Friday, March 17, 2023

The miraculous remains of the Somerset Coal Canal

The Somerset coalfield is forgotten now, but the last mine there did not close until 1973. And at the start of the 19th century a canal was dug to serve the industry there.

Running from the Kennet and Avon Canal at Limpley Stoke near Bath, the Somersetshire Coal Canal headed 10 miles south west to Paulton and Timsbury. A branch was built from Midford, near the northern end of the canal, to the mining town of Radstock, but this was soon replaced by a tramway.

Paul and Rebecca Whitewick visit the remains of the canal at Combe Hay, and what they find is stunning. The flight of locks there has been closed since the end of the 19th century, yet the masonry from which the lock chambers are constructed is in perfect condition.

So it's no surprise that restoration work is taking place along the length of the canal - see the webpage of the Somersetshire Coal Canal Society for details.

At the start of this video, Paul Whitewick points to the Camerton railway branch line. This is where much of The Titfield Thunderbolt was filmed, but you'll find no mention of coal traffic in the film.

There's more from Paul and Rebecca Whitewick about their railway and canal explorations on their website.

1 comment:

A Rambling Ducky said...

When my father was at City of Bath Boys' School (Arnold Ridley and Roger Bannister were old boys) his form were taken underground in the Somerset coalfield to see the horrors that would face them if they didn't work hard and pass their exams!

The construction of the coal canal is perhaps best remembered for inspiring William 'Strata' Smith's Law of Superposition and Law of Strata, and his geological maps.