The early recorded history of the River Stort (before it became a Navigation) is found in six documents:
The 1698 Commission of Sewers detailing taxes for lands surrounded by the River Stort in Parndon.
The 1759 Act of Parliament promoted by Thomas Addison, which failed due to lack of finance.
Interestingly and coincidentally, it became an Act on 23rd March 1759 - the same day as the Duke of Bridgewater's Act for the Bridgewater Canal, which is usually taken as the day the Canal Age started in England. If one wants to argue this point then mention of the Sankey Canal will prolong the discussion!
The 1766 Act of Parliament promoted by Charles Dingley, George Jackson and William Masterman, which authorised the creation of the Stort Navigation, gained its Royal Assent on 30th April, 1766.
These three documents are transcribed in full in pages which open in separate windows. They all make interesting reading.
The 1729 Minute Book of His Majesty's Justices and Commissioners of Sewers, records the meetings of two Commissions, those of 1729 - 1737 and 1759 - 1760. They are both hand-written and the minutes of the earlier Commission were probably taken verbatim, written as the meeting progressed. The text has many contractions and abbreviations and in places requires guesswork to work out what has taken place.
I have been helped with some of the transcriptions by Mrs Sue Flood, County Archivist at Hertford Archives and Local Studies and members of her staff. The errors which remain are all mine.
The minutes of the later Commission are better written and provided many clues as to what went on at the earlier meetings.
There is a unique meaning to the word "core", which appears many times in both Commissions but nowhere else. From the context "core" means an "obstruction in the river", but this meaning is not listed in any dictionary.
Both Acts of Parliament are transcribed in full, with footnotes to explain some of the more esoteric words and phrases. Unlike the Commissions which are sometimes brief to the point of incomprehension, the Acts are written on the basis that four words are better than one!
There is an index to the Commissioners listed in the Acts of Parliament, cross-referenced to the 1729 document.
Measurement and particularly money are described in archaic terms. In most cases there are footnotes to explain. Where money is quoted I have given an approximate 2009 value better to understand these old values.
The remaining two documents are reproduced in original form. Both will open in separate windows. The first is a newspaper advertisement placed by Thomas Addison in the London Chronicle in four successive editions in 1758. This copy was taken from the issue of December 7th -9th. It is reproduced by kind permission of the British Library at Colindale.
The second is a map from the Smeaton Papers held by the Royal Society and is reproduced with their kind permission. The map is undated but would appear to be the course of the River Stort prior to its canalisation. Since John Smeaton was engaged at this time almost exclusively on commissions in the north of England, it is probable that this map was drawn during the period he was working on the scheme for the improvement of the Lee Navigation between 1765 and 1770. The work on the Stort commenced on 24th September 1766, so it is likely that this map was surveyed and drawn in 1765 or 1766.
This site was last updated 23/01/14