Report - - Lillesdon Canal Tunnel, near Taunton, Somerset - May 2017 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Lillesdon Canal Tunnel, near Taunton, Somerset - May 2017

Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
A new summer season and time me thinks to get into the water and repeat the foolish stunts of previous years. So here's another old canal tunnel from me - the 500 yard Lillesdon tunnel in Somerset. Unfortunately it had to be done as a deep wade as the entrance was too small to get my boat into.

Last reported by Styru in 2012.


Lillesdon Canal Tunnel lies on the Chard canal which was one of last main line canals to be constructed. A 13.5-mile tub-boat (rectangular craft designed to carry cargo as part of a train of similar vessels) canal with inclined planes and 3 tunnels.

Authorised by an Act of 1834, open to Ilminster in 1841 and to Chard in 1842. It carried traffic until 1867 when it was bought by the Bristol and Exeter Railway and closed.

The Chard Canal was the last of the main English canals and technically one of the most advanced, yet it never paid its way and was closed within 25 years of its opening. There were tunnels at Ilminster, at Curry Mallet through Crimson Hill and at Lillesdon and the four inclines were at Ilminster, Wrantage, Thornfalcon and Chard. The incline at Chard was a single track incline, the only one in Britain. A tub-boat was fastened onto a strong carriage mounted on two pairs of wheels, one pair smaller than the other, to keep it level. This was pulled up the incline, on rails, by a rope, which broke so frequently it was soon replaced by a wire cable, powered by a water turbine. At the apex of the incline the carriage ran down a short reverse slope, using a different pair of wheels, on the same axle as the smaller pair, on a special set of rails, to keep the boat reasonably level. The only lock was near to Bere Mills Covert and there were aqueducts at Wrantage, Ruishton and Creech St Michael. There were also two wharfs serving Ilminster.

The estimated cost in 1834 was £57,000 . The terminus of the canal at Chard was on the site of the present flour mill occupied by B.G Wyatt Ltd.

During the Second World War, the line of the Chard Canal, together with the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and the River Axe, became a major defence line in the South West of the county to restrict Hitler’s movement should he invade. All the iron bridges, which were melted down for the war effort, were removed and replaced with wooden structures that could be destroyed quickly. Pill boxes and tank traps, which can still be seen in places on the canal, were built along the whole length of the defence line.


The canal is very overgrown

And the entrance to the tunnel tiny

Initially a belly crawl...

...becoming a stoop...


...and after about a 100 yards a beach with just enough space to stand

Had to enter the water from here



Reaching the far end, the farmer had installed a pump and yes I was annoyed at this stage as for the first time I realised that it would had been far easier to enter the tunnel here.

I had to turn around and go back - the car keys and dry clothes were kept at the other end you see.

The bend in the tunnel clearly seen here

Back to that beach

Finally just the muddy crawl out


I had a wander around the area. The much longer Crimson Hill Tunnel has been recently gated and padlocked

Evidence of the World War Two Taunton Stop Line was all around. Dr. Google tells me that by early 1942 the line was defended by 309 light machine gun pillboxes, (typically for the Bren gun), 61 medium machine gun emplacements (typically for the Vickers machine gun), 21 static anti-tank gun emplacements (equipped with ex-World War I naval six-pound guns), along with numerous anti-tank obstacles in the form of concrete posts, cubes and pyramids, while charge chambers were cut into bridges ready for demolition.

Here we see Dragon Teeth anti-tank obstacles

And a Vickers machine gun emplacement in excellent condition. Note the blast wall across the entrance, the stepped embrasure (a window in plain English) and the gun table.



That's all from me


Fear is the little death
Regular User
Nice one Bertie, least it wasn't as bad as that one which was a belly crawl the entire length.

The Wombat

Mr Wombat
28DL Full Member
This is an excellent report :thumb
Well done for persevering with this