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HER Number:MDV18147
Name:Exeter Canal, Exeter to Turf Reach


Exeter Canal constructed in the 16th century running southeast from Exeter to Turf Reach


Grid Reference:SX 947 888
Map Sheet:SX98NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishExeter
Civil ParishExminster
Civil ParishPowderham
Ecclesiastical ParishALPHINGTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 448368
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX99SW/133

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CANAL (XVI to XXI - 1501 AD to 2009 AD)

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX99SW68 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV337185.

Chilwell, P., 1840, Untitled Source, 7-26 (Article in Serial). SDV337184.

A full history is provided in Hadfield and in Clark. The first canal was finished by 1579 and was probably the first of its kind.

Stephens, W. B., 1957, The Exeter Lighter Canal, 1566-1698, 1-11 (Article in Serial). SDV23876.

Hadfield, C., 1967, Canals of South West England, 19-25 (Monograph). SDV58.

Exeter Canal. From Exeter at SX92079193 to Turf Reach at SX96478584 the canal was rendered necessary by the construction in the 13th and 14th centuries of Countess Wear (see Monument ID 16749), St James Weir (see Monument ID 16547) and Lampreyford Weir (see Monument ID 18200) by Isbella de Fortibus and the Courtenay Earls of Devon. In 1539 the Corporation of Exeter obtained an act to remove these weirs but failed to make the river navigable. In 1563 John Trew was commissioned to make a canal to bypass the weirs, first intending to construct it along the east side of the river on the course of an extant leat mill, though it was in fact built on the west side. The canal, opened in 1566, was 16 feet wide and 3 feet deep, and was fed by water from the river directed by Trew's Weir (see Monument ID 18141).

Clark, E. A. G., 1968, The Ports of the Exe Estuary: 1660-1860, 19-48 (Monograph). SDV337183.

The canal began 1/4 mile from the city walls and finished at Matford Brook (see Monument ID 18195). There is documentary evidence for three pairs of sluices from the beginning. During the next century, the condition of the canal deteriorated. In 1676, under Richard Hurd, the canal was extended 1/2 mile south, across the Exminster Marshes, the new entrance there, being called Trenchard's Sluice (see Monument ID 18194). Further navigational difficulties caused Exeter Chamber to consider enlarging and converting the canal into a ship (rather than lighter) canal. Between 1698 and 1701 the canal was deepened between The Quay and Trenchard's Sluice. At the same time a sluice was constructed near the quay (see Monument ID 18144) and the old sluices further down removed and replaced by the Double Locks (see Monument ID 18145). The entrance at Trenchard's or Lower Sluice was however too far up the river for a large craft, and in 1825 under James Green, the canal was extended to Turf Reach (see Monument ID 18197), the original entrance blocked up, and a lock created to provide access to Topsham (see Monument ID 18196). A new basin was constructed near the head of the canal (see Monument ID 18144).

Minchinton, W. E., 1976, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 6 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/HP, 12-15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV304235.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 101 (Monograph). SDV64198.

The canal continued to be used commercially on a small scale until the recent past: in the early 1970s it saw regular cargoes of timber and fuel oil. The basin itself is now used for private boats and by Exeter Maritime Museum.

Collings, A. G., 1995, Archaeological Assessment of RSPB Reserves at Exminster Marshes and Bowling Green March, Topsham, 3 (Report - Assessment). SDV298230.

Exeter Archaeology, 1997, Archaeological assessment of the proposed power station at Marsh Barton Industrial Estate, Exeter, 3 (Report - Assessment). SDV337187.

Williams, L., 2000, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV337186.

Exe Canal shown on modern maps to start at SX92079192.

Pink, F., 2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment (Interpretation). SDV357736.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV23876Article in Serial: Stephens, W. B.. 1957. The Exeter Lighter Canal, 1566-1698. Journal of Transport History. 3. Unknown. 1-11.
SDV298230Report - Assessment: Collings, A. G.. 1995. Archaeological Assessment of RSPB Reserves at Exminster Marshes and Bowling Green March, Topsham. Exeter Archaeology Report. 95.34. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3.
SDV304235Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/HP. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 12-15.
SDV337183Monograph: Clark, E. A. G.. 1968. The Ports of the Exe Estuary: 1660-1860. The Ports of the Exe Estuary: 1660-1860. Unknown. 19-48.
SDV337184Article in Serial: Chilwell, P.. 1840. Archaeologia. 28. Unknown. 7-26.
SDV337185Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX99SW68. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV337186Personal Comment: Williams, L.. 2000.
SDV337187Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 1997. Archaeological assessment of the proposed power station at Marsh Barton Industrial Estate, Exeter. Exeter Archaeology Report. 97.22. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3.
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. ACD618/4/3. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV58Monograph: Hadfield, C.. 1967. Canals of South West England. Canals of South West England. A5 Hardback. 19-25.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 101.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1976. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 6.

Associated Monuments

MDV16749Related to: Countess Weir (Monument)
MDV18145Related to: Double Locks (Monument)
MDV18143Related to: Exeter Canal Basin (Monument)
MDV18144Related to: Exeter Canal Basin, King's Arms Sluice (Monument)
MDV18195Related to: Exeter Canal, Matford Pool (Monument)
MDV14842Related to: Quay on west side of Exeter Canal (Monument)
MDV16547Related to: River Exe, St James's Weir (Monument)
MDV18196Related to: Topsham Lock, Exeter Canal (Monument)
MDV18194Related to: Trenchard's Sluice (Monument)
MDV18197Related to: Turf Lock (Building)
MDV18141Related to: WEIR in the Parish of Exeter (Monument)
MDV18200Related to: WEIR in the Parish of Exeter (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Nov 2 2022 3:25PM