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Horncastle Navigation Company


Records of the Horncastle Navigation Company: toll tickets 1857.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Bain is a tributary of the River Witham that joins with the River Waring at Horncastle. In June 1792 an Act was passed to canalise the Bain below the junction to join the Witham, utilizing the already-built Tattershall (or Gibson's) Canal. A Mr Bullivant and William Jessop, acting independently of each other, had produced plans of potential routes in 1791. An extremely similar one was drawn up by surveyors Robert Stickney and Samuel Dickinson the year after. The committee's second choice William Cawley was initially appointed joint engineer for the Horncastle and Sleaford navigations, although he left in 1793. One of the men responsible for the Tattershall Canal, John Dyson, replaced William Cawley in February 1794. All the bricks used, the committee had decided, were to be made locally and the brickmakers were answerable to the committee directly. Unfortunately, none of the committee understood brickmaking and the size they specified were so large that the techniques that existed had to be modified. By 1797 the canal was two miles short of its destination, Horncastle. Lack of funds forced work to stop despite the fact that since before 1795, the completed sections had been generating income from tolls. John Rennie reported on the canal in 1799 and recommended its completion. Another Act was granted in July 1800 that provided enough money to repair damage done to the completed section as a result of floods in the winter of 1799-1800, and to finish the canal to Horncastle. A shareholder named W Walker took control of the works. Or, rather, he was given control, as he was absent from the meeting when the decision was taken. Willing or not, work proceeded steadily and in September 1802, the 11-mile long canal was officially opened. There were 11 locks for vessels 54 feet by 14 feet 4 inches. Horncastle had two basins; a smaller one at Tumby was extended much later. Apart from some minor staffing problems - two Tattershall lock-keepers were sacked in as many years in the 1820s, one dismissed for defrauding the company and the other for drunkenness - the first 40 years were good. The tonnage carried was reasonable and increased year-on-year. Once railways started to be built in the vicinity and construction materials were transported on the canal, tonnage was very good but the canal company appreciated the threat posed. The company opposed all railways but they were mostly unsuccessful. The Boston to Lincoln railway opened in 1848. It ran alongside the River Witham, resulting in the transhipment of some goods. In 1855 the completion of the railway between Horncastle and Woodhall Junction resulted in an immediate drop in Horncastle Navigation's trade. Cutting tolls did little to tempt back traffic that declined steadily through the 1860s until it was described as 'trifling' in 1874. From May 1878 there was no traffic on thenavigation. Discussions were held in 1880 regarding a proposal to close the navigation but nothing appears to have happened. The company continued to hold annual general meetings until 1884 and never officially closed the navigation. It was declared defunct in 1889. For further information on the Horncastle 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.