Celebrating 200 years of Tavistock Canal

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Saturday 24th June 2017 7:00 am
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THE 200th anniversary of the canal which made Tavistock wealthy is being celebrated in the town on Saturday (June 24).

Local historian Simon Dell will mark the occasion by launching his new guide on the canal and its history.

He will also lead a walk along the canal, which was the key link taking copper from the mine at Mary Tavy to the outside world.

Its existence put Tavistock on the map - and made the Bedford family who owned the mine wealthy.

‘The canal is intrinsically linked to the wealth of Tavistock and is the reason why it is Devon’s World Heritage town,’ said Simon, who is chairman of the Tavistock and District History Society.

‘Today, it is a place of leisure and recreation as well as a place of historical worth. You can walk from Tavistock right the way to Lumburn, which is what we will be doing on Saturday afternoon.’

The Tavistock canal was a built by engineer John Taylor to export copper ore mined at Wheal Friendship at Mary Tavy. The complex piece of engineering, which took 14 years to complete, linked Tavistock to the tidal river Tamar west of the town.

It meant copper ore could be exported all over the world and, paved the way for effective transportation from an even bigger copper mine, Devon Great Consols near Gunnislake.

‘The canal was incredibly important for this town,’ added Simon. ‘When it was built, the population of Tavistock almost doubled overnight because of the amount of employment that the canal and the mine brought to west Devon.’

He added that the canal still provided a use to this day, with its flow diverted to the hydroelectric power station at Morwellham Quay.

‘The canal has been owned by the water authority since the 1930s and it is still flowing because of Morwellham hydroelectric power station,’ he said.

Simon said he thought the anniversary was a good time to produce a book encouraging people to explore the canal. Called Tavistock Canal Walks, it is being launched at Tavistock Museum at 10am on Saturday.

The free guided walk sets off from the museum at 2pm, led by Simon and Tavistock archaeologist Andrew Thompson. Dogs on leads are welcome and wellies suggested footwear.

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