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Thames Conservancy


Records of the Thames Conservancy: notice 1901,table of tolls 1907, Acts and byelaws 1926-1961, launch digest 1974.



Reference code


Access Status

These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Thames Conservancy took control of the River Thames up to Staines in 1857. In 1866 an Act was passed which authorised them to manage the rest of the River up to Cricklade. The Conservancy had far-reaching powers and responsibilities, including dredging, maintenance, water supplies taken from the river and licensing various activities on the river. Several of the locks and weirs were privately owned and maintained. The Conservancy relieved the owners of their responsibilities, and of any claim over the tolls. In 1884 the Conservancy angered the Oxford Canal company by expressing their intention to close the river for two months to carry out maintenance and build a lock at Osney. An agreement was reached, a costly one for the Conservancy, whereby they provided alternative means to transport the cargo and gave toll rebates. Further negotiations were carried out in 1886 with various companies to encourage Midlands trade to go to London via the Oxford Canal and the River Thames, rather than the Grand Junction Canal. In 1888 there were 38 locks. Between 1892 and 1898 four more locks were constructed on the upper river. The Richmond half-tide lock opened in 1894. By 1954 there were 43 locks. Most of the weirs and flash locks had been removed by the 1880s but the last was not taken down until 1937. These works were undertaken in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to revive the Thames & Severn Canal trade. In 1908 the River Thames below Teddington was handed over to the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority. Most of the revenue generated came from selling water to London water companies and from the increase in pleasure cruising. Below Staines, the commercial traffic was infrequent. There was more commercial traffic above Staines, but the revenue from this was eclipsed by that of pleasure cruising. In April 1974 the Thames Conservancy was abolished and responsibility for the river passed to the newly-created Thames Water Authority. For further information on the River Thames see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and Charles Hadfield's 'The Canals of South & South East 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 BW43 and BW45 for records of the River Thames during other periods of ownership]