Bourne Eau History.
The town of Bourne grew up around the springs that make St Peters pool. This pool is the source of the Eau. After leaving the pool it powered three Mills. Baldock's mill, Cliffe's mill, used for crushing bark for tanning, and Notleys flour mill. The spring water also supplied local fish farms. In the mid 1800's it was also bottled and sold as Bourne Table Waters. After leaving Notleys mill the Eau runs alongside Eastgate where the navigation begins.
The Eau wasn't Bournes first waterway, the town sits on the Roman Car Dyke. Though some say that the Car Dyke was a drainage ditch and not used for navigation.
The Roman Morton-Bourne Canal was maybe the earliest navigation from Bourne to the Sea. The sea in the Middle ages being quite close to Bourne only at the end of Bourne North fen. It was used to carry salt mined at Morton. The course of this canal can be clearly seen on google earth. It ran in a straight line from Near Queens bridge Bourne to a long gone tidal river in Morton fen.
Thankyou Peter Sharpe - for your help in the accurate positioning of the
Morton-Bourne canal on Google Earth.
The Eau, a three and a half mile navigation carried goods to the River Glen and on to Fosdyke connected to the sea via the Wash. The Glen also connects to the Welland making a navigable link with Crowland and Stamford.
The Eau had two locks, though I can't find any trace of them. Old folk of the Eastgate area, now long gone, told me that there used to be a lock where the weir is under Mays bridge.
Mr Peter Sharpe gave me some information about the lock that was near the Glen junction.. He remembers fishing from the top of it in the 1960s and describes the lock gates at the end of the Bourne Eau as being a large wooden structure. Not like a modern lock, probably more of a flood barrier. He says "I doubt if you needed a lock for boats, as there was no incline for them to get through."
TW Mays Woolstaplers and Fellmongers.
Washing skins on the North bank of the Eau. Before 1908.
It looks to be a boat moored just beyond the leanto. I shall try to get a clearer copy of this picture to confirm if it's a working boat or not.
The same view in 2008.
Inside the skin shed.
In 1938 there was a pageant on the Eau.
This photo depicts the Monks taking the body of Hereward the Wake to Crowland Abbey for Burial.
The first legislation covering the Bourne Eau was an Act of 1781. Trustees were empowered to clean out the navigation and charge tolls.
BOURN EAU RIVER.
THIS river proceeds from the navigable River Glen, in Deeping
Fen, in a north-western direction to the town of Bourn. It is
three miles and a half in length, and nearly straight.
It appears by the preamble of the only act relating to this
navigation, entitled,' An Act for improving the Navigation of the
River coiled Bourn Eau, from the town of Bourn to its Junction
with the River Glen, at a place called Tongue End, in the county
21 George III Cap. 22, Royal Assent 29th March 1781
That it had been previously used as a navigation, but
that it had become of little use, in consequence of being nearly
choked up by mud, and other obstructions; the above recited act,
therefore, gives authority to trustees therein named, to make good
the navigation by scouring, cleansing, and making the same 5 feet
deep and 30 feet wide, where its present banks will admit of it.
For all Goods, Wares, Merchandize or Commodities whatsoever
Two shillings and Six pence per Ton.
And so in proportion for any greater or less Weight than a Ton
The trustees, in whom this navigation is vested, are the lord of
the manor of Bourn, with the members for the time being; the
owner of Bourn South Fen Pastures; the lord of the manor of
Bourn Abbots, with its members, and nine other persons, three to
be chosen annually by each of the parties above-mentioned; also
all other persons who shall be holders of £100 stock, to be raised
for the purposes of this act The sum of £60 per annum is paid
to the trustees by the owners of an estate of eight hundred and
sixty acres, situate on the banks of the river, and which, at the
time the act was obtained, belonged to Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Bart,
in quittance of the obligation he was under of keeping in repair a
considerable portion of the north-west bank of this navigation, and
which, in consequence, devolved upon the trustees. The Marquis
of Exeter also pays to the trustees the sum of forty shillings annually
on a similar account.
The principal use to which this navigation is put, is to facilitate
the conveyance of the surplus agricultural produce of the fens, to
the port of Boston, (to which it has communication by the River
Glen) and to supply Bourn and its environs with groceries and
From around the sixteenth century the Eau was used to carry corn, wool and skins to the Glen and Welland, also to Boston port. Coal was brought to the coal wharf in Eastgate. Until it became easier to bring in coal by train. A passenger boat was in service on market days.
The Glen often flooded with water backing up the Eau into Bourne.
To control the flooding self-acting doors were installed at the Glen/Eau junction. Then in the 1860ís a sluice was installed cutting off the Eau from the Glen and ending any through navigation to and from Bourne.