Home  / BW49


Commissioners of the Louth Navigation


Records of the Commissioners of the Louth Navigation: notices issued by the Commissioners 1878-1895.



Reference code


Access Status

These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

Engineer John Grundy completed the preliminary survey for the Louth Navigation scheme in 1756, proposing a line to the Humber below Grimsby at Tetney Haven that involved straightening the River Lud by cuts. His plan received approval from John Smeaton when the latter was called in to do a professional survey in 1760. Three years later the Act was passed, with no opposition, but it took a further two years before the necessary funds had been obtained. This was due to the restrictions placed on raising money in the Act. All money had to be borrowed on the credit of the tolls specified. The first 5 miles of the canal opened in 1767. It was completed in 1770. It was just over 11 miles long with 8 locks. The locks were of different sizes but the minimum size was 85 feet 11 inches by 15 feet 3 inches. From the time the canal opened, one of its commissioner's Charles Chaplin seemed to be the only person with any real interest in running it. He took all tolls and responsibility for maintenance, initially for a period of seven years but after this expired in 1777, nobody else expressed an interest. Instead of renewing the lease for another 7 years, he secured a 99-year lease on the canal. All tolls went to him, and in return he would pay salaries, maintenance costs, expenses and continue to give money to subscribers. The Commissioners complained to him in 1782 and in 1788 that the subscribers had not been paid. Charles Chaplin had been rather neglectful when it came to maintaining the canal during his first lease and his commitment did not improve with the second lease. From 1792 traders were highly critical of the state of the canal. The Commissioners had it surveyed and found that vessels could no longer be sailed due to the silting up the waterway and consequently horses had to tow them. Until his death in 1795, Charles Chaplin refused to do anything to improve the canal. Thomas Chaplin, his son, inherited the lease and tried unsuccessfully to give it back to the Commissioners, if they refunded the money his family had already expended on it. When Thomas Chaplin's son George took over the canal in 1811, it had been neglected almost since it was first opened. George Chaplin maintained the canal well and made it profitable. He paid for the waterway to be widened and deepened and made other improvements. By 1828 the canal was making the Chaplin family a reasonable profit for the first time since Charles took it over, or so claimed George. An Act was passed in 1828 that confirmed that the 99-year lease had been valid, thereby silencing those who had muttered doubts for the previous few decades. There was little doubt that the conditions of the lease would be upheld; most of the Commissioners were friends or relatives of the Chaplins. The Act also reduced the tolls that had been set in 1763, much to the satisfaction of traders, in recognition that the traffic had increased considerably in recent years. In 1847, the Chaplins sold their lease to Great Northern Railway. For further information on the Louth Navigation see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and John Boyes & 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.