Despite the change of terminus, the Chippenham Arm (‘Ippy Cut’) was
navigable from 1800 and carrying goods to and from the town. Goods such as
corn, potatoes, stone, timber and even occasionally, cheese, are recorded as
being transported by the Wilts & Berks; however, coal was by far the most
Excellent quality Somerset coal from Radstock and Paulton, was carried along
the Somerset Coal Canal, joined the Kennet & Avon Canal at Dundas, and
finally exited onto the Wilts & Berks Canal at Semington. Demand for coal
grew steadily, and in 1854, nine and a half thousand tons were delivered to
Chippenham and Stanley Wharves.
were charged according to the tonnage carried, and general prices from
Chippenham to London were advertised at £1, 13s, 6p per ton.
However, the canal was never a great commercial success. Built as a narrow
canal to reduce costs, not being a direct route between major cities, and
serving mainly rural communities, it suffered competition initially from the
wider, more efficient Kennet & Avon Canal, and later, from the Great Western
Ironically, the building of the GWR saw one of the Wilts & Berks most
profitable phases, as it was used to transport stone and other materials for
the construction of its own demise. In fact, the canal continued to be
profitable after the opening of Chippenham Station in 1841, but it was the
completion of the Somerset and Weymouth Company branch line between Frome
and Radstock in 1854 which created a distinct decline. This branch completed
a rail link from the Somerset coalfields through Frome, Westbury,
Trowbridge, Melksham and Chippenham, and by 1878, the tonnage of coal
transported to Chippenham was less than 20% of the total in 1854.