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loaded with mud, particularly in times of food, are met by the tide equally charged with silt, which obstructs their entrance; and at a certain distance from their mouths, the force of the river waters becoming equal, a stagnation takes place, during which the silt is dropped and banks are formed. The situation of these banks is nearer to, or farther from the river's mouth, in proportion as the strength of the river water is greater or less, i. e. as it is sooner or later overcome by the tide.
“ Thus, if the seasons are wet, the rivers having a greater quantity of water in them, run to seaward with a greater velocity, and of consequence drive the silt further out; on the other hand, if the seasons are dry, and the tides stronger from the effects of
wind, or other causes, the silt of course is driven less powerfully * 'outwards, and settles nearer to their mouths, which choaks them up and prevents their free discharge from the fens *.”
These, without any extraordinary phenomenon, appear to have formed the moor-land of the present Fen-country, and to be the sole cause of its frequent inundations. That this was the state of the country, at an early period, is evident, from the plans of imbanking and draining which the Romans adopted in order to counteract the mischievous effects of such inundations. Since their departure much bas been done at various times for the inprovement of the district, and an immense expense has been occa"sionally, and is still annually incurred, to prevent the encroachment of the waters, and at the same time to ameliorate the soil. A brief account will not only serve to give an idea of the country, but also tend to illustrate those periods of history.
Deeping Fen, on the banks of the Welland, appears to have received the earliest attention; for at the beginning of Edward the Confessor's reign, a road was made across it by Egelric, formerly a monk of Peterborough, but at that time bishop of Durhamt.
in * Rennie's “ First Report concerning the Drainage of Wildmore Fer," Lc. p. 2.
+ Hist. Ingulphi, f. 510.
In the time of the Conqueror, Richard de Rulos, chamberlain to that monarch, inclosed this part of the Fen Country, from the chapel of St. Guthlake to Cardyke, and beyond to Clei-lake, near Cranmore; excluding the river Welland, by a large and extensive bank of earth. “And having by this good busbandry brought the soil to that fertile condition, he converted the said chapel of St. Guthlake into a church, the place being now called Market Deeping; by the like means of banking and draining he also made a village, dedicated to St. James, in the very pan' of Pudliugton; and by much labour and charge reduced it into fields, meadows, and pastures, which is now called Deeping St. James *.”
As property became more divided, greater attention was paid to the improvement of the soil; and various presentments were made, and grants obtained, for scouring the rivers, and draining off the superfluous waters.
The Foss DYKE is an artificial trench, extending about seven miles in length, from the great marsh near the city of Lincolur to the river Trent in the vicinity of Torksey. This was made, or materially altered, by king Henry the First, in the year 1121, for the purpose of bringing vessels from the Trent to the city; as well as for making a general drain for the adjacent level. From its passing through so flat a country the water could have but a slow current, whereby it became unnavigable from the increasing accumulation of mud, so that it was soon found necessary to cleanse it.
To defray the expense certain sums of money were assessed on the lands that had been, or were to be, benefited by the drainage. And on complaint being made, in the time of Edward the Third, that the collectors converted the money to their own use, an order was made for an enquiry to be instituted, and commissioners were afterwards appointed to superintend in future the concern.
Of the Marshes on the river Ancholme, the first account on record is 16th of Edward the First. “ The King then directing
* Dngd, Imb. p. 194.
his writ of Ad quod dampnum to the shireeve of this county, to enquire whether it would be hurtful to him, or any other, if the course of that water, then obstructed, from a place called Bishop's Brigge, to the river of Humbre, were opened, so that the current of the same might be reduced into its due and ancient channel. Whereupon a jury being impannelled accordingly and sworn, did say upon their oaths, that it would not be to the damage of the said king, nor any other; but rather for the common benefit of the whole county of Lincoln, if the course of that river, ab-stracted in part, in divers places, from Bishop's Brigge to the river of Humbre, were open. And they further said, that by this means, not only the meadows and pastures would be drained, but that ships and boats laden with corn and other things, might then more commodiously pass with corn and other things from the said river Humbre into the parts of Lindsey, than they at time could do, and as they had done formerly-where upon about two years following, the King did constitute Gilbert de Thorntone, John Dive, and Ralphe Paynell, his commissioners, to cause that channel to be so scoured and cleansed *.”
