Joseph Priestly Bridgewater & Taunton Canal

Joseph Priestly Bridgewater & Taunton Canal

Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers and Canals and Railways of Great Britain – Joseph Priestly 1831


Bridgwater and Taunton Canal


61 George IIL Cap. 60. Royal Anent 14th May. 1811.
5 George IV. Cap. 120. Royal Anent 17th June, 1824.

The line of this proposed canal, commencing at Morgan’s Pill, on the River Avon, about six miles below the port of Bristol, proceeds in a straight line, and in a south-easterly direction, to near Clevdon Court; from which place, taking a southerly course, it crosses the River Yeo ; thence, west of the village of Puxton, crossing the eastern termination of the Mendip Hills, on the south side of which, an aqueduct is to be thrown over the navigable River Axe ; hence, its course is continued in a straight line to near Huntspill Court, passing over the River Brue or Glastonbury Canal ; thence, to the Tone and Parrett Navigation, near the village of Puriton, where it crosses the River Carey, at its junction with the Tone River, along the eastern bank of which, it continues its way two miles above the town of Bridgwater, where there is another aqueduct over the river. From the last-mentioned place it takes the course of the English and Bristol Channels’ Ship Canal for two miles, when, diverging to the west, it passes the village of St. Michael’s, running parallel with the last-mentioned canal, until it approaches the Tone, on the north bank of which it continues to its termination at Fire Pool Mills; there forming a junction with the intended Grand Western Canal, near the town of Taunton. The length is forty-two miles and a half.

From the main line, there is a branch of two miles and a quarter, to the coal and other works at Nailsea; and another, of four miles and three quarters, on the north bank of the Axe, by the town of Axbridge, to Cheddar. At Clevdon Hill there is a proposed tunnel of six hundred yards in length; and another at Banwell, the eastern edge of the Mendip Hills, the length of which is one thousand and fifty yards.

The subscribers to this canal were, at the time the act was obtained, three hundred and twenty six in number, amongst whom were Sir James Dubberley, Sir Richard Graves, Sir John Ken naway, Sir William Rawlins, and the Right Honourable Sir George Yonge, Baronets. They were incorporated, in the first act, by the name of “The Company of Proprietors of the Bristol and Taunton Canal Navigation,” with power to raise among themselves the sum of £420,000, in four thousand two hundred shares of £100 each, with further power to raise among theme selves, in proportion to the first subscription, if necessary, an additional sum of £150,000; or they may raise the same on mortgage of the tolls and duties hereby granted, the interest of which to be paid in preference to dividends or any other claim. In addition to the line of canal, the company obtained power to make railways or stone roads from the Nailsea Branch to the collieries and other works in that neighbourhood.

In the aqueduct over the navigable River Brue, or Glastonbury Canal, and the Axe River Navigation, the company are bound to specified areas; that for the first-mentioned river to be 300 square feet, and for the Axe 240; they are also required to make, on each of those rivers, near their respective aqueducts, two locks sufficient for passing vessels of ten tons burthen; and in order that these, and other things therein mentioned, should be properly executed, the company are directed to invest, in the public funds, the sum of £10,000, to be under the control of the commandment of the commissioners for sewer acting for the county of Somerset.

The company are prohibited from taking the water from Lox Yeo, and from Banwell Hill Spring, and if injury be done to the latter, which is in the estate of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the fund of £10,000 above-mentioned is to be answerable for damages. They are also restricted from, cutting any portion of the canal between the parish of Clevdon and the Parrett, until it is finished between the first mentioned place and the Avon; and if the former portion be not done in four years after the passing of this act, the power to cease. The affairs of the company are under the direction of a committee of fifteen persons, to be called The ” Committee of Management.”

