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Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Spring 2020

Richard Dean explores the ambitious proposals for a ship canal connecting the English and Bristol channels

A new waterway avoiding the dangers of sailing around Land’s End was a recurrent theme during the years of canal promotion. Only the Grand Western Canal started construction, but its sea-to-sea aspirations soon faded (see NB Spring 2018). A shorter route through Chard had been surveyed in 1769 and several times later, as a canal for either small ships or barges. Finances looked shaky, however, until James Green surveyed the much cheaper alternative in 1822 of a tub-boat canal, more with an eye to local trade rather than through traffic. But with the money markets improving, a ship canal once more became the favoured option, and Green resurveyed for this in 1824 with Thomas Telford appointed as the lead engineer. Telford recommended building new harbours at Stolford on the north coast, and at Beer on the south coast, connected by 44 miles of canal with a surface width of 95ft and a depth of 15ft. Thirty locks each side took the canal up 233ft to a summit level over 12 miles long,…

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