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Friday, 21 October 2011

Sapperton Tunnel

Beryl & Alan at Coates Portal

While in Gloucester last week we visited both ends of the Sapperton Tunnel. In the middle of the Thames & Severn Canal, the tunnel was first used over 200 years ago (1789).  At the time it was the state of the art in canal technology, being then at 2·17 miles,the longest tunnel ever dug in England.  It has no towpath; narrow boats were propelled through the tunnel by legging.

Coates Portal

It took five years to dig (mostly by hand though gunpowder was also used through the rocky sections) which was only a year longer than originally intended, and was much faster than most contemporary tunnels. It was difficult and dangerous work and there were many fatalities, though it does not appear to be recorded as to exactly how many.

The disused canal by the Coates Portal

The tunnel's completion allowed the passage of boats through to Cirencester laden with cheap coal from the mines of the north and west, which had hitherto been transported expensively by road. By the 18th November 1789, the whole length of the Thames & Severn was open, allowing the relatively quick passage of boats with their varying cargoes between the west of England and London, as well as to the many towns and villages in between. Trade flourished, and despite problems with the construction and water supply, the canal and Sapperton Tunnel remained in use until the early 1900s.

We walked along the towpath to the Daneway Portal 

On top of the Daneway Portal

The Coates Portal itself, rebuilt in 1976/7, is also worthy of a close look, as is the newly refurbished Daneway Portal , two miles away. Also not too far away is the Source of the Thames, where in wet weather, the water almost fountains up out of the ground.

It was a beautiful autumn day and we had a good walk around the area surrounding both portals, taking pictures, and ended up in the Daneway Inn!

Alan lost his Beer!

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