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The Wear Navigation

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posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 10:29 AM
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In the 1600's the coal trade from Newcastle on the River Tyne was seriously threatened by the developing coal trade on the neighbouring River Wear. The lower, tidal stretch of the Wear was able to carry large cargo boats. The next stretch of the river could be improved at reasonable expense. The final stretch through Kepier Gorge would cost much more, several locks would have to be built to enable boats of twenty two tons to reach Durham City.

The city corporation wished to make Durham an inland port exporting coal, lead, lime, building stone and wool. The dean and chapter owned coal mines further downstream, they would have been satisfied with the lower stretches of the river being engineered to enable easier export of their coal. In 1705 the mayor and aldermen of Durham, the dean and chapter, and the inhabitants of Sunderland petitioned parliament to make the Wear navigable as far as Durham.

Fishing weirs were built in the river up to ten thousand years ago, with the side-effect of making the river deeper. The Romans added to these weirs and may have brought lead down the river in dugout canoes. The Normans oversaw considerable modification of the river banks and built weirs and mills, the foundations of their work can still be found. Stone for Durham cathedral was brought up the river from Kepier Gorge. That stretch of river is now little more than ankle deep in places, it's difficult to imagine how it was. Oral tradition says 'the river was much deeper hundreds of years ago'.

The plan to make the river navigable was practical and with precedent. Over the years several capable engineers drew up plans for a series of locks. The father of civil engineering, John Smeaton, said

"It is practicable to make the river navigable . . ."
The Wear navigation and the City of Durham in the eighteenth century. D. Kirby. Archaeologia Aeliana.

London, Gainsborough, Boston, Norwich, Exeter and Plymouth all supported the Wear navigation, it would have made coal cheaper. The Grand Allies would have seen their fortunes reduced.

. . . control of the northern coal trade had fallen into the hands of a cartel of wealthy coal-owning families known as the 'Grand Allies'.
co-curate.ncl.ac.uk...

William Cotesworth was one of the Grand Allies.

Newcastle's opposition to the Wear Navigation Bill, for example, had to be conducted so circumspectly as to avoid public attention, which was, as Cotesworth pointed out, rather difficult.
ora.ox.ac.uk...:2b9b90d2-46d0-4a86-8da6-929878f04065/download_file?safe_filename=602455167.pdf&file_format=applicatio n%2Fpdf&type_of_work=Thesis

The plan to bring boats of twenty two tons as far as Durham City was secretly opposed by the Newcastle coal merchants. A conspiracy that saved the surrounding area from further industrial use and has left the river usable only by kayaks, canoes and small craft capable of being dragged over the shallows.
edit on 20 3 2019 by Kester because: punctuation




posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 10:44 AM
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Silt deposits, etc, have a large effect. It is pretty crazy to think about with our shortened life spans.



posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 10:55 AM
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a reply to: bigfatfurrytexan

I've been to see this recently collapsed weir, tons of old silt must have washed through when it went. There are lots of old artefacts turning up that have been submerged until now. I'm interested in the way the stones spread out as the weir disintegrates, it helps me mentally reconstruct the old broken down weirs on the River Wear.


edit on 20 3 2019 by Kester because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 22 2019 @ 08:41 AM
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thats problem can't open that video^



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