MSO6847 - Pinkery Canal (formerly Pinkworthy) (Monument)
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Type and Period (3)
A waterway which has come to be known as the Pinkery Canal leading eastwards and contouring the southern slopes of The Chains, from Pinkworthy Pond, SS 724 423, to Exe Head, SS 752 413, was constructed for John Knight in 1833. The purpose of the feature is still not clear, but documents note the construction of a 'water carriageway' in 1833 on Goat Hill. Orwin says it was never actually connected to the pond, although clearly intended to be, and he thought its purpose may have been for irrigation of the land between Pinkery Farm and Honeymead. Madge  considers the possibility that the pond and canal may have been to provide water power to work an incline near Simonsbath on Knight's proposed Exmoor and Porlock Railway (MSO7906). [1-3] SS7219 4188 eastwards to SS 7500 4109. A now dry leat, or series of leats, which is known as the Pinkery Canal. (it was not a canal in the true sense but will be referred to as such throughout this report for clarity.) According to Orwin  the 'canal', and the associated Pinkworthy Pond (MSO7119), were constructed by John Knight in 1833  employing some two hundred Irish labourers. Following approximately the 435m contour the 'canal' traverses the southern slopes of the ridges of the Chains, Dure Down, Great Ashcombe and Little Ashcombe from SS72194188 in the west to the southeast summit of Three Combe Hill (SS7934 4020)  in the east. It predates the surrounding enclosure banks and walls by at least 15 years , and is now in varying states of preservation. At one of the better sections (near SS 7390 4093) it is a well-defined, flat-bottomed ditch, 1.4 metres to 2.4 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep. It has a large uphill bank, 2.8 metres wide across its base, which stands some 1.7 metres high above the 'canal' bottom. This bank has a drainage ditch, 0.9 metres wide and 0.5 metres deep on its uphill side. This feature is probably not contemporary with the 'canal' but is a later enclosure bank and ditch built on its upper lip. On the south side there is also a broad bank, 6.8 metres wide and 1 metre high above the bottom. This bank may have been spread by ploughing. Elsewhere, at SS 7228 4175 the line is almost obliterated, silted by a marsh. At SS 7350 4110 its course has been ploughed through and is only visible as a broad rise across a pasture field. From SS 7437 4092 eastwards it is much silted, by the enclosure bank built on its northern side. It is generally well preserved and there is no evidence that it was revetted by stone work. Running down the east side of Pinkworthy Pond is an embanked ditch and, from just southeast of the dam, a similar bank runs downhill towards the end of the 'canal'. Although these features are similar in construction to the 'canal' and may well be contemporary with it they do not connect up. The 'canal' does not appear to have been connected to either Pinkworthy Pond or the River Barle, unless there was a launder which has since been removed leaving no trace; this seems very doubtful however. The course of the 'canal' is cut by three unnamed streams which drain The Chains and these have washed it away at SS 7274 4153, SS 7343 4122 and SS 7403 4099. At SS 7440 4093 it is silted up by the gathering headwaters of the Bale Water. There is no trace of any features, ie, launders or embankments, which might have carried the 'canal' across these streams. There are no obvious original bridges, or breaks for crossing the 'canal' or evidence of sluices for taking water from it. Orwin  says it was obvious that the 'canal' was intended for the conveyance of water from Pinkworthy Pond (MSO7119) but the use to which the water was to be put remains uncertain. He states that it did not seem probable that it was for a source of water power and suggests it was more likely the pond and 'canal' were constructed to provide irrigation water for the stretch of land from Pinkery Farm to Honeymead. Orwin also states that the story handed down in the (Knight) family was that the 'canal', or drain, was never connected to the pond because they worked to the wrong levels, and if completed, it would have tapped the pond too high (sic). This is not supported by field evidence which clearly shows the end of the 'canal' is below the pond and could have easily been connected to it or the Barle. It is not clear why the pond was constructed. It does not appear to have been for irrigation purposes in association with the 'canal' or for water power to work an incline on a proposed railway from Porlock Weir to Simonsbath as suggested by Youell . Although the course of the 'canal' appears to keep within the 430 metres and 440 metres contours it is difficult to confirm whether it