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This web site features a collection of letters, postcards and telegrams that were sent to James Smart, a prominent coal merchant and carrier based at Chalford on the Thames & Severn Canal. Seventy-three documents, mainly dating from the 1890s, were purchased by the Cotswold Canals Trust, the cost being covered by a donation from an interested member. The originals have been deposited in the Gloucestershire Archives.

James Smart owned a small fleet of barges and narrow canal boats, mainly used to carry coal from South Wales, the Forest of Dean and Staffordshire to wharfs along the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn Canals. Most of the communications in this collection were sent by colliery companies, by local firms requiring carrying services or by Smart’s boatmen and barge men while away on trips. Two items are from the local MP concerning Smart’s letters to government departments and one contains an offer of two donkeys for sale.

Most of the items are very brief, and it is often difficult to appreciate the details of what is being referred to, but collectively they do help to give a unique insight into the commercial life of the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn Canals in the late nineteenth century. The documents were scanned and transcribed by Hugh Conway-Jones and are presented in this document produced by Dr Ray Wilson of the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology.

February 2011