down to the river are remains of walks, pools and alleys, mixed with derelict walls and collapsed buildings under great old trees, sad reminders of the laughter and pleasures of days long past. The ferry crossed until after the Second World War, and was well used by people from the north and west of the City.