Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thames Conservancy

The Corporation of London administered the lower River Tames from Staines to the estuary for 660 years, but in the 1850's, a financial crisis arose. Income fell dramatically (£16,000 in 1839 to £8,000 in 1849) as railways became established and took over the transport of many goods. The river was becoming heavily polluted from the increase in industry, and the wash from the modern steamboats was eroding the banks of the river. The corporation was also failing to raise enough income to properly fund its responsibilities, and so a dramatic solution was found.
In 1857 the Corporation of London handed over the management of the river from Staines to the estuary to the newly formed Thames Conservancy. The Thames Commission was now also in financial difficulties due to the competition of transport by rail. In 1866, the upper river was also handed over, resulting in the Thames Conservancy being responsible for the whole of the river Thames from its source near Cricklade, Wiltshire to the estuary at Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain a distance of 177 miles.

During its long period of control the Thames Conservancy:
  • Built / refurbished 49 locks
  • Introduced tolls + speed limits
  • Prevented the water companies from dumping sewage in the river
  • Passed The Thames Preservation Act in 1885 to enshrine the preservation of river for public recreation.
  • Constructed the Desborough Cut between 1930 and 1935. (The 3/4/mile cut took the river on a straight course between Weybridge and Walton on Thames, and avoiding a meandering stretch past Shepperton and Lower Halliford.)

Responsibilities were reduced when the Tideway was transferred to the Port of London Authority in 1909 and in 1974 the Conservancy was taken into the Thames Water Authority.

by Paul Green

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