Saul Junction is a unique crossing of two independent canals. The Stroudwater Canal runs alongside the River Frome from south-east to north-west, and this is crossed by what was originally known as the Gloucester & Berkeley Canal (opened 1827) running from south-west to north-east.
To form the Junction in the 1820s, the level of the Stroudwater Canal had to be raised about five feet by building a new lock (1), and gates were provided to minimise water loss when levels did not match. Opening bridges carried the towpath of each canal over the other. The house at the Junction (2) was occupied by the official who opened the bridges and collected some tolls. To the south was a dry dock and boat repair yard (3). The basin south-west of the Junction (4) was used occasionally as a transshipment point for transferring cargoes from large vessels to barges and narrowboats that could pass up the Stroudwater Canal.
The house beside the Junction was occupied by the official who opened the bridges and recorded traffic passing from one canal to the other. He also collected tolls on vessels that were not travelling the full length of the Stroudwater Canal. The extension on the right provided him with an office, and the desk he used is still preserved there. For the role of the toll clerk, read Toll Collection and Rates.
The office is now used by an employee of the Canal & River Trust who opens the bridge on the Gloucester & Shaprness Canal while sitting in the office, monitoring the scene by closed-circuit TV.
The dry-dock, cutting across the southern corner of the Junction, was built in 1869 for repairing coastal vessels. The image shows major work underway on the hull of the trow Flower of the Severn. The dock originally had opening gates at both ends so it could be used to allow a steam dredger to pass through to the Stroudwater Canal once a year, as the original canal entrance was not wide enough.
The land to the south of the dry dock developed as a boat building and repair yard, and that activity has continued. The boat house to the east was built to shelter an ice-boat and is now used for boat maintenance.
The area around the Junction has become a popular leisure destination with a visitor centre run by the Cotswold Canals Trust, the Stables Cafe and activities associated with the R W Davis boatyard, Wycliffe College Boat Club and pleasure boats on the move.
In 1880, the Stroudwater Company manager learned that letters to his toll clerk at Saul Junction were then being delivered to Sandfield Bridge, further down the Gloucester & Berkeley Canal, as the postman's route had been changed at the request of William Clegram, the Gloucester Company's engineer who lived nearby. It took several letters to the postal authorities to get the matter resolved.