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Trustees of the Severn


Records of the Trustees of the Severn: pamphlet 1788, Act 1811, cargoes and tolls 1818, minutes 1836, plans of the river 1772-1786, plans and sections of Gloucester Lock 1793.



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These records are available immediately for research

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 in 1836. 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: BW149 and BW163 for records of the River Severn during other periods of ownership]