Burton’s 18th-century Navigation

A Broader Outlook: NarrowBoat, Winter 2022

John Dylan Parry tells the story of the Upper Trent Navigation and Burton Boat Co, which predated the construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal

In 1756, Kings Mills Lock was rebuilt with fine dressed stone, and the Earl of Leicester described it then as “the best lock ever seen”. This is now the last reach of the river to Wilden Ferry, where another chain ferry operated until 1760, when the Cavendish Bridge opened. Two enormous meanders await the navigators on the 3½ miles to Wilden Ferry and the warehouses there, leased by cheesemonger Leonard Fosbrooke. He also had the ferry rights here, along with his interests in the cheese and salt trade from Cheshire, which is why he seems to have collaborated so enthusiastically with Hayne’s Burton Boat Co. Downstream, on the 112 miles to Hull, the boater’s masts would only have to be lowered again once, under Nottingham’s medieval bridge. But the hardest work was behind them, on the Upper Trent. Here the crew would have a break, mooring at Wilden Ferry wharf. The navigation dwindled after the Trent & Mersey Canal opened to Shardlow. It fin…

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