Joseph Priestly Somerset Coal Canal

Joseph Priestly Somerset Coal Canal

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


Somersetshire Coal Canal


34 George III. Cap. 86. Royal Assent 17th April. 1794
36 George III. Cap. 48. Royal Assent 24th March, 1796
42 George III. Cap.35. Royal Assent 30th April, 1802

This work commences in the Kennet and Avon Canal at Limpley Stoke, near Bradford, in Wiltshire, and running parallel with Mitford Brook to Mitford Mill, proceeds from thence in a westerly direction by Coombe Hay, Dunkerton, Camerton, High Littleton and Timsbury, to Paulton ; a railway branching of from it in the parish of South Stoke, proceeds by Wellow, Fox-cote, Writhlington and Radstock, to the collieries at Welton and Clandown, in Somersetshire.

At the commencement of the undertaking, it was designed to have a canal branch to Radstock, running upon one level to within a few hundred yards of the main line between Coombe Hay and Mitford Bridge ; but in consequence of their funds being exhausted in completing so much of the canal, the company were unable to carry their lockage down to the level; a short railway was in consequence made on the Radstock Branch, to connect that portion of it, which was completed, with the main line of the canal; but here it may be observed, that above twenty years after-wards, a railway was substituted for the branch canal the whole distance.

To connect the Paulton line of canal with the lower level, the company, in the first instance, made whimsey and jenny roads or inclined planes at Coombe Hay, in lieu of lockage, of 138 feet descent; but after a short time it was found that they did not succeed, and that the company would be obliged to substitute locks for them. To raise funds for this purpose, an act, passed in 1802, authorised the formation of a separate body called ” The Lock ” Fund of the Somerset Coal Canal Company,” which body was to consist of individual proprietors of the Wilts and Berks, Kennet and Avon, and Somerset Coal Canal Companies, in equal proportions, with powers to raise the sum of £45,000, to erect the requisite lockage and to appoint deputies to manage the same, which has been carried into execution.

The first act of parliament relating to this undertaking was passed in 1794, and is entitled, ‘ An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal, with certain Railways and Stone ‘ Roads, from several Collieries in the county of Somerset, to communicate with the intended Kennet and Avon Canal, in the parish of Bradford, in the county of Wilts’ and incorporates a number of persons therein named by the title of ” The Company of Proprietors of the Somersetshire Coal Canal Navigation,” and authorizes them to raise, for the purposes of the act, the sum of £80,000, in eight hundred shares of £100 each ; and, if necessary, a further sum of £40,000, either amongst themselves or by mortgage of the tolls as security. This was followed by a second act of parliament in 1798, entitled, ‘ An Act to vary and alter the ‘ Line of a Canal authorized to be made by an Act, passed in the ‘Thirty-fourth Year of the Reign of his present Majesty, and to alter and amend the said Act.’ This act authorizes the company of proprietors to make various alterations and deviations in the line of the canal and railway.

The last act of parliament relating to this undertaking was passed in 1802, and is entitled, ‘ An Act for enabling the Company ‘ of Proprietors of the Somersetshire Coal Canal Navigation to ‘ vary and alter the Lines of the said Canal and Works, and to alter and amend the Powers and Provisions of the several Acts ‘ passed for making the said Canal’ It states that the sums of £80,000 and £40,000 authorized to be raised under the former acts respecting this navigation, have been contributed amongst themselves and expended in the prosecution of the work, and that the shares have consequently become of the value of £150 each. The act authorizes a deviation in the original lines, the expense of which was estimated by Mr. W. Bennett, in 1801, at £33,222, 15s. 2d. and empowers the company to raise a further sums of £40,000, amongst themselves, by optional rates, or by mortgage of the rites as security; and silo the sum of £45000 for the formation of a fund forr erecting the locks required on this navigation, which sum is to be raised and appropriated in the manner stated in a preceding part of this article. The subscribers to the lock fund are not to receive more than 10 per cent. per annum on their subscription, and the surplus to form a sinking fund for paying off the capital; and when that is paid off, the extra tonnage rate for supporting the locks to cease. The act authorizes the company to take the following

For all Coal, Coke, & c 2½d per ton per mile
For all Iron, Lead, Ores,Cinders &c   4d per ton per mile
For all Stones, Tiles, Bricks, Slate, Timber &c   3d per ton per mile
For all Cattle, Sheep, Swine, and other Beasts 4d per ton per mile
For all other Goods 4d per ton per mile
For every Horse or Ass Travelling on the Railway 1d each
For every Cattle or other Neat Cattle ditto ½d each
For Sheep, Swine and Calves ditto 5d per score
Fractions of a Mile to Pay for Half a Mile, and of a Ton as per a Quarter of a Ton; Rates for Wharfage to be Determined by the Company
In addition to the above Rates, One Shilling per Ton is paid on all Goods to the Lock Fund, which also receives Three Farthings per Ton from the Coal Canal Company.

This canal is of great importance in the export of coal, with which the neighbourhoods of Paulton and Radstock abound. That useful article is thus forwarded eastward to the Kennet and Avon and Wilts and Berks Canals, by which it is supplied to places on their lines, and also to others on the borders of the River Thames ; besides entirely supplying the city of Bath and a part of the neighbourhood of Bristol.