During the1700’s and on into the beginning of the next century, canal building was all the rage across Britain and there were all sorts of proposals to create navigable systems linking river to river and coast to coast, from one side of the country to another. Especially in the midlands many of the proposals were followed through, actually built and are still functional today. Others were far too ambitious suffering from ill-conceived planning and insufficient funding.
Various routes had been proposed for a canal to extend the River Torridge including the possibility of ultimately linking it with the Stover Canal in South Devon and maybe as far north as the Great Western at Tiverton. However something a little more practical and modest was finally constructed and became one of the greatest assets to the development of the area surrounding the River Torridge.
Being influenced by the tide the River Torridge could at times be negotiated by fairly substantial boats as far as Dock Cottages in Weare Giffard. On higher tides boats could reach Quay Cottages in the middle of the village however this was a somewhat haphazard affair.
The building of a canal ensured that larger and heavier loads could be brought much further inland almost irrespective of tidal conditions.
The final choice of route was partly determined by geography and partly by those landowners such as John Richard Pine-Coffin and William Tardrew with whom Lord Rolle had business dealings.
In 1823 James Green began the excavation of the Sea Lock Chamber at Landcross in an area of land known as Beacon Down Marsh.
Adjacent to this field is Brick Marsh which was the site of the North Devon Pottery and close by is Annery kiln, a large three pot lime kiln. Many of these riverside kilns had a ramp running from the top of the pots right down to river level for ease of loading.
In the early 1800s there were many kilns site along the banks of the Torridge as far inland as boats could safely reach on a high tide.
The course of the canal required raising its level by 40 feet at Ridd and this was achieved by means of an Inclined plane. This method of lifting watercourses and boats had been fairly successfully used previously on a number of other canals.
It was considered more efficient time wise and financially to raise the wheeled tub boats by this method than by the more conventional means of flights of locks.
The canal on leaving the inclined plane follows the contours of the landscape for a mile or so and then swings across the valley and the River Torridge by means of bridge – Beam Aqueduct.
Along this stretch slots in which stop boards could be placed were built so that sections of the canal could be drained for maintenance purposes or could be used as temporary dams in the event of major leaks occurring.
The canal continues onto Torrington Commons at Staple Vale where there were lime kilns and ware houses.
Further inland the canal arrives at Taddiport and winds around the base of the hill on which Great Torrington stands, along what is now Rolle Road, to Town Mills and finally reaches the wharf and lime kilns at R.H.S. Rosemoor.
The leat running into R.H.S. Rosemoor and feeding the canal actually predates it having been originally constructed to power a tucking mill on that site.