Historic ships' graveyard is taken over by British Waterways
by Bob Naylor
|Harriett, the last surviving K&A Barge built by Robbins, Lane and Pinnegar at Honeystreet in 1898 beached at Purton beside the River Severn. Picture by Bob Naylor|
In March this year, the former Labour Government Culture and Tourism Minister, Margaret Hodge, called together representatives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Local Authorities, English Heritage, Natural England and British Waterways, and of course, Paul Barnett, to discuss the crucial need for somebody to step forward to protect the site. As the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal is protected by the site and BW have a long-term interest in the embankment — they stepped forward to take ownership.
Paul Barnett, founder
of the Friends of Purton
Picture by Bob Naylor
"For too many years we have witnessed our heritage being habitually destroyed by vandalism and arson, now at last British Waterways, by taking this monumental decision, has embraced the challenge to ensure that these few remaining relics are to be given a fighting chance."
BW Heritage Advisor, David Viner said, "It has become increasingly important to ensure that the site, which has 81 derelict vessels, has an owner to look after it properly.
"BW owns the canal alongside the site and a staff presence will raise awareness and help to tackle vandalism — our first responsibility is to make sure the site is protected."
"A lot of the vandalism is because people don't realise the significance of the boats," he concluded.
Paul Barnett's first success in his battle to save the Purton Hulks was when he got Harriett listed and he then set his sights on protecting the rest of the site. He enlisted the help of the then local MP for Stroud, David Drew, who spoke about the Purton Hulks site in an adjournment debate in Parliament on 8th December 2009.
He said, “It certainly seems unique when one hears Paul Barnett talking about the hulks for several hours; he is most enthusiastic about them. I know that some find him somewhat difficult because he has driven things forward as a personal campaign, but with hindsight people will say thank goodness he saw it as a vision and as his responsibility.”