1827: The sea lock at Turf

By 1800, the woollen cloth export trade had slumped, and ships imported only coal, materials for shipyards in Topsham, stone for limekilns and rags for paper mills.

Despite this, another canal upgrade began. James Green (1781-1849), the Surveyor of Bridges and Buildings for Devon, employed 250 labourers to dig a 2-mile long, 5m deep extension downstream from Topsham to Turf. The river entrance just above Topsham was closed off, and a new lock entrance was built at Turf.

A large canal basin was constructed in Exeter. Towpaths were put in, and horses replaced the men who pulled vessels through the canal.

When work was completed in 1830, 13,000 people watched the first lighters, decked out with flags and flowers, leaving Exeter Quay. A band played and the cathedral bells rang. The Mayor and City Chamber feasted on turtle soup and venison, while the canal workers had bread, cheese and beer.