The Red Wheel scheme is similar to English Heritage's blue plaque scheme, recognising Britain's greatest transport heritage sites. Saturday's unveiling commemorates the significance of Gloucester Docks as the country's best preserved nineteenth century inland port, and the role it played in trade and transport in the West of England and beyond.
Opened in 1827, the docks were a vital port for the transfer of cargoes from sea going ships using the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, enabling goods to be transported up the River Severn and into the canal network serving the West Midlands. Early imports included corn from Ireland and the continent, timber from North America and wines from Portugal and France.
As trade demand grew throughout the nineteenth century, the docks were extended beyond the Main Basin, creating the range of quays and warehouses that can be seen today. Nineteen large warehouses around the docks and canal are listed buildings, while the Mariners' Chapel, which once served a congregation of seamen and boatmen, is still in use as a church.
Regular steamer services carrying people to continental ports became an additional feature in the twentieth century, however changes to the way goods were transported brought a period of decline and a significant reduction in commercial traffic.
Following a period of inactivity, the docks experienced a renaissance in the late twentieth century, with pleasure craft becoming common in the area. The docks are now a vibrant retail, leisure and residential area, including a 50-berth marina that is popular with river cruisers and narrow boats.
The Red Wheel will be unveiled at 11.30am, mounted on a wall adjacent to Llanthony Warehouse facing the Gloucester Waterways Museum entrance.
Nick Worthington, waterways manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The award is a fitting recognition of the importance of the docks to Gloucester throughout the generations. They were an epicentre for trade in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and if you visit them now, the buildings give the look and feel of stepping back in time. What's important is that the docks continue to benefit the city, nowadays through its businesses, museums and events like the Tall Ships Festival.”
Stuart Wilkinson, Chairman of the Transport Trust, said: "The revitalisation of Gloucester Docks in recent years has made it an exciting place to visit, of which the City and Canal & River Trust can be justly proud. The Transport Trust is delighted to recognise this with the award of a 'Red Wheel'."