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Brimscombe Port
Grid reference: SO867024
Location: 51°43’13"N, 2°11’34"W
Post town: Stroud
Postcode: GL5
Local Government
Council: Stroud

Brimscombe is a Gloucestershire village in the valley of the River Frome south of Stroud, in the stretch known as the Golden Valley.

The village is part of a string of villages which grew up in the valley early in the Industrial Revolution, taking advantage of the power of the river to drive mills. Upstream is Thrupp and downstream Brownshill.

Brimscombe Port

Brimscombe was an important local centre during the Industrial Revolution with its canal and rail links, with Brimscombe Port serving as the hub of the Thames and Severn Canal.

Brimscombe Port was originally built to transfer cargo from Severn trows, which travelled from the River Severn down the Stroudwater Navigation, to Thames barges which carried the goods eastwards towards London.[1] This was necessary because the locks to the east of the port were too narrow to accommodate the larger sea-going trows.

There were also several boat-building yards at the port, including Abdela & Mitchell, who exported boats, notably paddle steamers, all over the world.[2][3]

Until the construction of what is now the A419 road along the bottom of the valley in 1815, Thrupp Lane was the main thoroughfare between Stroud and Chalford. The condition of this road was such that it required a whole day for a team of horses to draw a loaded waggon and return, a distance of only four miles each way.[4] Later, the coming of the railway transformed the valley into a major route eastwards from Stroud, and Brimscombe railway station was opened.

According to one source, the legendary riverboat Queen Of Africa, which gave a star performance in the John Huston movie The African Queen, was built at the Abdela & Mitchell Brimscombe works between 1908 and 1911. It is certainly similar to those built in Brimscombe. However, other sources state that the boat, which still exists in America, can be identified from the plate on her boiler as being built by Lytham Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. as Livingstone.

Many of the Abdela & Mitchell river-boats went to the Nile, the Niger and other African rivers, and especially to the Peruvian Amazon and other Amazonian tributaries.[5] The Abdela river-boats were highly regarded for their elegance, shallow draft (often less than 40 cm), and flexibility, viz the Adis Ababa for Lt-Col John Harrington's White Nile/Ethiopia expedition of 1903 – "boiler arranged to burn oil, coal or wood". The Shipyards announced themselves as "Contractors To The Admiralty, War Office, India Office And Allied Governments".[6]

Port Mills was in use in the mid 1930s by a family called Reed who sold Kincade garden tractors, but the enterprise was loss making and during 1937-8 the business was taken over by Bullock, Parsons & Co, who also worked as engineering contractors. Another businessman, Mr C T R Shepheard, who had been running a nearby sign manufacturing business, joined forces with the company and became a director. However the declaration of war in September 1939 meant the garden tractor business continued to be a struggle, especially because of difficulties obtaining import licences.[7] From 1939 the need was for engineering that supported the war effort, and thus Bullock, Parsons & Co redeployed their plant and staff to do contract work for the Bristol Aeroplane Company, Rolls Royce (for Spitfire engines) and Humber.[8] Towards the end of the war the premises were commandeered for storage by the Admiralty and were only finally restored to Mr Bullock's company after he had written 364 letters to the government and published his story in the Daily Express (26th October 1945).[9]

The port today

The Ship Inn sign at Brimscombe featuring a Severn Trow

The former port is to be regenerated as part of the canal restoration project by the Cotswold Canals Partnership.[10]

This plan will require considerable engineering expertise as much of the basin has been infilled and in places factories have been built over the canal. Initially the canal is planned to become navigable from Brimscombe Port to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Plans are in place, and much activity being undertaken to restore the whole length of what is now known as The Cotswold Canals, eastwards from Brimscombe to Inglesham on the River Thames.[11]



Although there are still a handful of shops in Brimscombe including the newsagent, post office, fish & chip shop, hairdresser and antique furniture store, the number of retail outlets has been in steady decline.

However, most of the former mill buildings have been restored and converted for modern business use. Bourne Mills now houses a cycle shop, auto repair services, and a metal polishing company. Griffin Mill is occupied by a variety of small businesses including a paint factory, a painting and decorating retail business, a fitness centre, an antiques emporium, a computer supplier, a printmaking co-operative and an art shop. Hope Mills business centre contains a tree maintenance company, a car body repair centre, a banner maker and an electrical, plumbing and building maintenance contractor. Phoenix Mill is a trading estate containing, among others, a swimming pool installer, a hot sauce manufacturer, an electronic component manufacturer, a brewery and a printer. Port Mills is occupied by a publishing company, The History Press.

There is a public house in Brimscombe, the name of which reflects the local history, the Ship Inn, which takes its name from the Severn trows which used to ply the canal here.

Until recently there was another pub called the King and Castle. This acquired its name from its proximity to the railway line (it was located opposite the site of Brimscombe station); 'king' and 'castle' being the names of two classes of locomotive used by the Great Western Railway. It is now an Indian restaurant.


  • Church of England: Holy Trinity[12]
  • Methodist (on Brimscombe Hill
  • Independent / evangelical: Christian Fellowship (meets in the Brimscombe and Thrupp Social Centre)


  • Football: Brimscombe & Thrupp F.C. (known as the Lilywhites), who play at The Meadow.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Brimscombe)


  1. Brimscombe Port: Digital Stroud
  2. Cotswold Canals Project
  3. The Steamboat builders of Brimscombe
  4. Notes and recollections of Stroud, Gloucestershire : Paul Hawkins Fisher Pub.1891 Reprinted 1975 Alan Sutton ISBN 0-904387-06-2
  5. "Abdela, Mitchell and Co". Grace's Guide.,_Mitchell_and_Co. Retrieved 25 October 2019. 
  6. Langford, A.M.. "Steamboat builders of Brinscombe". Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal. Retrieved 25 October 2019. 
  7. Bullock, Arthur (2009). Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4793-3.  (Pages 170-171)
  8. Bullock, Arthur (2009). Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4793-3.  (Pages 177-179)
  9. Bullock, Arthur (2009). Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4793-3.  (Pages 182-184)
  10. The Cotswolds Canals Partnership
  12. Holy Trinity, Brimsfield