PHIL Newman, chairman of the Stover Canal Trust, gave a fascinating talk on the archaeology of the Stover Canal at a talk at the Wharf in Tavistock recently.

The Stover Canal Society was formed in 1999 to promote the preservation and restoration of the Stover Canal in South Devon. Built in the 18th century, the canal was used for nearly 150 years to transport clay and other materials from the Bovey Basin and granite from quarries on Dartmoor to the docks at Teignmouth.

Stover Canal, near Newton Abbot, was commissioned by James Templer of Stover House and completed by 1794. It was primarily used to carry ball clay from local pits, down to Teignmouth, from where the clay was transhipped for distribution. The canal was also used to move granite from Haytor quarries on Dartmoor, transported to the head of the canal at Ventiford, via George Templer’s famous granite tramroad between 1820 and the 1840s. Barge traffic finally ceased in the 1930s, although the upper section of the canal, including Ventiford, was abandoned probably before the 1880s.

Phil Newman has been investigating the landscape impact of these important 18th/19th century industries and their transport systems for over 20 years, both professionally and as a spare time passion. The talk incorporates the results of three seasons of archaeological excavations at Ventiford Basin, completed in 2016.

This work came to an exciting climax this year, when the hulk of one of the canal’s barges was fully revealed. Also uncovered was a hitherto unknown section of the Haytor Granite Tramroad as well as building remains on the eastern side of the canal quay and details of cargoes that passed along the canal, serving several other local industries.