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24 September 2014

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BBC Points West Archive on Demand

Canal at Taunton
The canal at Taunton

Taunton Canal: 1965

Every so often you come across film in the archives that proves to be somewhat of a mystery. In September 1965 a group of official looking men boarded a rather unusual paddleboat to take a trip on the canal at Taunton. Can you tell us more?

Boat trip on canal

The silent film provides some superb views of Taunton and the canal as it passes by, but we are at a loss as to what the occasion might be.

It seems to be related to the reorganisation of the livestock market, as indicated by the opening shots where we see the great and the good pouring over a plan of some description.

But why they should then board a rather unusual craft powered by paddles, which then takes them for a ride along the cut is a mystery.

boat trip on canal
Do you recognise any of these faces?

If you know what was happening, what the occasion might have been, who some of the dignitaries might be, and what kind of craft was being used, let us know using the form below.

Either way, the Points West film offers a fascinating glimpse of the canal at Taunton and records how much the landscape has changed since 1965.

video Taunton Canal: 1965 >
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Bridgwater and Taunton Canal

  • The original route ran from the River Tone at Taunton to join the River Parrett at Huntworth, and carried coal and iron from South Wales and other produce from further afield to many of the towns and villages in the county.
  • It was part of an ambitious scheme to create a waterway route across the SW peninsula, between Exeter and Bristol, to eliminate the need for craft to pass round the hazardous waters of Land's End.
  • The civil engineer responsible for the canal was James Hollinsworth.

More films from BBC Points West

  • Use the links on the right to other local Where I Live sites to see more archive film from Points West.
last updated: 25/11/05
Have Your Say
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Simon Bowditch, Frome
I was living in Taunton at this time and always took an interest in Taunton and Bridgwater Canal. I believe that this is probably the last excursion along the canal by The Conservators of The River Tone. This was then a 200 year old body of local personalities charged with the preservation of navigation on The River Tone and latterly The Bridwater and Taunton Canal. One of the men sitting in the middle of the boat is Ken Horne who was Taunton's Town Clerk at the time.

Tony Rymell
The film records the inspection trip on the Bridgwater & Taunton canal by the Conservators of the river Tone in 1965. The flood control improvements were about to be implemented on the river and the boundary of the adjacent cattle market realigned. The gentleman in the yachting cap and wearing a white lanyard is the then Commodore of the Conservators, I think Mr Goodland. The other views are on the canal near Bathpool.

Clive E.R. Field
The paddle drive vesel is a weedcutter. There is an example at the National Waterways Museum Gloucester

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