Originally envisaged as a grand scheme to connect Bristol and Exeter, only the section between Tiverton and Taunton was built - part as a broad canal and partly as tub boat canal. Construction work began in 1810 and was completed in 1814.
The original planned connection between Bridgwater and Topsham was never realised. The Devon summit section was completed in 1814 and recently celebrated its bicentenary. It was a further 20 years before the isolated water way was finally linked with Taunton with a smaller tub-boat canal using a series of innovative vertical lifts plus an inclined plane to conserve water. However, traffic was insufficient to maintain the lifts and the Somerset length closed in 1868. The best-preserved remains of what are thought to be the first commercial boat lifts in the world can be seen from a public footpath at Nynehead, near Wellington.
On 21st November 2012, The Grand Western Canal suffered a serious breach at the Swing embankment which rises nearly 60 feet from surrounding fields at Halberton. Following the breach, Devon County Council pledged £3million to repair, restore and modernise this part of the Grand Western Canal. The section of canal was repaired and reopened in March 2014.
The 2014 IWA National Trailboat Festival event formed the main celebration of the Grand Western Canal’s bicentenary year.
Find out more about the restoration of the Grand Western Canal.