Bridgwater Canal and Dock

The Bridgwater and Taunton canal was opened in 1827 and ran from Taunton and joined the River Parrett at Huntworth.

The engineer for the canal was James Hollinsworth.

In 1837 a further Act was obtained authorising the extension from Huntworth to Bridgwater and the building of the dock and its entrance lock to the River Parrett. The canal operated very successfully during this period. 

The Docks were opened on the 25 March 1841, when the Bridgwater and Taunton canal was extended to join the River Parrett via the two basins you see today. High tides in the Parrett were used to maintain high water in the dock, the water being retained behind the large lock gates. This type of dock is known as a ‘floating harbour’.

 

From the outer or tidal basin, two locks lead to the river; the ship lock is now sealed off but the smaller, barge lock has been restored. Around the basin are bollards and the sluices which were used to flush silt out of the dock and into the river.

A bascule bridge carries the road to Chilton Trinity across the dock between the two basins. The original bridge was extensively restored in 1907, 1984 and in 2005 the bridge was further overhauled. The inner basin is now used as a marina.

On its south side stands Ware’s Warehouse; dating from 1841, it was derelict until the early 1990s and has now been restored to accommodate residential flats, pub and restaurant, and toilets for boaters. Near the Bascule Bridge stands one of the original hand operated cranes, whilst opposite, on the north bank, where housing now stands, there used to be a large mound called The Mump formed from the material dug out to form the docks.

 

The once derelict area, towards the western end of the basin, has now been redeveloped with modern housing but the old Bowerings Mill, which produces animal feed, is a reminder of the dock’s industrial past.

The restored lock, which is crossed by a swing footbridge connects the dock to the canal, the canal being the dock’s source of replenishment water. Leaving the Lock behind, the canal towpath swings away from the road and enters into a shallow cutting, around the western side of Bridgwater

The canal passes under Victoria Road Bridge, considerably extended in 1931, and then, after Wembdon Road Bridge, narrows and squeezes through a cutting with sheer stone walls. It then passes under the tunnel-like West Street.

 

 

After passing near the YMCA at Albert Street Bridge, the canal emerges to give views of the Quantocks to the west and a succession of brick bridges (some original, some rebuilt) across the canal, which soon draws alongside the River Parrett. The two waterways are separated by only a thin strip of land and Hamp Weir allows canal water to spill into the river. A flooded clay pit on the towpath side is one of many reminders of Bridgwater’s once flourishing brick and tile industry.

The canal gradually enters more rural surroundings and a concrete pill-box on the far side stands close to the point where the original (1827-1841) line of the canal headed straight for the Parrett at Huntworth before the construction of Bridgwater Dock. The old basin has been filled in, but a short detour leads to Somerset Bridge, carrying the railway over the River Parrett and constructed in 1904 to replace an earlier unsuccessful Brunel design.

 

Crossways Bridge is the first of three swing bridges in the next few miles of canal which have been rebuilt to replicate the original design of such bridges on this canal. It is operated manually by boat crews to allow the passage of craft. The towpath crosses to the other canal bank at this point and the M5 motorway viaduct dominates the scene.

After this, the Boat and Anchor public house (alongside the Mead’s swing bridge) offers refreshment. There is a small car park adjacent to the Meads Bridge. The wide section of canal north of the Huntworth Bridge is known as widewater and here smaller craft could turn.

Huntworth Road Bridge is an unattractive structure, rebuilt to carry heavy traffic, gives access to Fordgate swing bridge next to Fordgate Farm and a small car park for fisherman is located here. This length is peaceful and typical of the rural setting of much of the route of this canal..

 
 
 
 
 
 
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