Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation

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The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is the canalisation of the Rivers Chelmer and Blackwater in Essex, in the east of England. The navigation runs for 13.75 miles (22.13 km) [1] from Springfield Basin in Chelmsford to the sea lock at Heybridge Basin near Maldon. It was opened in 1797, and remained under the control of the original company until 2003. It is now run by Essex Waterways Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Inland Waterways Association.


Geographical Information

The navigation runs from Springfield Basin in Chelmsford to the sea lock at Heybridge Basin near Maldon. It has 13 locks, including a flood lock, six bridges and drops 23 metres (75.4 feet) from the basin to the sea.


Prior to the actual construction of the navigation, there had been almost 120 years of proposals for such a scheme, and opposition from the port of Maldon, which anticipated that its revenues would fall if vessels could travel to Chelmsford. The first such scheme was proposed in 1677 by Andrew Yarranton, who published his idea in a work entitled England's Improvements by Sea and Land. Maldon objected and the scheme came to nothing. In July 1733, John Hore, who was involved in the Kennet, Stroudwater, and the Avon Navigation at Bristol, proposed two schemes, one to make the river navigable, and another to create a new cut between Chelmsford and Maldon. Despite the projected extra costs for a canal, Hore favoured the canal scheme, as he believed there would be less objection from the millers along the river route. Maldon again objected on commercial grounds, and the scheme was dropped.[2]

The next schemes were proposed in 1762, when the canal engineers John Smeaton and Thomas Yeoman both carried out surveys for a possible route. Yeoman produced a second plan in 1765, and this was presented to Parliament. Yeoman had a high standing as a civil engineer, and the opponents to the scheme tried to engage a suitable engineer to counter the proposal, but many of the obvious choices,[3] including James Brindley,[4] declined because they were too busy. Eventually, Ferdinando and William Stratford took on the task, but both caught ague and fever, from which Ferdinando died, while William was ill for a year but then recovered.[3] An Act of Parliament to authorise the plan was passed on 6 June 1766, with the stipulation that the work must be completed within 12 years, and that no work could start until 25 per cent of the capital had been raised.[5] The scheme foundered because the required capital had not been subscribed.[3]

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