Tavistock Canal

August 8, 2015 TPC-ADMIN

Tavistock meadows are pleasant and peaceful but how many of us know the history of the canal which borders those meadows? Dr. Ann Pulsford gave Probus members a fascinating talk on the construction and early use of the Tavistock canal.

By the turn of the nineteenth century, the mines around Tavistock were producing 25% of the world’s copper ore and the only way to transport it to the port at Morwellham was by packhorse – an expensive and slow process. The solution was to build a canal connecting Tavistock to Morwellham and a young and very talented engineer by the name of John Taylor was put in charge of the project. Taylor’s chosen route was 4½ miles long including a 1½ mile tunnel under Morwelldown.  Water for the canal is taken from the River Tavy at Abbey Weir where a filter prevents salmon from entering the canal. On its way to Morwellham, the canal drops at a rate of one foot per mile creating a flow which powered waterwheels along its route and is still used to produce hydro-electric power at Morwellham Quay. The ores were carried to the quay in wrought iron boats which were then used to bring imported goods back to Tavistock.

Wheal Crebor Mine was successfully developed from the tunnel exploration and contributed to the canal’s running costs. The canal was profitable for some 40 years until the arrival of the railway. It was eventually sold to The Duke of Bedford.

Peter Lane thanked Ann for her colourful and informative presentation on this important aspect of Tavistock’s history. The subject of the September meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “The Ghosts of the Bedford Hotel”.

If you are interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club, please contact the secretary on 01822 615669.


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