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Severn Navigation Company


Records of the Severn Navigation Company: share records 1836, notification, reports and minutes of meetings 1836-1838, petitions and records in favour of and objecting to the navigation Bill 1830s-1842, notification of the creation of the Severn Navigation Company 1837, reasons for the Bill 1837-1841, lists of vessels (trows) lost in the river 1800-1841, maps and sections of the river 1836-1837.



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The River Severn is navigable for 92 miles from Stourport, where it joins the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, to Avonmouth, where it joins the River Avon and the Severn Estuary. The River Severn has been an active transport route since Roman times. Its first Act was passed in 1503, followed by Acts of 1531, 1532, 1772, 1799, 1803, 1809, 1811 and 1814 in attempts to ease navigation of the longest river in Britain. The 1772 Act passed 'for making and keeping in Repair a Road or Passage for Horses on the Banks of the River Severn, between Bewdley Bridge and a Place called the Meadow Wharf, at Coalbrook Dale, for haling and drawing Vessels along the said River.' A number of persons were appointed Trustees of the River Severn for carrying into effect the provisions of the Act, and were empowered to take tolls. The Act passed in 1799 stated that the Trustees had not complied with the provisions of the 1772 Act with regards to the towpath and nullified it. However, the Act of 1799 also revived the powers contained in the 1772 Act. In 1803 an Act of Parliament was obtained to incorporate the Company of Proprietors of the River Severn Horse Towing Path Extension, which was entitled 'An Act for extending and making the Horse Towing Path or Road, on the Banks of the River Severn, from Bewdley Bridge, in the county of Worcester, to the Deep Water at Diglis, below the city of Worcester.' The Act enabled the company to raise amongst themselves the finances necessary for the undertaking and to charge tolls. Another Act of parliament, entitled 'An Act for making and keeping in Repair a Road or Passage for Horses on the Banks of the River Severn, between a certain Place at Coalbrook Dale, to and above the Welsh Bridge in the town of Shrewsbury, county of Salop, for haling and drawing Vessels along the said River' was passed in 1809. This Act appointed Lord Ossuiston, Lord Barnard, Sir John Hill and others as trustees for executing the purposes of the Act, and authorized them to take tolls. By an Act of 1811, the Earl of Coventry, the Earl of Essex, Lord Sydney, Lord Somers, Lord Beauchamp, the Bishop of Worcester and the Bishop of Gloucester, and others, were incorporated into the Company of Proprietors of the Gloucester and Worcester Horse Towing Path, which had the power to raise larger finances. Demands for the improvement of the River Severn intensified during the 1830s, to the point at which a Severn Navigation Company was formed, with Thomas Rhodes as engineer, although its Bill was defeated in 1837. In the same year the Worcester and Birmingham Canal company promoted its own Severn Improvement Company, which came to an agreement with the Severn Navigation Company in 1838 and together formed the Severn Navigation Improvement Company. The new company introduced a new Bill but was defeated by the opposition of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal company. The Improvement Company was wound up in 1840 and a new Severn Navigation Improvement Association formed to press for a Bill to set up a Severn Commission; the Act authorizing this was passed in 1842. The Act authorizing the setting up of the Severn Commission, prepared by the Severn Navigation Improvement Association, was passed in 1842. For more information on the River Severn see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and Joseph Priestly's 'Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain the original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore generally been arranged chronologically while keeping records relating to each other together. This means that some records may fall slightly out of the chronological sequence. Documents are placed first, followed by plans.

Associated material

[See also: BW150 and BW163 for records of the River Severn during other periods of ownership]

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