Coracles have been used in the Gorge for centuries, long before the world-famous Iron Bridge was built.
They were transport for poor people, important for fishing, helping in times of flood …. and for poaching! The coracle men also had a great sense of fun!
The last Coracle Maker’s shed in England
The coracle men called it their old curiosity shop!
The old wooden shed was full of coracle making tools, traps, fishing nets and many stories.
The shed also contained many strange animated characters which the coracle men would fly across the river! Just for fun!
The shed is now completely empty after Eusty, the last of the coracle men, died in 2003.
Eusty Rogers, the last of generations of coracle men often built coracles in the garden of his family house near the shed. Discover more about the Rogers family here.
Phyllis Blakemore gives a vivid description of the shed and its contents in 1984:
Eusty invited me to see his workshop, built precariously on the river bank.Phyllis Blakemore
It was a fascinating jumble of tools some of which were in every day use, together with relics of the past. The walls, floor and bench were crowded with artefacts. Eusty pointed out old paddles, (called spades by the coracle men) and showed me ancient walking sticks carved with bird and animal heads. One corner of the workshop was crammed with fishing rods, nets and waders. In another I saw scythes, rakes, axes, and chains. The floor was strewn with wicker baskets, rabbit nets, mole and rat traps. Over it all was a pleasant smell of tar, oil, rope and freshly sawn wood.
Repairing the Coracle Shed
Over the past few months, with funding from the Heritage Fund, we have been repairing and conserving the coracle shed to ensure it survives for another 100 years.
It has been a challenging time with the prolonged period of flooding back in March 2020, swiftly followed by the lockdown restrictions of Covid 19.
However we are nearing the end of the work, which has been carried out by specialist conservation contractors Messengers.
We were lucky that we managed to replace the decayed wooden props that supported the Coracle shed, before the floods struck. The flood waters rose nearly 20ft to just below the floor of the shed, but the new timber props stayed firm.
The roof was repaired to make it watertight. The damaged roof boards were replaced and covered with sheets of marine ply covered with heavy duty rubber. The old corrugated iron sheets were securely placed on top and replaced with locally sourced identical sheets where they could not be repaired.
The conservation philosophy was to make the shed safe and secure, using materials and techniques that Harry Rogers would have used himself. Also to take care to preserve the patina and character built up over 100 years, to disguise the extensive and skilled programme of repair that has taken place.
The work to the stone retaining wall and brick and stone steps has been carried out by skilled stonemasons. Interestingly when they were digging out the old wall footings they discovered an old toilet cistern and mangle that had been dumped among the hard core used to build up the platform that the shed was built on. Perhaps they came from the original family cottage?