Putchers and Putts

Exhibition: Tue 10 May 2016 - Tue 30 Aug 2016
Venue: The Museum Admission: FREE

Our new exhibition tells the unique story of fishing on the River Severn, of the men who fished there and the methods they used.

If you live in the Thornbury area, you’re probably familiar with salmon putchers.  Nowadays, they are the large, open-ended, conical baskets which serve as beautiful plant-holders for Thornbury in Bloom.  For hundreds of years before that though, they were of course arranged in serried ranks in the river to catch salmon.  In 1863, eleven thousand two hundred putchers were in place  on the Severn.

But do you know what a putt is?  Well, it’s more massive than a putcher and it comes in three detachable parts – a kype, a butt and a fore-wheel.  It was  detachable so that it could be transported down to the river more easily but was made so that the three parts would fit together snugly.  It was constructed of local materials:  hazel sticks and withies. Putts are the most ancient form of fixed fishing engine, with reliable records of them going back to 1533 and references to basket-type traps (which may well be putts) back to 956.

The exhibition shows how the putchers and putts were constructed, where in the river they were placed and what kind of catches could be expected from them.

Discover how the coming of Oldbury Power station put paid to the most productive fishery site on our side of the Severn at Curtis Weir.

And find out about some of the fishermen who pursued this dangerous livelihood – including Bob Knapp, who first went into the river on his father’s shoulders at the age of four and who was seventy six when he stopped fishing.

You can’t fail to be impressed by the ingenuity and hard work of the men who pursued this way of life.

Copyright © Thornbury & District Heritage Trust.