Bridgwater and Taunton Canal

From Academic Kids

The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is a canal in the south west of England between Bridgwater and Taunton, linking with the River Parrett and the River Tone. It was originally intended that the canal should extend across the south western peninsula of England to Exeter, however with the spread of the railways such plans became uneconomic.

The canal was built in the 1820's from a dock on the River Parrett at Huntworth to Taunton. It was extended from Huntworth to a floating harbour north of Bridgwater in 1842, and the Huntworth dock was abandoned.

The opening by the Great Western Railway of the Severn Tunnel in 1886 was the death of the canal. Before this it had handled imports of coal and slate from South Wales, but the railway provided direct transportation, and canal traffic declined greatly, the last commercial boats using it in the first decade of the twentieth century.

After the First World War the canal remained in a state of limbo, with minimal maintenance by the railway company and was the haunt of fishermen and walkers. Part of the Taunton Stop Line ran along the canal in Second World War and in the 1950's water from the canal was pumped for industrial purposes in Bridgwater. The Canal was absorbed by the British Waterways Board in 1962 and for a number of years was classified as a 'remainder waterway' - little more that a drainage channel. Bridgwater Docks, which had been used by a small amount of coastal shipping was finally closed in 1971 and the connection at Bridgwater Docks was stopped up.

From that time efforts were made to use the canal for leisure purposes, and Somerset County Council spearheaded the work. The towpath was repaired and various swing bridges were replaced with modern versions. Boating is encouraged, though the lack of a link at Bridgwater to the Parrett is restrictive. Bridgwater docks is now a marina, and the old warehouse has been converted into apartments, with new apartment blocks built nearby. The tow path forms part of Sustrans cycle route NCR3 connecting Bath and Cornwall, and attracts numerous travellers. The canal forms part of the local flood relief system, in winter taking water from the River Tone at Taunton and discharging into the Parrett at a sluice in the western fringe of Bridgwater.

Reference

Haskell, Tony, By Waterway to Taunton: a history of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and the River Tone Navigation, Somerset Books, 1994, ISBN 0861832604

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