In succeeding reigns, various statutes were enacted for securing the marks, and rendering effectual the drainage of this part of the country.
The Island of Axholme, though now containing some of the richest land perhaps in the kingdom, was formerly one continued fen, occasioned by the silt thrown up the Trent with the tides of the Humber. This obstructing the free passage of the Dun and Idle, forced back their waters over the circumjacent lands, so that the higher central parts formed an island, which appellation they still retain. From this circumstance it became a place so defensible, that Roger Lord Mowbray, an eminent baron in the time of King Henry the Second, adhering to the interests of the younger Henry, who took up arnis against his father, repaired with his retainers to this spot, fortified an old castle, and for some time set at defiance the king's forces who were sent to reduce him
* Dydg. Imb. p. 150.
to obedience. The Lincolnshire men having no otker means of access but by water, transported themselves over in boats, and discomfited the refractory baron*. In the reign of Henry the Third also, it afforded a retreat to many of the rebellious nobles after the battle of Evesham f.
But the inhabitants, stimulated by the example of the industrious cultivators of neighbouring districts, who, by embanking and draining, had greatly improved such fenny lands, turned their attention to this bencficial practice. “In the first of King Edward the Third, Robert de Notingham and Roger de Newmarch were constituted commissioners, to review and repair those banks and ditches, as had been made to that purpose, which were then grown to some decay; so also were Jolin Darcey of the park, Roger de Newmarch, and John de Crosholme 1."
Several commissions were granted in succeeding reigns, for rendering more effectual those made at former periods. In the first year of Henry the fifth, by a commission then granted, it appears, that one Geffrey Gaddesby, late abbot of Selby, caused a long sluice of wood to be made upon the river Trent, at the head of a certain sewer, called the Mare-dyke, of a sufficient height and breadth for to fence out the sides from the sea, and also against the descent of the fresh waters from the west of the above specified sluice, to the said sewer into the Trent, and thence into the Humber. Which task lie performed, “ of his free good will and charity, for the ease of the country.” This, in the time of his successor, John de Shireburne, was maliciously destroyed. The Abbot, however, to prevent such a disaster in future, had the sluices erected with stone, sufficiently strong, as he thought, for defence against the tides, as well as the fresh waters. But a jury being impannelled for the purpose of surveying the new works, reported, that they were both too high and too broad, and not sufficiently strong for the intended use. That it
Flor. Hist. Anno 1174.
* Math. Paris, Anno 1276.
Dugd. Imb. p. 14%.
would be expedient for the advantage of the country, if it should meet the approbation of the abbot, that other sluices, formed of timber, should be set up, consisting of two food gates; each containing in itself four feet in breadth, and six feet in height; as also a certain bridge upon the said sluices, im length and breadth sufficient for carts and other carriages to pass over. These, having stood one year, were reported stable by the commissioners. “ The said abbot of Selby, Richard Amcotes, and others the : freeholders of Crull-Amcotes, Waterton, Carlethorpe, Ludington, and Eltof, in the county of Lincoln, as also all the said towns in common, should, for their lands within that soke, be obliged of right to keep them in repair.” The abbot was also requested “ to make, without tlie said sluice, towards the river Trent, one demmyng, at the feast of Easter next ensuing.” They also determined, “ that the cleansing, scouring, repairing, &c. of the Maredyke" should lie with the said inhabitants in future.
In the beginning of the reign of Charles the First, that.“ commendable work” was commenced, which embraced not only the marshes of Axholme, but of all the adjacent fens, called Dikes=; mersh and Hattield Chase, in the county of York. These com=; prehended an extent of lands which were drowned not only in winter, but in summer were often so deeply covered with water, that boats could navigate over them to the extent of 60,000 acres.
These belonging chiefly to the crown, it was thought advisable, both for the good of the country and the increase of the.. royal revenue, that an attempt should be made to recover the same; and King Charles the Second did, under the great seal of England, contract for this purpose with Cornelius Vermuden, then of the city of London, Esq. by articles bearing date the 24th day of May, in the second year of his reign, A. D. 1626. The purport of the agreement was, that the said . Vermuden: should, at his own charge, drain the lands specified, in consi deration of which he and his heirs for ever should hold of the king one full third part of the said surrounded grounds; that he should