HeritageGateway - Home

Login  |  Register
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.


HER Number:MDV5449
Name:Tavistock Canal, Inclined Plane

Summary

Inclined plane from the terminus of the Tavistock Canal to Morwellham Quay, constructed in 1816-17. The full length of the canal incline was 400 metres; at the time of opening, it was the longest in South-West England, although only the upper 200 metres was chain-hauled. The twin tracked plateway incline was a fully powered incline 200 metres long, using ordinary wheeled plateway wagons. Its two independent lines were worked by chains from a pair of drums in a winding house at the head of the incline. Power for upward haulage was supplied by an overshot waterwheel in a rock-cut roofed-in chamber beside the winding house (MDV72860).

Location

Grid Reference:SX 444 698
Map Sheet:SX46NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishGulworthy
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX46NW/515

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CANAL INCLINED PLANE (Constructed, XIX - 1816 AD to 1817 AD (Between))

Full description

Morwellham Display Boards (Illustration). SDV358896.


Hadfield, C., 1967, Canals of South West England, 127, 129 (Monograph). SDV58.

A fall of 237 feet, the greatest in southern England, it carried goods in trucks from the end of the canal to the quay. The trucks were "made to ascend and descend by the application of a machine driven by water supplied from the canal".


Booker, F., 1967, Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley, 103, 114-5 (Monograph). SDV240774.

Further details in Booker.


Minchinton, W. E., 1973, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 30 (Monograph). SDV7016.

This inclined plane served both the Tavistock Canal and the Devon Great Consols mineral railway. Parts of it are still visible.


Hedges, C., 1975, The Tavistock Canal. A Short History, 11-12 (Monograph). SDV361772.

The third major piece of engineering was the incline that was to overcome the transport problem down to the Tamar itself. An incline, to connect the end of the canal to the riverside was not the only means considered to traverse the steep slope at Morwellham. Even by 1811 a decision had not yet been reached as to how the solve the problem. A series of locks was considered, yet in 1816 a decision was reached 'after weighing the merits of various plans', and the incline to cover the 237 feet (72 metre) drop was constructed. A double track railway is described of wooden and stone sleepers, with rolled flat iron head rails of 4 feet 3 inches gauge. Its thought that the barges were conveyed along the rails on wagons.


Thomas, D. St. J., 1981, A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain, 127-8 (Monograph). SDV168.


Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L., 1992, Canal Cottage, Morwellham, 3-5, 15-20 (Report - Survey). SDV336711.

The 1867 map appears to show 2 rail tracks on the plane. When trucks had been hauled up the plane they were turned and taken along a rail track which extends southeast past the front of Canal Cottage (see PRN 37331) to the south side of Tavistock Canal (see PRN 3879), where there was a crane (see PRN 37331). Around 1900 a garden was constructed over the site of the plane in front of the cottage. The inclined plane completed in 1817 was powered by a large water wheel (see PRN 72860) fed by the overflow from the Tavistock Canal through an underground channel. The wagons had larger rear wheels to keep the goods level & were drawn up by a chain on friction rollers located in the middle of the track. The canal & the incline had gone out of use by 1873 & the rails were removed.


Harris, W. B., 1995, Hydro-Electricity in Devon: Past, Present and Future, 127 (Article in Serial). SDV125385.

Goods were handled between the canal and quay in trucks running on tram lines and operated with the aid of an 18 foot diam waterwheel.


Dyer, M. J. + Manning, P. T., 1998, Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal, 40 (Report - non-specific). SDV319814.


Greeves, T., 2003, The Tavistock Canal: A Review, 4, 14 (Report - non-specific). SDV356552.


Buck, C., 2005, Wheal Russell Mine, Devon: Archaeological Assessment, 49-50 (Report - Assessment). SDV336659.

The canal incline (Site 64) 720 feet long went down 237 feet from the Tavistock Canal to Morwellham Quay. The plate rails with granite sleepers were replaced with wrought iron edge rails in cast iron chairs on drilled killas sleeper blocks & some were visible during the survey in 2005. The track bed was around 6 meters wide & at SX4443469957 an elongated pit 15 meters long x 10 meters wide x 0.4 meters deep was cut into the track bed.


Waterhouse, R., 2009, In-situ Archaeological Finds at Morwellham Quay, 2 (Report - non-specific). SDV344990.

Two areas of surviving in-situ 1855 wrought iron rolled rail in cast iron chairs, on the Tavistock Canal Incline. Other details: Site 8.


Waterhouse, R., 2012, Tavistock Canal: Surveying a Forgotten Marvel of the Industrial Age, 38-39 (Article in Serial). SDV351508.

At its south end, the tunnel emerged on a steep hillside, high above the river Tamar. To descend the 237 ft (vertical height) to the port of Morwellham, a sophisticated double-track inclined railway was built. Wagons on this were raised and lowered by another waterwheel, once more powered by canal water. See article for full details.


