The Coventry Society is a partner in Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Sherbourne Living Landscapes project. This project aims to reconnect the people of Coventry with the city’s river, restore the river for wildlife and complement the growing City of Culture programme linked to nature.
One fascinating story about the Sherbourne concerns the sluice gates.
Five steel sluice gates were installed by the City Council during the war to dam the River Sherbourne to create a water supply for firefighting. The scheme was approved by the Home Office as part of the city’s emergency fire precautions. The gates were supplied by Messrs Glenfield and Kennedy Ltd of Kilmarnock for a price of £2982 and installed by the Council’s own labour force in 1942.
The steel gates replaced previous temporary wooden dams, which had to be removed to avoid winter flooding. The steel gates were adjustable according to seasonal conditions. The gates were part of a bigger plan to secure water supplies for the city centre in the event of bombing raids or fires.
All the sluice gates were made out of steel girders with a large operating wheel (now missing) through a system of gears and chains it would lower and raise the sluice gate dam for when it was required to hold back water. A steel ladder went up to the top were there was a walk way across the gates. It was lined with two hand rails which would have had chains or wire which are now missing together with a wooden planked walk way which also now gone.
A campaign to save the gates was initiated by CovSoc Life Member Ralph Butcher, who lives close to the River Sherbourne at Whitley. In 1998 Ralph campaigned to preserve the sluice gate near London Road as a memorial to the city fire fighters who lost their lives during the blitz. Unfortunately the city council was not prepared to support the campaign and pointed out that the structures were not listed.
Shortly afterwards the sluice ended up being cut up and taken away after some youths were able to get the gate to drop a bit making it jam. City Council workmen came along and just took it away on health and safety grounds without checking or trying to make it safe.
Today there are just two of the five sluice gates remaining and these could be at risk as well. The remaining ones are at Harper Road and the Charterhouse Fields, the latter is on the Local List and therefore has some protection.
So the question is, should the sluices be protected or commemorated in some way as part of the Sherbourne Living Landscapes project? What would be appropriate? Plaques, Information panels, restoration, listing?
What are your thoughts?