Home » Articles » Fen Drainage Timeline 852 to Present Day

Fen Drainage Timeline 852 to Present Day

It’s common in South Holland to see fields bordered by drainage ditches and rivers with embankments on each side to protect the surrounding farmland. Early drainage schemes, dug manually, suffered constant delays over centuries due to political and legal difficulties. Serious opposition came from small freeholders, tenant farmers and commoners who, for generations, had made a living by fishing, wildfowling, keeping geese and ducks, gathering reeds and fodder. And to make matters worse in the eyes of the opponents, many of the workers employed on these drainage schemes were foreigners.

Acts of Parliament were required to authorise the digging of ditches but engineers were faced with severe technical problems which would tax their ingenuity for many years. All drainage schemes presented difficulties, but the problems were most acute in the fens.

The following is a timeline for this history plus important dates from our history.

852  Old Fen Dyke mentioned in Land Book of Peterborough Abbey.

871 – Accession of Alfred the Great

1016 – Canute made King of England

1066 – Norman Conquest of England

1111 Two parts of marshland in Sutton and Lutton given to Spalding Priory.

1132 Land in Weston given to Chaplain of Sibsey which involved repair of seabank.

1142 Saltpans being used in fens.

1160 Hurdletree fenbank, Holbeach

1170 Saturday Dyke.

1189 New Fendyke built before this year.

1205 Asgardyke built

1206 Goldyke half built.

1207 Sea marshes at Gosberton Risegate Eau given to Abbot of Crowland.

1215 – Magna Carta

1230 Hassock or Lords Dyke completed.

1241 Common dyke.

1253 Henry III instructs Sheriff of Lincoln to accertain ownership of dykes and drains of Lincolnshire.

1253 Courts of Sewers and Commissioners of Sewers created.

1273 Spalding Prior getting land behind Roman Bank north of Surfleet Resevoir.

1287 Great flood of whole of Holland in Lincolnshire.

1323 Seabanks at Pinchbeck repaired and River Glenn widened by the town of Pinchbeck.

1324 Brunne Ea ( The Glen ) banks broken at Pinchbeck.

1337 – Hundred years war with France

1455 – War of Roses

1467 Extensive flooding from rain and snow throughout South Holland for a month.

1509 – Henry VIII

1530 – Dissolution of the monasteries.

1536 – Spalding Priory dissolved

1539 – Crowland Abbey dissolved.

1558 – Accession of Elizabeth 1

1571 Exstensive flood in south Lincolnshire.

1600 General Drainage Act passed in Parliament.

1600 Dutch Engines ( Windmills ) started to be used to drain fens. also Accession of James 1

1603 Commission attempted to tax locals for drainage work.

1613 Moulton and Long Sutton bought 1500 acres of marsh from James I.

1615 Earl of Argyle granted exstensive reclaimed marsh.

1618 Unsuccesful suggestion to drain all fens in Lincolnshire.

1625 – Charles 1

1629 Cornelius Vermuyden offered to work on draining the fens.

1630 The Welland was deepened and widened by Thomas Lovell.

1632 Marsh enclosed in Tydd St Mary.

1632 Work to reclaim Deeping Fen by Earl of Bedford, Sir William Russell and Sir philibert Vernatti. ( Vernatt Drain )

1634 Work to deepen the River Welland.

1635 3400 acres of fen in Spalding and Pinchbeck allocated to Queen Henrietta Maria.

1642 Vermuyden published proposal for draining of the fens.

1642 4239 acres in Lincolnshire fens reposseessed by inhabitants during civil war.

1660 6700 acres enclosed in Lutton and Sutton marsh.

