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Rolle Canal

Largely financed by Lord John Rolle, the canal opened in 1827 to bring limestone for improving Lord Rolle’s farmland which covered much of North Devon.  The canal was closed in 1871.

Facts & Stats


The year the canal was closed.

5 arches

There are five arches in the aqueduct over the River Torridge at Beam

6 miles

The length of the navigation.

Things to do nearby

History, Restoration and Conservation

Rolle Canal (also known as the Torrington Canal), extends from its mouth into the river Torridge at Annery, near Bideford, south to the industrial mills and corn-mills at what is now called Orford Mill, at Rosemoor, near Great Torrington.  It runs from there to Healand Docks and a weir on the Torridge where the ruins of Lord Rolle’s limekilns can be seen today.  These limekilns were designed by James Green, the engineer of both this canal and the Bude Canal and there is similarity in the engineering design with tub boats and inclined planes. The canal includes a sea lock at Annery, a 60-foot inclined plane at Weare Giffard and an aqueduct of five arches over the River Torridge at Beam.

The canal was largely financed by Lord John Rolle; hence it bears his name, although with other shareholders.  It opened in 1827 without parliamentary permission, and only gained its act of parliament in 1835.  The main purpose of the canal was to bring limestone for improving farmland; Lord Rolle was the major landowner of North Devon.  In 1871, the Canal was closed and sold to the London and South Western Railway, with most of it to form the trackway of the proposed new railway from Bideford to Torrington – this railway has now closed and forms part of the Tarka Trail cycleway and long distance footpath.

Much restoration work has taken place at the Sea Lock involving removing invasive vegetation, replacing masonry and re-pointing stonework. More recent works have extended repairs to the harbour walls along the Torridge, and work has started around the limekilns at Rosemoor.  There are plans to clear vegetation, dredge and to reline this short part of the canal.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.

New waterways add value

The advantages of the proposed waterways far exceed leisure boating alone. They incorporate a nature reserve, footpaths and cycle ways, the potential to improve flora and fauna and will contribute to the health and wellbeing of locals and visitors.

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.