May 16 – The Somerset Coal Canal

Patrick Moss, the chairman of the Somersetshire Coal Canal Society, gave a most informative talk to an appreciative audience of fifty at the recent meeting of The Friends of the Museum of Somerset. The Somersetshire Coal Canal was built to carry coal from the Paulton and Radstock coal fields to the Kennet and Avon Canal. Although the coal was relatively plentiful and there were markets for it across the South of England, sales had been small and prices high because the roads of the area were exceptionally poor. The Somersetshire Coal Canal was built to connect the mines with the major towns and was a very profitable venture.

The southern branch from Radstock was not successful as a canal, so a horse-drawn tramway was laid along the towpath instead. This was eventually sold to the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway in 1871.

The canal closed shortly after 1900 and most of it was drained for reasons of safety. The Somersetshire Coal Canal Society aims to restore the Coal Canal to navigation as a 10-mile-long amenity corridor.

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