The Story of the Exeter Ship Canal

Until around 1250, the River Exe was tidal as far as Exeter, eight miles from the sea. Boats could go up and down the estuary with the tide and pull up at the city walls to load or unload their cargoes. A tidal river was convenient to the people of Exeter, but it did not suit the Courtenay family who owned the manor of Topsham, halfway between Exeter and the sea. If boats unloaded there rather than in Exeter, the family could charge port tolls, warehousing fees and onward transport costs.

The story of the struggle between competing commercial interests is the setting for the story of the Exeter Canal.

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