The Twyning Ferry
The ferrymen of long ago probably lived in the Inn and helped out as a cellar man between trips across the river. The earliest name we have is that of Edward Langley “the market boatman” who died in 1749 and is buried in Twyning churchyard, although his grave is unmarked. In 1923 the ferryman was Bert Milton whom some still remember.
The ferry was essential to local people many of whom had relatives or jobs in Bredon (whose church can be seen across the meadows). One farmer even took his bull over the river to join his cows grazing on the far bank. On one occasion the bull capsized the craft and ended his trip doing the doggy-paddle.
The ferry has used various boats over the years including punts, rowing boats, a chain ferry, a barge and now a military landing craft.
Tewkesbury’s famous author John Moore famed for his Brensham trilogy has a description in his novel “The Waters Under the Earth” of a ferry so like the Fleet that it seems certain that he based it on Twyning.
Who Pays the Ferryman
The Ferry at Twyning Fleet continued down the centuries as demanded by the Court Rolls of Henry VIII, run at various times by the landlord or owner of the Inn who was allowed to charge for the service, sometimes subsidised by the Parish Council.
In 1751 Edward Popham sold “a dwelling house including all land and ferry called Twyning Fleet Ferry and a quarter of water in the River Duddage (Avon) and fishery” for £420.
On 14 June 1815 an auction was held at the Swan Inn, Tewkesbury of “all that public house called the Fleet together with the ferry or halfsage over the river Avon and the landing place belonging therto”. Later in 1886 Joseph Jupp bought “the Ferry and Boat of Twyning Fleet” for £32.
At the turn of the century one local man was going to work each day in Bredon and only used the ferry in winter. In the Summer he preferred to swim across with his clothes bundled on his head and re-dressing on the far bank.
After the Second World War the ferry was still carrying villagers to work or to visit relatives in Bredon. It was even used to take cattle across for grazing. A barge was used for livestock and large loads and in the early days of motoring, cars were taken across until the barge sank one day with its load.
Whitbread Brewery records show that in 1951 they paid the ferryman £3.9s.2d wages per week plus ‘keep’ of £1.15s. The Brewery estimated the profit for the half year to the end of June at £94.17s.
The Ferryman Goes On Strike
In 1963 the landlord James Watt Smith refused to operate the ferry anymore, causing outrage in the village and the story was quickly picked up by the national press and television. Smith is quoted in a newspaper of the time: “Ever since the wretched boat wobbled and pitched e in I’ve ignored the bell. And I shall continue to do so”. He was a non-swimmer.
Whitbread who owned the Fleet, were faced with the problem of keeping the ancient ferry running as it had done at least since the reign of Henry VIII. The Brewery’s argument was that it would be “inequitable” for the owner of the Inn to be imprisoned or the company sequestered if they didn’t keep the ferry running during daylight hours.
They considered building a footbridge but that was too costly at £10,000. A chain ferry would have cost £680, but the Brewery decided that although 1550 people used the ferry in a 6 month period, the real cost of each journey would still be 4/6d when the ferryman’s wages and insurance were included.
The Rural District Council and County Council were involved, but neither was willing to bear the cost of re-equipping and running a ferry. After dozens of letters and meetings the matter eventually ran out of steam and was generally forgotten.
There was rejoicing in the village and much press coverage when in1996 the then landlords Ann and Peter Goddard reinstated the Ferry using a landing craft with an outboard motor.