Waterhouse, R., 2017, The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology, 95-101, 330-1, 438-493, Figs 4.20-26, 12.2-12.6, 12.8, 12.11, 12.15, 12.18-12.82 (Monograph). SDV361789.

The alignment of this inclined plane was at almost right angles to the canal, descending the steeply sloping valley side through the Waterhall Wood, heading for Morwellham.
Constructed in 1816-17, it connected the canal's southern terminus with the river quays at Morwellham. At its foot, four sidings led onto the river quays (MDV78253, MDV78260). A separate inclined plane and horse-hauled line carried ore to chutes above the Lower Ore Quay. The twin tracked plateway incline was a fully powered incline 200 metres long, using ordinary wheeled plateway wagons, not gravity-worked or designed for wheeled tub-boats, as some authors have claimed. The full length of the canal incline was 400 metres; at the time of opening, it was the longest in South-West England, although only the upper 200 metres was chain-hauled. Its two independent lines were worked by chains from a pair of drums in a winding house at the head of the incline. Power for upward haulage was supplied by an overshot waterwheel in a rock-cut roofed-in chamber beside the winding house (MDV72860).
Repair work took place on the incline between 1854-1855; rather overdue as the incline, its rolling stock and haulage machinery had been operating in constant use for 37 years, probably with no major repairs.
Archaeological excavation and metal detector surveys of the incline were carried out between 2002-2010 show that the plateways were in a poor condition at the end and repairs appear to have been haphazard. Scrap rails from other sources (of varying designs) appear to have been used to make repairs; in fact, few of the original L-section plates described in 1826, by 1855 the majority (if not all) had been replaced by trough rails with straight flanges.
Documentary sources from the mid-19th century list the required repairs, which were surprisingly few and helps to clarify details of the way in which in incline operated. The hauling machine was probably repaired, with the waterwheel replaced. The eastern line of the incline serving the ore chute spur was not re-laid, remaining as a plateway to the end of operations, or being abandoned. The western line was re-laid in 1855 as a wrought iron edge railway from the incline head to the quays, including new sidings on either side of the Canal Company’s river dock.
Detailed description and plans of the inclined plane included in Chapter 12, surviving remains described and pictured with section drawings and a plan of sample excavation of the incline from 2009; see report for full detail.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV125385Article in Serial: Harris, W. B.. 1995. Hydro-Electricity in Devon: Past, Present and Future. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 127. A5 Paperback. 127.
SDV168Monograph: Thomas, D. St. J.. 1981. A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain. A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain. 1. Unknown. 127-8.
SDV240774Monograph: Booker, F.. 1967. Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley. Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley. A5 Hardback. 103, 114-5.
SDV319814Report - non-specific: Dyer, M. J. + Manning, P. T.. 1998. Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal. Exeter Archaeology Report. 98.60. A4 Stapled + Digital. 40.
SDV336659Report - Assessment: Buck, C.. 2005. Wheal Russell Mine, Devon: Archaeological Assessment. Cornwall County Council Report. 2006R0004. A4 Stapled + Digital. 49-50.
SDV336711Report - Survey: Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L.. 1992. Canal Cottage, Morwellham. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K401. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3-5, 15-20.
SDV344990Report - non-specific: Waterhouse, R.. 2009. In-situ Archaeological Finds at Morwellham Quay. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2.
SDV351508Article in Serial: Waterhouse, R.. 2012. Tavistock Canal: Surveying a Forgotten Marvel of the Industrial Age. Current Archaeology. 273. Digital. 38-39.
SDV356552Report - non-specific: Greeves, T.. 2003. The Tavistock Canal: A Review. Digital. 4, 14.
SDV358896Illustration: Morwellham Display Boards. A4 Unbound + Digital.
SDV361772Monograph: Hedges, C.. 1975. The Tavistock Canal. A Short History. The Tavistock Canal. A5 Paperback. 11-12.
SDV361789Monograph: Waterhouse, R.. 2017. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. Paperback Volume. 95-101, 330-1, 438-493, Figs 4.20-26, 12.2-12.6, 12.8, 12.11, 12.15, 12.18-12.82.
SDV58Monograph: Hadfield, C.. 1967. Canals of South West England. Canals of South West England. A5 Hardback. 127, 129.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1973. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 30.

Associated Monuments

MDV37331Related to: Canal Incline Cottage, Gulworthy (Building)
MDV124526Related to: Morwellham Pump House (Building)
MDV124814Related to: Morwellham Terminus Wharf (Monument)
MDV78260Related to: Plate Railway at Old Dock, Morwellham (Monument)
MDV78253Related to: Plate Railway Lines at Lime Kiln Quay (Monument)
MDV3879Related to: Tavistock Canal, Western Section (Monument)
MDV124815Related to: The Copper Ore Road, Morwellham (Monument)
MDV72860Related to: Wheelpit at Tavistock Canal Incline, Gulworthy (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4040 - Wheal Russell Mine, Devon: Archaeological Assessment
  • EDV4098 - Canal Cottage, Morwellham

Date Last Edited:Jan 24 2019 1:39PM