The Somerset Coal Canal (originally known as the Somersetshire Coal Canal) was a narrow canal in England, built around 1800 starting in basins at Paulton and Timsbury to nearby Camerton, over two aqueducts at Dunkerton, through a tunnel at Combe Hay, then via Midford and Monkton Combe to Limpley Stoke where it joined the Kennet and Avon Canal. This link gave the Somerset coalfield, (which at its peak contained 80 collieries), access east toward London. The longest arm was 10.6 miles (17 km) long with 23 locks. From Midford an arm also ran via Writhlington to Radstock, with a tunnel at Wellow.
A feature of the canal was the variety of methods used at Combe Hay to overcome height differences between the upper and lower reaches, initially by the use of caisson locks and when this failed an inclined plane trackway and then finally a flight of 22 conventional locks.
The Radstock arm was never commercially successful and was replaced first with a tramway in 1815 and later incorporated into the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The Paulton route flourished for nearly 100 years and was very profitable, carrying very high tonnages of coal for many decades; this canal helped carry the fuel that powered the nearby city of Bath.
By the 1880s coal production declined as the various pits either ran out of coal or were flooded and subsequently closed. In 1896 the main pump at Dunkerton which maintained the canal water level failed. The resultant lowering in level meant that only small loads could be transported. A factor which reduced revenue from the canal still further. The declining income meant that the canal company could not afford to pay for a replacement pump.
The canal became disused after 1898 and officially closed in 1902, being sold off to the various railway companies who were expanding their networks. The land bordering the canal route was then used for a few years to construct a railway. In October 2006 a grant was obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a technical study on one of the locks and its associated structures at Combe Hay.
In September 2014 restoration work began on the canal section from Paulton to Radford, with the aim of restoring the entire canal to navigation in the near future. The largest canal drydock in England has been revealed at Paulton; culverts and bridges nearby are being reinstated or rebuilt; and about 2/3 mile of canal from Paulton to Radford is likely to be in water by summer 2015.