Tonnage Rates
Hay, Straw, Dung, Peat and Peat Ashes and all other Ashes
intended to be used for Manure ; Chalk, Marl, Clay and and
sand and all Lime and other Articles intended for manure
and Material for repairing Roads 
1d per ton, per mile
Coal, Culm, Coke, Cinders, Charcoal, Iron-stone, Pig iron
Iron-ore, Lead-ore, Copper-ore, Lime, (except what shall
be used for manure,) Lime-stone, and other Stone, Bricks,
Tiles, Paving-stones and Pipe Clay   
2d per ton, per mile
Corn and other Grain, Flour, Malt, Meal, Cyder, Timber,
Ochre, Calamine, Bar iron, Lead, Kelp, Sand, (except
what shall be used for Manure,) Pitch, Tar, Turpentine and
2d per ton, per mile
Passengers  1d per Mile each.
Cattle, Sheep. Swine and other Beasts 1d per Head, per Mile.
All other Goods; Wares, Merchandize and Commodities 3d per Ton, per Mile.
Tolls to be paid for a full Half Mile, and for a Quarter of a Ton.  
For every Horse, Mare, Gelding, Mule and Ass, passing along the,Railway , (except such as are employed in drawing any Goods,for which any of the rates will be paid )   2d each
Cows, Horned or Neat Cattle  1d each.
Steep, Swine and Calves   3d per score
To pay but once a Day.   
Boats under twenty tons not to pass Locks without leave, or without paying for that Amount of Tonnage.

There are many clauses in this act for protecting the property sf individuals on the line of navigation ; but which, having a local interest only, it is unnecessary further to notice than by a reference to the act of parliament. In this act are recited three others, 10th and 11th William lII, 6th Anne, and 44th George III: relating to the navigation of the Tone from Bridgwater to Taunton, in which it appears that certain persons are appointed conservators of that river, and certain tolls are thereby directed to be collected, and that the surplus of such rates, after doing that which is necessary for the maintenance of the navigation, shall be employed for the benefit of the poor of Taunton, and the parishes of Taunton St Mary Magdalene, and Taunton St. James ; and as the making of this canal will materially injure the above interests, the company are directed to purchase them, and afterwards to maintain the River Tone out of the tolls received from that navigation under the act’ above-mentioned. The estimates for this canal and branches were made by Mr. Rennie, and are as follow :-

For the Main Line………..£404,314
Neilsen Branch…………………6,583
Cheddar Branch………………19,004

So confident were the subscriber. of the ultimate success of this measure, and so eager were they to possess shares in the un dertaking, that the sum of £571,800 was wholly subscribed before the application to parliament; and yet, thirteen years after-wards, the following act was obtained by the same company, to enable them to abandon a great part of the line and branches.

The act of 5th George IV. is entitled, ‘ An Act to abridge, vary, extend and improve the Bristol and Taunton Canal navigation, and to alter the Powers of an Act of the Fifty-fist Year ‘ of his late Majesty, for making the said Canal.’ This act, therefore, repeals so much of the former as relates to the line of the proposed canal, between Morgan’s Pill, on the Avon, and the parish of Clevdon, with the branch to Nailsea; and the company had already forfeited all right to make that part between Clevdon and the Parrett, with the Cheddar Branch, by having neglected to execute them within the prescribed period of four years from the passing of the former act.

Instead, therefore, of a navigation from the River Avon, the company determined to make it only from the River Parrett, a little above Bridgwater, to the town of Taunton, with some alterations in the original line between those places; they, consequently, have abandoned their original title, and are incorporated in this act by the name of ” The Company of Proprietors of the ” Bridgwater and Taunton Canal Navigation.” The deviation in the original line was from Mansell, through the parish of North Petherton and chapelry of North Newton, to the Parrett, a distance of five miles and a quarter, with a fall of 35 feet, by five locks. There is also a branch, with a dock or basin, and locks to communicate with the Parrett Navigation, in the parishes of Bridgwater and North Petherton, and cbapelry of North Newton.

The estimate of the work (which was made by Mr.James Hillinsworth, civil engineer, in 1824,) from
Firepool Weir to the commencement of the variation at Mansell was ……£15,891
And the variation line to the River Parrett ………………………………………18,854
Total ……………………………….34,145
This act enables the company to take any water within four hundred yards of the line of the canal, and three years are allowed for the execution of these works, if not then done, the powers to cease, excepting as to such parts as may have been completed. The tonnage rates remain as in the former act.

The object of this canal was to facilitate the communication between the ports of London, Bristol, Bridgwater and Exeter, and to afford a better mode of conveyance for the produce of the agricultural and mineral districts through which it passes ; the utility whereof can only be appreciated by that portion of the public which partakes of such important benefits.