was intended to convey water directly from the west to the east end, a distance of nearly 8 kilometres. North of Pinkery Farm at SS7274 4153 the 'canal' appears to be running downhill on both sides of the gulley into the stream. It may be that the 'canal' (at least through this plan) was no more than a combined series of well engineered individual leats built to catch water coming off The Chains to the north and channel it into the streams to keep it from inundating the ground to the south which John Knight eventually enclosed and cultivated. [1,2,4,5] The line of Pinkery Canal is clearly visible on aerial photographs; however, it appears to extend further than noted by previous authorities. The leat continues as far as Prayway Head (SS 7693 4080), where it fades, and resumes again at Great Ashcombe, SS 7765 4064. It continues east as far as Three Combe Hill, south of Warren Farm (SS 7942 4024). In several areas various post-medieval drains are visible which appear to connect with the canal, suggesting that it may have been part of the elaborate drainage system visible in this area. The best preserved sections of the canal appear to be at SS 7230 4170 to SS 7272 4156, and SS 7289 4116 to SS 7361 4100 where both bank and ditch survive in an appparently good state of repair. The canal is also clearly depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map. [6-11] Contour canal intended to carry water from Pinkworthy pond (MSO7119) although exact purpose is not clear. Possibly to carry irrigation water for the land from Pinkery Farm to Honeymead. Constructed c1830 by John Knight but never completed. Never connected to pond as it was at the wrong level and would have tapped the water too high. Possible that the dam was not strong enough to hold the intended amount of water.  Stone wall marks the line of the canal and is marked 'part of canal probably intended to carry irrigation water ….' on Ordnance Survey 6 inch map.  Bank of canal sectioned to investigate rate of peat accumulation.  Route traced to south of Warren Farm.  A full survey was undertaken by English Heritage during March and April 2003. Levels were taken at approximately 30 metre intervals all along the course. It was concluded that the canal was intended to be a continous feature, connected to Pinkworthy Pond. It was not designed for drainage or irrigation and has the appearance of a large contour leat. The purpose of which may have been power, transport or a combination of the two.  Canal is a deep channel with gaps at stream heads although it is carried over a stream at Tangs Bottom (SS 7510 4117).  The canal is in varying states of preservation. One of the better sections at SS 7390 4093 it is a well-defined, flat-bottomed ditch 1.4 metres to 2.4 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep. It has a large uphill bank, 2.8 metres wide across its base, which stands some 1.7 metres high above the canal bottom. The bank has a drainage ditch 0.9 metres wide and 0.5 metres deep on its uphill side. This feature is probably not contemporary with the canal but a later enclosure bank and ditch. On the South side there is also a broad bank 6.8 metres wide and 1 metre high above the canal bottom. This bank may have been spread by ploughing. Elsewhere, at SS 7228 4175 it is obscured by a marsh, at SS 7350 4110 it has been ploughed and is only visble as a broad rise across the field. From SS74374092 it is much silted from the enclosure bank on the north. There is no evidence of an features which might have carried the canal over streams or of any original bridges, crossings or sluices. The relationship with Pinkworthy Pond (MSO7119) is obscure as the canal does not connect to it and is below the level (contra above). It is not possible to say whether it was intended to carry water from west to east over its 8 kilometres length but to the north of Pinkworthy Farm at (SS 7274 4153) the canal appears to run downhill on both sides of the gully into the stream. It may be that the canal was a series of individual leats designed to trap water coming off The Chains and channel it into the streams to prevent inundation of the recalimed land to the south.  Roger Burton refers to Youell's report  and suggests that the canal was intended to join to John Knight's railway at a station just to the east of the head of Limecombe on Duredown, in order to power an incline down to Simonsbath. The railway was then intended to import lime on to his land as well as export mineral ore. The requirement for water would have become redundant when Frederick Knight revived the scheme as he intended to bring the railway down in a series of curves, which did not require an incline.  Sections of the route of the canal are visible on 2018 MasterMap data.  This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. 
