Speaker Colin Vosper talking about – Maritime Shortcuts

Local historian, Colin Vosper, made a zoom presentation to Bishopsteignton Probus Club about canals, starting with the reason why it was important to create them. He explained the problem for local trading vessels travelling between Teignmouth and Newport in Wales. The ships had to travel 200 miles around Land’s End and up the Bristol Channel which was a perilous journey. He quoted one incident that took place in 1843 near Padstow, when the Concord was taking coal from Teignmouth to Newport. It was a nasty storm with rain and hail when the 75 tons “Concord” collided with the 600 tons “John Esdale”. The Concord sank almost immediately with the death of her captain who was later buried in Brixham.

It was this kind of accident and the commercial cost of travelling so far by sea that over time has prompted people to propose maritime shortcuts by digging out canals that go from our north coast down to the south coast, including: the Grand Western Canal from Bridgewater to Taunton and Topsham; Public Devonshire Canal from Barnstaple to Topsham; Bude Canal from Bude down to Morewellham.

Each canal faced engineering and other difficulties. For example, the Bude Canal ended two miles from Launceston when the 1st and 2nd Dukes of Northumberland denied access through their property at Werrington Park, north of Launceston. An example of magnificent engineering solutions was the Nynehead boat lift on the Grand Western Canal which overcame sloping land by using a system which raised boats vertically from one level of the canal to another level.

Colin also talked about the Panama and Suez Canals. His comments on the latter brought us right up to the incident last month in which the Ever Green ship which is nearly a quarter of a mile long (1,300 feet) collided with the side of the Suez Canal, became grounded and temporarily blocked the canal. My press releases included a slide used by Colin Vosper, which is copied at the top of my next page. It shows the digger and men cutting into the canal bank to release the ship and you can immediately see what a mammoth task the local workforce had and how big the ship is.

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