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Company of Proprietors of the Witham Navigation


Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Witham Navigation: share certificate 1813, abstract of clauses from an Act and byelaws 1844.



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Company of Proprietors of the Witham Navigation was formed after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1808 permitting the demolition of Kirkstead and Barlings lock, the building of a new lock at Washingborough church and the raising of funds for the works. John Rennie had surveyed for the works, but he had died before they were begun and his son, also John, oversaw them. Other improvements were made, such as the construction of new locks at Stamp End and Bardney, and a new cut made near Fiskerton that eliminated the need for one near Washingborough church. The whole 36-mile length would be 6 feet deep in the 1820s. In 1812, 1826 and 1829 the proprietors successfully appealed to Parliament to allow them to raise more capital to complete the improvements. The proprietors had inherited many of the problems of the commissioners who had preceeded them. There was never enough money, and there were allegations that the little there was was squandered. From 1816, steam packets were introduced onto the river in competition with sailing vessels or those relying on horsepower. Horse-drawn passenger services had first appeared on the Witham in 1809. Steam packets were evidently the most efficient and regular Lincoln-Boston services were run. In 1836 new iron steam packets appeared on the river. Speed limits of between 4 1/2 and 6 miles per hour were in force. Various railway companies that were interested in Lincoln were aware that the Witham, Fossdyke and other waterways were likely to object. The Great Northern Railway, incorporated by an Act in 1846, reached an agreement to take over the Witham and Fossdyke navigations, paying the proprietors an annual income. The Witham would be leased for 999 years and the Great Northern Railway would also have to pay the interest on the Witham Navigation's mortgages. The Lincoln to Boston Railway ran parallel to the navigation virtually for its entire length and opened in October 1848. The steam packets carried on until 1863. Two years later the railway company also built a new lock and cut at Bardney. Traffic on the canal declined, but regular traffic only ended in 1952. For the next decade there was sporadic commercial traffic, but the Witham Navigation was increasingly used by pleasure craft and remained open. For further information on teh Witham Navigation see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and John Boyes and Ronald Russell's 'The Canals of Eastern England'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.

Associated material

[See also: BW93 for records of the Witham Navigation during other periods of ownership]