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Historic England Research Records

Pinkery Canal

Hob Uid: 35502
Location :
Somerset
Somerset West and Taunton
Exmoor
Grid Ref : SS7240042300
Summary : Pinkery Canal, previously known as Pinkworthy, was constructed in 1833 for John Knight. The canal stretches from SS 724 423 at Pinkworthy Pond to Prayway Head at SS 7693 4080, approximately following the line of the 435m contour. It resumes at Great Ashcombe, SS 7765 4064 and continues east as far as Three Combe Hill. Its purpose is not clear but is thought to have been constructed either for irrigation purposes or to provide water power or simply a series of leats to catch water from "The Chains" to direct away from areas marked for future cultivation. It is generally well preserved - at SS 73904093 it survives as a well-defined, flat-bottomed ditch, 1.4 - 2.4m wide, at SS 72284175 the line is almost obliterated being silted by a marsh. In several areas the ditch appears to have been surrounded by a bank, which is also well-preserved, while in other areas the course is cut by three un-named streams which have washed parts away.
More information : A waterway which has come to be known as the Pinkery Canal leading eastwards and contouring the southern slopes of The Chains, from Pinkworthy Pond, SS 724423, to Exe Head, SS 752413, was constructed for John Knight in 1833. The purpose of the feature is still not clear, but documents note the construction of a 'water carriageway' in1833 on Goat Hill. Orwin says it was never actually connected to the pond, although clearly intended to be, and he thought its purpose may have been for irrigation of the land between Pinkery Farm and Honeymead. Madge considers the possibility that the pond and canal may have been to provide water power to work an incline near Simonsbath on Knight's proposed Exmoor and Porlock Railway (SS 84 SW 44). (1-3).

SS7219 4188 eastwards to SS 7500 4109 A now dry leat, or series of leats, which is known as the Pinkery Canal. (it was not a canal in the true sense but will be referred to as such throughout this report for clarity.)
According to Orwin (4) the 'canal', and the associated Pinkworthy Pond (see SS 74 SW 104), were constructed by John Knight in 1833 (5) employing some two hundred Irish labourers.
Following approximately the 435m contour the 'canal' traverses the southern slopes of the ridges of the Chains, Dure Down, Great Ashcombe and Little Ashcombe from SS72194188 in the west to the south-east summit of Three Combe Hill (SS7934 4020) (6) in the east.
It predates the surrounding enclosure banks and walls by at least 15 years (5), and is now in varying states of preservation. At one of the better sections (near SS 7390 4093) it is a well-defined, flat-bottomed ditch, 1.4m to 2.4m wide and 0.6m deep. It has a large uphill bank, 2.8m wide across its base, which stands some 1.7m high above the 'canal' bottom. This bank has a drainage ditch, 0.9m wide and 0.5m deep on its uphill side. This feature is probably not contemporary with the 'canal' but is a later enclosure bank and ditch built on its upper lip. On the south side there is also a broad bank, 6.8m wide and 1m high above the bottom. This bank may have been spread by ploughing. Elsewhere, at SS72284175 the line is almost obliterated silted by a marsh. At SS73504110 its course has been ploughed through and is only visible as a broad rise across a pasture field. From SS74374092 eastwards it is much silted, by the enclosure bank built on its northern side. It is generally well preserved and there is no evidence that it was revetted by stone work.
Running down the east side of Pinkworthy Pond is an embanked ditch and, from just south-east of the dam, a similar bank runs downhill towards the end of the 'canal'. Although these features are similar in construction to the 'canal' and may well be contemporary with it they do not connect up. The 'canal' does not appear to have been connected to either Pinkworthy Pond or the River Barle, unless there was a launder which has since been removed leaving no trace; this seems very doubtful however.
The course of the 'canal' is cut by three unnamed streams which drain The Chains and these have washed it away at SS7274 4153, SS7343 4122 and SS 7403 4099. At SS7440 4093 it is silted up by the gathering headwaters of the Bale Water. There is no trace of any features, ie, launders or embankments, which might have carried the 'canal' across these streams. There are no obvious original bridges, or breaks for crossing the 'canal' or evidence of sluices for taking water from it.
Orwin (4) says it was obvious that the 'canal' was intended for the conveyance of water from Pinkworthy Pond but the use to which the water was to be put remains uncertain. He states that it did not seem probable that it was for a source of water power and suggests it was more likely the pond and 'canal' were constructed to provide irrigation water for the stretch of land from Pinkery Farm to Honeymead. Orwin also states that the story handed down in the (Knight) family was that the 'canal', or drain, was never connected to the pond because they worked to the wrong levels, and if completed, it would have tapped the pond too high (sic). This is not supported by field evidence which clearly shows the end of the 'canal' is below the pond and could have easily been connected to it or the Barle.
It is not clear why the pond was constructed. It does not appear to have been for irrigation purposes in association with the 'canal' or for water power to work an incline on a proposed railway from Porlock Weir to Simonsbath as suggested by Youell (7). Although the course of the 'canal' appears to keep within the 430m and 440m contours it is difficult to confirm whether it was intended to convey water directly from the west to the east end, a distance of nearly 8kms. North of Pinkery Farm at SS7274 4153 the 'canal' appears to be running downhill on both sides of the gulley into the stream. It may be that the 'canal' (at least through this plan) was no more than a combined series of well engineered individual leats built to catch water coming off The Chains to the north and channel it into the streams to keep it from inundating the ground to the south which John Knight eventually enclosed and cultivated.(4-7)

The line of Pinkery Canal is clearly visible on aerial photographs; however, it appears to extend further than noted by previous authorities. The leat continues as far as Prayway Head (SS 7693 4080), where it fades, and resumes again at Great Ashcombe, SS 7765 4064. It continues east as far as Three Combe Hill, south of Warren Farm (SS 7942 4024). In several areas various post-medieval drains are visible which appear to connect with the canal, suggesting that it may have been part of the elaborate drainage system visible in this area. The best preserved sections of the canal appear to be at SS 7230 4170 to SS 7272 4156, and SS 7289 4116 to SS 7361 4100 where both bank and ditch survive in an appparently good state of repair. The canal is also clearly depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (8-11).

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : K Crabtree & E Maltby 1975
Page(s) : 38
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 119
Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Reclamation of Exmoor Forest 1929 31-2 (C S Orwin)
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Source Number : 11
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF CPE/UK/1980 4153-57 11-APR-1947
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Railways Round Exmoor 1975 76-7 sketch map (R Madge)
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Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Orwin C S 1929 'The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest' 31-2 112
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Source Number : 5
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : Crabtree K and Maltby E 1975 'Soil and Land Use Change on Exmoor, Significance of a Buried Profile on Exmoor'
Page(s) : 38
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 119
Source Number : 6
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Burton R 1989 The Heritage of Exmoor 64
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Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Youell R F 1974 'New Evidence to Explain the Mystery of Pinkworthy Pond' Exmoor Review 102
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Source Number : 8
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF 106G/UK/1501 3080-83 13-MAY-1946
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Source Number : 9
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/73109 924-27 29-APR-1973
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Source Number : 10
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:2500 1890
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Built 1833
Monument End Date : 1833
Monument Start Date : 1833
Monument Type : Canal, Leat, Water Channel
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 33025
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 33028
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 33026
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : HER Number (Exmoor National Park)
External Cross Reference Number : MSO6847
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 74 SW 64
External Cross Reference Notes :

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Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-04-01
End Date : 2009-07-01