1710 Spalding Gentelman’s Society formed.

1714 – George I

1732 John Grundy proposal for drainage of Deeping Fen.

1738 Deeping Fen Act to drain the fen

1747 Park Engines’ (windmills ) near Pode Hole and ‘dyke out’ of Vernatts Drain.

1748 John Grundy Jnr starts work to prevent flooding of Deeping Fen.

1750 New Gowt Sluice in Surfleet seadyke sank into quicksands.

1763 South Holland Main drain built.

1763 At least 50 windmills working in Deeping Fen.

1764 Broken banks and flooded farmland in Deeping Fen, in the winter cost £3260.00 to repair.

1767 Donningtons open fields and common land enclosed.

1767 Deeping Fen flooded for two years..

1777 Common fen and marsh enclosed in Surfleet.

1788 Enclosure Act

1792 Act to allow embankment in Spalding,Whaplode,Holbeach and Gedney containing 5339 acres.

1793 Trust formed to build 15mile South Holland Embankment from Wrag Marsh to the River Nene

1793 South Holland Drainage Act. Drain 19,400 acres in South Holland from Spalding to the River Nene.

1793 2059 acres in Holbeach and 166 acres in Whaplode enclosed.

1794 Welland Act. New cut from Spalding terminating at Fossdyke Bridge.

1796 The South Holland Drain completed

1798 Banks of Welland gave way and and overflowed.

1799 Marsh and fen enclosed in Gosberton.

1800 John Rennies report recomending erection of steam engines for relieving main drains.

1801 Act for draining of land at Deeping, Baston, Langtoft, Pinchbeck and Crowland.

1803 New sluice outfall built into Welland for water from Donnington and Quadring

1810 A great storm in November. Cost of repairs and new bank on South Holland Embankment £45,227.

1815 Thomas Pear report says the 50 wind engine on Deeping Fen not enough.

1823 Mr Bevan recommendation that two steam engines be erected at Pode Hole.

1824 Holland’ and ‘Kesteven’ steam driven scoop wheels erected ay Pode Hole.

1831 Nene Embankment made.

1832 Bridge across River Nene at Sutton Bridge completed.

1832 Act by Royal Assent to build engine to discharge into Blue Gowt Drain.

1833 Pinchbeck Engine erected to discharge into Blue Gowt Drain.

1837 Tax on commodities coming on river to pay for inprovements on Welland.

1873 Moulton Salt Marshes Act. With enclosures at Gedney and Moulton.

1910 Diesel pumps began to replace steam at Pode Hole

1914 – WWI begins

1928 Holland’ and ‘Kesteven’ steam pumps taken out of service.

1930 – Land Drainage Act.1930. Catchment Boards formed. Elective Boards replaced Court of 1930 Sewers.

1937 Deeping Fen Drainage completed.

1939 First electrical pumps installed at Pode Hole.

1942 South Holland main Drain improved.

1947 Welland and Glen overflowed their banks in winter. Coranation Channel started construction.

1952 Pinchbeck Engine stopped working.

1953 – Elizabeth II reign begins

1954 Coronation Channel completed.

1968 Serious floods in South Holland.

1973 Drainage Boards in South Holland formed.

1976 Land Drainage Act 1976.

Created from information supplied by Graham Morfoot of the Pinchbeck Pumping Museum


Vistor comments

5 Responses

  1. Very interesting. As a newcomer of 4years, living in a bungalow called ‘Nelda’, I researched the name! She was a Princess and part of German family brought over in Saxon times to the East of England.

      1. This is a most interesting article because it has given me an insight into how life would have been when my Great, Great Grandfather was farming Harrow Farm, at Deeping St Nicholas from about 1850 to 1877 when he retired. He continued to live at the farm until his death in1881. His widow Sarah moved to live at North House, Bourne until she died in 1894.

  2. hi Jenny the property and land is called Neldar and the dyke are in very bad condition that the water backs on to are fields and kills and damages are crops nut trees and friut trees to we have had ares craped out two times in 4 years but the other fields need to do there job to but they will not as it is all rented so if there was a flood are home would be under water as it gets into are brick work now we have complained to the right servicies a few times also south holland but they have no interest

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