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Grand Western Canal: HISTORY

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: November 27, 2012

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WORK on the Grand Western Canal began in 1810 as part of a scheme to link the Bristol and the English Channels.

At this time, ships had a hard time navigating the Cornish peninsula and an inland waterway was seen as a way of avoiding the perilous journey and to safely transport goods between the two channels.

The route was surveyed by engineer John Rennie who was renowned for his work on canals, aqueducts, bridges and dockyards.

Rennie also kept a watchful eye over the construction of the canal until 1814 when the section from Lowdwells to Tiverton was completed at a cost of £244,500.

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Steep embankments were built and deep cuttings constructed to ensure the canal was level and Rennie's design gave the waterway an uninterrupted stretch of more than 11 miles. It was later extended to join the Bridgwater and Taunton canal, which was opened in June, 1838, but plans to link the Grand Western Canal and the Exeter canal were eventually abandoned.

The canal was initially well-used, moving limestone and coal, but in 1865, the stretch between Lowdwells and Taunton was sold to the Bristol & Exeter Railway and the waterway was abandoned.

For a period, it was used for growing water lillies which were taken by train to London's Covent Garden flower market.

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