- <1> SSO890 Article in serial: Crabtree, K and Malby, E. 1975. ...land use change on Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 119. P. 38.
- <2> SEM7231 Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. P. 31-2, 54-5.
- <3> SSO1306 Monograph: Madge, M. 1975. Railways around Exmoor. P.76-77 sketch map.
- <4> SEM7230 Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. P.64.
- <5> SSO2122 Article in serial: Youell, R.F.. 1974. New evidence to explain the mystery of Pinkworthy Pond. Exmoor Review. 15. 102-103. P. 102-03.
- <6> SEM6707 Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. 106G/UK/1501 3080-83 (13 May 1946).
- <7> SDE60980 Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK 1980. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. 3086. 4153-57 (11 April 1947).
- <8> SMO4068 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 924-27 (29 April 1973).
- <9> SEM6703 Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890.
- <10> SMO7566 Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 SE. MD002183.
- <11>XY SMO7565 Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 SW. MD002182. [Mapped feature: #46357 Route of canal, ]
- <12> SMO7518 Archive: Pinkery Canal, Exmoor, Somerset. AF00135.
- <14> SSO1609 Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1962. 6" SS74SW and SS74SE.
- <15> SSO1307 Article in serial: Maltby, E and Crabtree, K. 1976. Soil organic matter…. IBG ns1. 3. P. 259-78.
- <16> SSO416 Photograph: February 198. Slide (SCC Planning Department). 3.014.0091.
- <17> SMO5308 Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. A Settrington, 2 May 1995.
- <18> SEM7216 Report: Barrett, N.. 2004. The Pinkery Canal, Exmoor, Somerset. Historic England.
- <19> SSO1790 Article in serial: Pickering, P. April 2005. Pinkery Pond and Canal. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society Bulletin. No 98.
- <20> SSO1 Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. PRN 33026.
- <21> SSO1864 Survey: RCHME. Exmoor Survey. 1996.
- <22> SEM7985 Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 26 (1985), "Pinkworthy pond and leat - a closer look", p71-72 (RA Burton).
- <23> SEM8545 Map: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap.
- <24> SEM7987 Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35502, Extant 1 June 2021.
|Grid reference||Centred SS 757 410 (7190m by 1822m) Also SMO7566, SEM8545|
|Civil Parish||EXMOOR, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET|
Related Monuments/Buildings (9)
- Parent of: Mound, N by E of Pinkworthy Farm, Exmoor (Monument) (MSO10460)
- Related to: 19th Century contour leat west and south of Duredown Farm (Monument) (MSO11799)
- Related to: A large pond is visible on aerial photographs as a... (Monument) (MMO2333)
- Related to: A post medieval quarry is visible on aerial photog... (Monument) (MMO2370)
- Related to: An area of post medieval, probably 19th or even 20... (Monument) (MMO2352)
- Related to: Pinkworthy (or Pinkery) Pond (Monument) (MSO7119)
- Related to: Post-medieval contour leats on Dure Down (Monument) (MMO2347)
- Related to: Post-medieval drainage ditches northeast of Pinkery Farm (Monument) (MMO2152)
- Related to: Post-medieval drainage ditches northeast of Pinkery Farm (Monument) (MMO2153)
Related Events/Activities (2)
Related Articles (1)
External Links (1)
- http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=35502 (Original Monarch entry: 35502)
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO116
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10887
- National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SW64
- National Park: Exmoor National Park
- NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35502
- Somerset SMR PRN: 33025
- Somerset SMR PRN: 33026
- Somerset SMR PRN: 33028
Record last edited
Jun 1 2021 2:12PM
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