Since Roman times the people of Newnham and Arlingham have expressed a desire to cross the river by any means possible, ford, tunnel, bridge or ferry.
This map shows the line of the 1810 tramway tunnel, the 1948 bridge, the ferry and the medieval ford. Source: Antiquities of Arlingham copyright Arlingham Church Council with thanks.
Royal Navy Swordfish landing on a floating strip of Lily Pads
Within the massive collection of Riverabilia of the late Fred Rowbotham was this sketch for a bridge at Newnham.. author unknown.
I have shared an interest in this project since the day I saw the first Lillypads go past Clapsgate on a lorry. At no time have I seen how it was to operate! If you think they would just lay them out bank to bank and drive over them....NO. This is a major river and has a statutory right of navigation. You cannot obstruct that right by any process. Even if you had a detachable section the work involved in removing the mid section on a high tide for another boat to pass is not a practical solution. Enoch Williams was a ferry boat man who knew all about ferries on high tidal rivers. My belief the answer is simple. You build two jetties, a long one on the Arlingham side across the sand to the deep water and a very short one on the Newnham side into the deep water. The Navigation channel remains intact and open to all craft. You now have a very short gap to complete the crossing. With a purpose built car carrier you could shuttle the short distance between the jetties in minutes. Maybe on chains as a chain ferry.. Williams had previously submitted plans for a chain ferry on the site in the late 1930's... who knows.....answers on a postcard. The failure came because they were unable to fix the long jetty secure enough to withstand the high tides.. a valiant attempt but beaten by the tide.
Opinion: Had this project succeeded at that time, then I believe today would have seen a road bridge linking the A48 with junction 13 of the M5. Not down a lane in Newnham between the houses but in open land on both sides of the river linking the Forest of Dean with the Severn Vale, Stroud and the Motorway.
Arlingham to Newnham Road Bridge
It is known that a ferry existed between Arlingham Passage and Newnham since the early 1800’s and with the coming of the Railway a popular means of travel for people in Arlingham was to cross the river by ferry and take the train. Routinely, my grandfather Hugh Shaw would berth at one of the South Wales Ports and take the train to Newnham before using the ferry to get home. My Mother would walk down Arlingham Passage, take the ferry across the river then the train from Newnham into Gloucester.
In 1939 the Old Passage Ferry Company who had the rights to the Aust Ferry purchased the rights to the Newnham Ferry and intended to construct a chain ferry.
Post war Enoch Williams the owner of the ferry company purchased a series of floating “ Lily Pads” and constructed part of a floating bridge. However strong tides broke up the structure before it was completed and the bridge removed.