- River Witham
name = River Witham
other_name = Witham
country = England
city = Lincoln
length = 132
length_imperial = 82
The Wash, Boston (as 'The Haven')
South Witham, Lincolnshire
source_elevation = 130
The Wash, North Sea
East Midlands/ East Anglia
mouth_elevation = 0
mouth_elevation_imperial = 0
tributary_left = Grantham Canal
tributary_left1 = Foston Beck
tributary_left2 = Ease Drain
tributary_left3 = Shire Dyke
tributary_left4 = Fossdyke Navigation
tributary_left5 = Barlings Eau
tributary_left6 = Tupholme Beck
tributary_left7 = Bucknall Beck
tributary_left8 = Catchwater Drain
tributary_left9 = The Sewer
tributary_left1 = Engine Drain
tributary_left11 = Cut Dike
tributary_left12 = Newham Drain
tributary_left13 = Cowbridge Drain
tributary_left14 = Maud Foster
tributary_left15 = Hobhole Drain
tributary_left16 = Old River Witham
tributary_right = Honington Beck
tributary_right1 = River Brant
tributary_right2 = Branston Delph
tributary_right3 = Middle Drain
tributary_right4 = Cathole Drain
tributary_right5 = Nocton Drain
tributary_right6 = Nocton Bankside Drain
tributary_right7 = Dunston Bankside Drain
tributary_right8 = Water Dike
tributary_right9 = Duns Dike
tributary_right10 = Metheringham Delph
tributary_right11 = Dales Drain
tributary_right12 = Blankney Town Drain
tributary_right13 = Black Horse Drain
tributary_right14 = Timberland Delph
tributary_right15 = Town Dike
tributary_right16 = Billinghay Skirth
tributary_right17 = River Slea
tributary_right18 = South Forty-Foot Drain
image_size = 300
image_caption = [
The River Witham is a
river, almost entirely in county of Lincolnshire, in the east of England. It rises south of Granthamclose to South Witham, at SK8818, passes Lincoln at SK9771 and at Boston, TF3244, flows into The Haven, a tidal arm of The Wash.
The name "Witham" seems to be extremely old, apparently predating Anglo-Saxon, Roman, and even Celtic influence. [Kenneth Cameron, "A Dictionary of Lincolnshire Place-names", English Placenames Society 1998, p. 142] The meaning is not known.
History of navigation
The Witham, which was tidal up to Lincoln, has been an important navigation since Roman times. Lincoln (
Lindum), the meeting point of Ermine Street, joining London to York, and Fosse Way, leading to Leicester and Bath was an important Roman fort which became one of only 4 colonia in Britain. The Witham gave it access to the Wash and Fossdyke gave access to the Trent at Torkseyand thus to the Humber.
Throughout the medieval period, trade continued as evidenced by the importance of Torksey, which was a flourishing town, though now only a small village.
The Witham originally flowed into The Wash at
Bicker Haven, where the port of Drayton was established in the Wellandestuary and it was only as a result of massive flooding in 1014that it diverted to flow into The Haven at Boston. This gave rise to the growth of Boston as a port in the 12th and 13th centuries, exporting wool and salt to the Hanseatic League, though it only received its charter in 1545.
But the silting up of the river restricted trade despite the construction of various sluices and barriers from
1142[ [http://www.w4idb.co.uk/history.htm Wickham 4th Drainage Board History] ] onwards and by 1671an Act of Parliament was passed for the improvement of the Navigation. [ [http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/PNRC0702.htm#PNRCWTHM Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals, 1831] ] But little was done until another act was passed in 1762authorising the construction of the "Grand Sluice", a major construction which maintained the height of water above Boston to near normal high tide level and had massive flood gates to cope with any tides above this. This was completed in 1766and was effective in scouring the Haven below it, but actually encouraged further silting of the river above it.
The 1762 act created the "Witham Drainage General Commissioners" who continued to promote drainage schemes actively [ [http://www.witham-1st-idb.co.uk/history.php 1st Drainage Board History] ] creating a drainage network known as the "Witham Navigable Drains" transforming much of northern Lincolnshire from swamp to farming land. Today many of these channels are managed by the Witham First, Third and Fourth District Internal Drainage Boards and Upper Witham Internal Drainage Board. These four
Internal Drainage Boardsreduce the flood risk to the surrounding properties, land and environment.
Today, commercial traffic, apart from trip boats, has ceased above the port of Boston (The Haven) and only pleasure craft carry on through the lock at the Grand Sluice into the Witham. It is still possible to navigate many of the drains in small vessels and consideration is being given to providing a new entry to the
South Forty-foot drainfrom below the Grand Sluice so that small vessels can reach the Fens without venturing out to the Wash [ [http://www.fenswaterways.com Fens Waterways link] ] as part of the Fens Waterways Link.
The Witham is navigable only from "Brayford Wharf" in Lincoln to Boston. There are two locks between Boston and Lincoln - one at Bardney and the other in Lincoln itself, the "Stamp End Lock" which is unusually a guillotine lock. The main obstruction to navigation is the "High Bridge" in Lincoln, a medieval structure dating from
1346which is only about 4.6m wide and 2.6m high at normal river levels. In times of flood it is unnavigable.
Claypoleto Beckingham, a distance of about three miles, the river forms the boundary between Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. From North Withamto Long Bennington, the river largely follows the line of the A1, which is crossed by the river just north of the B6403 junction near Easton. From Dogdyke near Coningsbyto Boston, the north bank of the [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/625610 river] was used by a former railway - a section of the Great Northern Railway from Lincoln to Boston.
Tributaries of the River Witham
* Foston Beck
Fossdyke Navigation, a canalization of the lower River Till.
* Kyme Eau, the fenland part of the
River SleaThe following flow into The Haven.
South Forty-foot drain
Maud Foster Drain
Rivers of the United Kingdom
* [http://www.fenlandlincs.com/Witham Photographs of route of Witham]
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