The concept of a canal from Bideford to Torrington arose in the late 1700’s and Denys Rolle was a prime instigator. However the whole idea had to be postponed due to the intervention of external influences, the most significant of these being Britain’s involvement in the Napoleonic War with France.
It was Denys Rolle’s son, John, Lord Rolle, who was to bring this idea into reality. He employed the services of James Green, an experienced and respected civil engineer who was responsible for the construction for the Bude Canal which was completed in1823.
In 1793 Mr Tozer surveyed a line for the course of the canal.
In 1810 James Green planned a route from Torrington along the eastern side of the River Torridge past Weare Giffard to enter the river above Hallspill and opposite Landcross but it was considered too expensive and was abandoned.
Due to increased demands on farmers for increased food production there was a revival of interest in constructing the Rolle Canal and work was initiated in 1823 when James Green is appointed engineer and starts the cutting of the navigation with the Torridge river lock and basin.
Despite not being authorised by an Act of Parliament, Lord Rolle’s Canal was completed and opened to traffic in 1827 with construction costs being between £40 and £45,000.
Sometime around 1852 the canal was leased to George Braginton who held the post of Mayor of Great Torrington a number of times.
William Tardrew of Annery and Richard Pine -Coffin of Portledge were share holders in the Rolle Canal Company and held lands along the length of the canal
In 1871 Mark Rolle sold off sections of the Canal to make way for the London & South West Railway.