The Grand Western Canal was one of several schemes conceived at the height of canal
mania to link the Bristol and English Channels and so reduce the significant shipping
losses on the vicious rocks of the north Devon/Cornwall coast.
Roughly one third of the planned length (the summit section that remains in water
today) was eventually built in 1812 but lack of funding delayed further work by more
than 20 years.
The Grand Western’s unique feature was its first ever use of vertical lifts to raise
boats through a total of 282 ft to the summit. These were designed to minimise scarce
water resources and were way ahead of the materials and technology available to James
Green their designer.
Once opened from Taunton to Tiverton in 1838, the canal’s commercial life was short-lived
as the railway age reached the South West just 6 years later. The canal lifts were
decommissioned in 1868, leaving the isolated summit transporting limestone for agriculture
The Grand Western Canal Trust is transforming into the Friends of the Grand Western Canal. The Trust was established in 1988 to preserve and enhance our
unique waterway for the enjoyment of all users and will be relaunched as the Friends on 15 April 2012.
At the time there was a threat of closure and infilling. Happily the threat has
now receded and the canal enjoys a new lease of life as a wild life and fishing haven,
venue for boats, both resident and visiting and as part of the Sustrans cycle path
The Grand Western Canal Trust has been a proud part of all the work since then in enhancing
one of Mid Devon’s most spectacular leisure amenities and the Friends will continue that great tradition.
Click on the logo above to be redirected to the new Friends site