Sapperton Tunnel - 1
Sapperton Tunnel in the middle of the Thames & Severn Canal,
was first used over 200 years ago on the 20th April 1789. At the time it
was the state of the art in canal technology, being then at 3,817yds
(2·17 miles or 3·49 km) the longest tunnel ever
dug in England.
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
fatalaties, though it does not appear to be recorded as to exactly
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.
As well as the tunnel itself, there are many other interesting canal
one of the five T&S round-houses,
the Skew Bridge
where the railway is taken over the canal which is lined with some
very impressive brickwork, and there is
the King's Reach
to the portal, named after a visit by King George III.
Portal itself, rebuilt in 1976/7, is also worthy of a close look,
as is the newly refurbished
, 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.
are definitely needed for any nearby walking, including the slope
down to the boat, but please remove them before entering the
Tunnel House Inn, which does a nice selection of food & drinks.
Sapperton Tunnel Picture Gallery
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Page last updated 10th May 2011.