HIDDEN Victorian railway lines have been found beside the Thames and Severn Canal at Thrupp.

The rails, unearthed during work to repair a leak in the watercourse, were probably used to transport coal to a nearby mill.

Dr Ray Wilson, honorary secretary of the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology, said: "It is really exciting.

"We are seeing the physical remains of something which we imagined existed elsewhere but never knew existed at Thrupp.

"It helps us understand how the mills and the canal worked together."

Workman Matt Tewkesbury found eight 12ft long, 24-inch gauge lines while digging in the towpath near Jubilee Bridge.

The rails are part of a ‘tramway’, a light railway used for industrial purposes in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

A 1902 map appears to show a network running from the canal to Griffin’s Mill, then a walking-stick factory.

Dr Wilson said coal from barges would have been tipped into small trucks and then either pushed by men or horses to the mill.

Once the canal is restored, project leaders plan to display the lines beside the towpath.

Anyone with more information about the rails can contact canal official Dave Marshall on 01453 754646 or david.marshall@stroud.gov.uk