River Witham

Bardney Ferries

Bardney Ferries

  • It is thought that the River Witham is so-named, most probably from an original British or Druidical name: (‘Wye’ or ‘Gwy’, meaning river – ‘Ham’, ‘Holme’ meaning home)
  • It is approximately 89 miles long, rising near South Witham, in Rutland, and flowing through Grantham, Lincoln and Boston, to the Wash. It is navigable for about 37 miles.
  • It is said that Bardney was occupied by the Romans for the purpose of commanding the waterways to their colony in Lincoln.
  • The river was reputedly, much wider once upon a time, such that larger vessels could freely travel up and down from Boston with the tides.
  • It is believed that Bardney Ferry has existed here since 670 A.D.
  • Local wool was being sent to Italy before 1066. It is highly likely that the river was instumental in this export route.
  • Once the Abbey was in being, trade was organised between other Abbeys, both here and on the Continent, wool, leather, (animal skins went via Brigg which specialised in that commodity) Horncastle had many tanneries, so all trades associated with farming had a ready market, wild fowls from the Fens were sent to London for the tables of the Willoughbys ,Tyrrwhits, Wrays, local gentry who all kept houses in London.
  • From very early times, clay from Bardney was in demand, shipped up river to Lincoln to a brickworks in a field by Stamp End Lock, and Bardney’s own brickworks centuries earlier, in 1680 when Peter Handcock built his Mansion House he used Bardney bricks from the brick maker Edward Brown and requested they be used to build The Almshouse, and that Edward Brown’s design should be used, if the Trustees agreed. The Browns were still there in 1858, but in 1871 it was owned by George Hall, who was born in Horncastle and employed 13 men.
  • In 1744, coal was being delivered to Lincoln, from Yorkshire, on Keel boats, which could carry 50 tons, down the Trent, onto the Fossdyke at Torksey and then to Lincoln. The Fossdyke was owned by Richard Ellison of Thorne, Doncaster. He was a wood merchant, dealing with pit props from Lincoln and needed something to carry on the journey down, so coal was the answer. He built warehouses in Lincoln, so he had complete control of everything that came along the Fossdyke.
  • Things shipped to Boston had to be unloaded at his warehouse and portaged across to Stamp End Lock, making it very expensive to customers and very lucrative to Ellison.
  • 1764-66 The river was dredged completely from Lincoln to Boston, making it fully navigable.
  • The Witham beyond Lincoln was most unreliable; it could sometimes be a mile wide at Bardney, the draining of the Fens making matters worse. Joseph Banks of Revesby was determined to get a canal to Horncastle and was prepared to bypass Lincoln, so improvements to the Witham, by John Rennie started with the Grand Sluice at Boston, if coal could be brought from Newcastle and up the Witham from Boston it would be much cheaper.
  • During 1778 the river was dredged – several Saxon and Roman weapons were found.
  • A plan to widen and improve the River Witham was commenced in 1812. This new cut effectively moved the river away from the Abbey site.
  • 1815 The Bardney Riot took place. (see Law & Order)
  • 1848 At the time of the railway construction, timber was being moved by barge. Bardney had a significant timber industry at this time.
  • 1893-4 A new iron bridge was built over the river. It was inspired by the Lord of the Manor, John Sharpe and it cost approximately £3,980 to build. It was a joint effort between North Kesteven and West Lindsey County Councils and the Great Northern Railway (GNR), who contributed £300 towards the cost.
  • 1860 Coal was being delivered to the “Bardney Gas Light & Coke Company”, until it ceased trading in the 1920’s.
  • The river was one of the prime factors in establishing the larger industry in Bardney. The Sugar Beet Factory used copious amounts of water in its process and it was a played a major part in transporting goods to and from this factory and the Foster's Cannery sites.
  • During the Sugar Beet factory construction, several large pieces of plant and equipment were transported, from Lincoln. Beet was delivered to the sugar beet factory by barges. It was unloaded at the rear of the factory, by a grab, and loaded into wagons on the internal railway system.
  • During the 1950’s to the 1990’s, it became a fashionable river for fishing. Trains and coaches of fishermen, from the midlands, arrived in the village regularly, at weekends. Fishing Clubs would come from far and wide on day trips for competitive angling.