Saturday 21 April 2012

Puzzling Passage near Pilning [1]

fbb and chum Alan are off on a transport "jolly" today; exploring Boris' Overground network, visiting Stratford's Westfield shopping "mall", enjoying the appurtenances of the rebuilt Kings Cross station and sampling East London Transit. Plenty of future blogs there, then!

Back to today's offering ...
Unwarrented Assumptions
When researching for Pont Hafren blogs (etc.) fbb assumed wrongly, that "Old Passage" (bottom centre on the above map) referred to the now demised ferry crossing from Aust to Beachley; a passage that had become "old" with the building of the Severn Bridge. The track that once took cars to the ricketty pier thence onto the ferry boats is now almost invisble.
But "Old Passage House" opposite, although fully modernised and magnificent, looks significantly older than motor cars ...
...which indeed it is. This artistic but less than realistic 1790 print shows dormer windows on the top floor ...
... so the roof has been raised at some time, but, basically this is the ancient inn used by intrepid travellers as the traversed the Severn via the Old Passage; "old" in 1790!
It looks even more old-inn-like on this view from the South.

So we need to look elsewhere for a "New" Passage; and a glance at any map shows, a few miles south near the village of Pilning, the requisite locality which, as its name suggests, is very old as well.
This print shows horses and men being loaded on to a ferry at "New Passage". What we need is a short history lesson.
Because the estuary is narrow at this point, New Passage has long been the location for a ferry crossing to and from South Wales. During the English Civil War, Prince Rupert of the Rhine ...
... was chased across the river, and the pursuing Roundheads drowned on the English Stones rocks after being assured by the ferryman of the safety of the crossing.
By the end of the 17th century, ferry crossings from New Passage to Black Rock ...
and the rock is black!
Black Rock Inn is now a private house.
... near Portskewett in Monmouthshire rivalled the Aust ferry two miles (3 km) upstream, known as the "Old Passage", where crossings had been made for centuries.
In 1715 the New Passage ferry service was taken over and developed by the Lewis family of St. Pierre, Monmouthshire, allowing it to be used by mail and passenger coaches between Bristol and south Wales. Records show that Charles Wesley had a lucky escape in 1743, when his ship almost foundered in stormy weather.
In 1825 the New Passage Association formed, using the 30-ton steamboat "St Pierre". However, the sponsorship by the Dukes of Beaufort of the Aust ("Old Passage") route, with faster boats and a pier, meant that by 1830 mail coaches were diverted there, and the New Passage declined.
Thus it was that in the early 19th Century, the "new" ferry became "old" whilst the "old" ferry was the new, easy (?) way to get from England (near Aust) to Wales, via England (near Beachley).

The coming of the Railway was to change all that ...

 Next : Sunday 22nd April