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East Anglian River Staunches


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In 2011, Pluto produced an article relating to early European Locks, which has an early image of an East Anglian Staunch.

 

In that view the water gate was raised through the turning of a large diameter wheel. How that was done and why such a design should be adopted probably deserves further comment. There are certain concerns as to health and safety as to how a boatman, or boat men, may operate the wheel. The rise or fall was only a few feet, but was typical for a river navigation. Pluto does not specify a location, but it would also be of interest to see where it was.

 

There is a photo of Orton Lock on the Nene in 1890, which shows a more complicated infrastructure.

 

  

Orton Staunch.jpg

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If I recall correctly the East Anglian staunches worked on the opposite principle to many other flash locks, as they were normally left open and only closed when water levels needed to be raised for navigation. Thus a boat heading upstream closed the sluice behind them - traffic was light and it may be that the next operation was the same boat returning downstream. I think De Salis, in his description in Bradshaw, describes these navigations as comparable to a railway operating with "one engine in steam"

 

The Nene was likely busier and as the navigation is 60 miles long and not a dead end "one engine in steam" wouldn't have worked so well.

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47 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

If I recall correctly the East Anglian staunches worked on the opposite principle to many other flash locks, as they were normally left open and only closed when water levels needed to be raised for navigation.

Would they not have been left closed to maintain water for mill operation? Hence the disputes between boats and mill owners when a whole reach of stored water was released to allow a boat to pass.

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9 minutes ago, David Mack said:

Would they not have been left closed to maintain water for mill operation? Hence the disputes between boats and mill owners when a whole reach of stored water was released to allow a boat to pass.

That's the normal modus operandi - which I'm fairly sure was not followed.

 

If you look at the picture below there is no mill associated with this particular staunch - lowest one on the little Ouse I think

Brandon-Staunch-Small.jpg

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The standard work on English flash locks is Lewis, Slatcher and Jarvis,  in the 1969 and 1971 editions of Industrial Archaeology. The large operating wheel is standard practice in the Low Countries, from whence came much of the knowledge about land drainage and navigation in eastern England. This lock at Tienhoven, close to Utrecht, is a good example of their use on a chamber lock. It is only a development of the capstan, and they were used for gate opening on flash locks with turning gates (at least two survive on the Alster Navigaton, near Hamburg), on early inclined plane designs, on cranes, and on piling equipment, all related to inland waterways.

1997 Tienhoven 613.jpg

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King Charles 1 requested the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden to transform the Fen wetlands into farmland. The results were the Forty Foot and the One Hundred Foot Drains running directly from Earith to the Wash. A two-way tidal sluice was constructed at Denver. Thus, the massive volume of  River Great Ouse extensive catchment water was led directly to the sea. Vermuyden's drainage scheme relieved the narrow, lock-protected Old West River which connects the Great Ouse to the River Cam between Cambridge and Ely.  

  • Greenie 1
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As flash locks tended to have a relatively short fall, I would have expected the gates to be left down in order to maintain a navigation regardless of direction of travel. Having the gate raised would. it appears to me, negate any purpose for a lock of this type.

 

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Patrick was suggesting gates were left open where the river was also used for land drainage, so having the gate open would be a benefit. Navigation on rivers with flash locks was highly intermittent, with boats often passing in groups perhaps just once or twice per week. The lock keeper would know when boats were due, and would set the river accordingly. Flash locks did not just provide navigable depth above the lock, but the flash of water passing downstream when they were open would also allow boats to pass over shallows below the lock. Gates would be closed after boats passed where there was a mill associated with the flash lock weir, but could be left open elsewhere, for example, where there was a ford above the lock. The method of working was adapted to local circumstances.

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That is a useful explanation, and seems to fit the long term use of the navigation and the rivers other purposes. The image attached, is part of one used in your paper, which appears to be a painting. What it shows is gate lowered although it is not clear where this image was. A lock house, or house, was on the right in your reproduced image.

 

 

EASt.jpg

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1 hour ago, Heartland said:

And just as a rider, the initial purpose of this post was to note the opinions of how the wheel was turned to raise the gate.

 One is tempted to say "with difficulty"! A wheel at about head height would be hard to turn without spokes, and with spokes would be lethal if the weight of the gate took control and caused the wheel to spin. The picture above shows the wheel lower (and larger) than in the photo I shared - I'd have thought the lower larger wheel might be more practical but they weren't all like that. 

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From the picture it looks like it'd be turned by hand, grabbing one spoke and then the next. Looks like the lower spokes are easy enough to grab on some of the pictures, and perhaps the one with the ladder is easier to get started with the help of gravity...

 

Presumably the large size as a simpler alternative to the gearing on the modern hand operated Nene sluices: you turn a big wheel at least a foot or two to lift the gate an inch instead of turning a small wheel a full revolution. Lethal if it starts spinning the other way of its own accord, but guillotine gates are potentially lethal to boaters without some effective combination of counterweight and ratchet/brake anyway...

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