History of the Stour
In 1705, an Act of Parliament was made for the river to be made navigable from Sudbury to Manningtree – a distance of around 25 miles. This act authorised channels and locks to be constructed enabling the passage of barges between the two towns, but surprisingly not a tow-path.
The river navigation was opened for traffic in 1713.
Downriver from Sudbury, locks were located at Cornard, Henny, Pitmire (Lamarsh), Bures, Wormingford, Wissington(2), Nayland, Horkesley, Boxted, Langham, Stratford, Dedham, Flatford and Brantham. The lock gates were spaced 95 feet apart to allow the passage of two barges, which were horse-drawn.
Recreational users of the river, such as our tours, still have these navigation rights. The Environment Agency now has the responsibility for maintaining the navigation.
Barges on the river were known as “lighters” and were mostly built in a special basin or dry dock at Flatford, which can still be seen today and is cared for by the National Trust. It is the subject of a famous painting by Constable and is seen on many a table mat and biscuit tin.
The River Stour Trust is a registered charity with the aim of maintaining and restoring key features such as locks along the river. See River Stour Trust for more details about the history of the river and the recently rebuilt lighter the “John Constable”