Originally conceived in the 'canal mania' period of the late 18th century, the 'Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal' scheme (as it was originally named) was started by architect and civil engineer Robert Mylne, but rapidly encountered financial difficulties - to such an extent that Mylne left the project in 1798. A canal basin at Gloucester was complete but only a quarter of the 18-mile canal to its original junction with the Severn at Berkeley Pill was finished.
Some 20 years later, Thomas Telford was appointed to bring the scheme to completion. In the process, he moved the site of the southern junction to Sharpness Point. The scheme was finally opened in April 1827.