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Sea Lock

OS ref 458 232
To gain entrance to Lord Rolle’s Canal vessels had to negotiate their way up the River Torridge and sail through the Sea Lock.  Sea Lock is something of a misnomer since the open sea is approximately eleven miles by river from the open seam and approximately 4 miles inland by road from the riverside port of Bideford. It is, more accurately, a tidal lock chamber.  However there is a true sea lock on the Bude Canal which was completed in 1825 by the same engineer, James Green. This stone-built lock chamber is slightly smaller than the one at Bude.  Between the outer and inner gates the chamber is 71 feet long and 20 feet wide.
The outer gates would have been approximately 24 feet high and 13 feet 6 inches wide. The inner gates would have measured approximately 16 feet by 13feet 6 inches.The lock chamber opened into a wharf area of quite considerable size.  The larger river-going vessels, about the size of Severn Trows, would transfer their loads of lime stone and anthracite here onto smaller barges called ‘tub boats’.Tub boats were usually towed by horse in ‘strings’ or ‘trains’ of six. Each string was controlled by a single man, whose responsibility was to ensure the boats did not stave into the banks, and a boy, who led the horse.The first tub boat in a string had a pointed prow but the others were no more than simple rectangular boxes, measuring 20 feet long and 5 feet 6inches wide. Their loaded draft was only 20 inches. Each tub boat was capable of carrying loads of approximately 4tons.An unusual feature of the tub boat was its four flanged wheels which enabled the vessel to be hauled up and down the inclined plane.  Housed in the Barge Workshop at the Hele Bridge Basin on the Bude Canal (belonging to Bude Stratton Town Council) is an original tub boat. The Barge Workshop is open on Sunday afternoons
through the summer months.As well as the large wharf for trans-shipping cargo at Sea Lock there was also a shipyard, the exact location of which is unclear.  This shipyard had originally been sited by Annery Kiln but was moved downstream when Halfpenny (Ha’penny) Bridge was built in 1835.John, Lord Rolle and William Tardrew, amongst other landowners, having considerable financial interests in the lime trade, put forward the funds to erect this bridge in order to make better communication between Bideford and Great Torrington.The shipyard at Sea lock built a number of substantial vessels.  In 1829 the ‘Lord Rolle’ (105/98 tonnage) a brigantine was built here and in 1869 the ‘Sedwell Jane’, a much larger brigantine of 201 tons was constructed at this yard. Between these dates several lighters, brigs and polaccas were built, all bearing the names of Rolle estates and properties.