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The River Blackwater,near to Kelvedon, Essex

The River Blackwater is a river in England. It rises in the northwest of Essex as the River Pant and flows through Essex to Braintree from where its name changes to the Blackwater. It passes Maldon and reaches the North Sea at West Mersea. The River Chelmer meets the River Blackwater near Langford. At Heybridge the river enters a pipe before joining the tidal Blackwater Estuary at Maldon.[1]

Contents

History

One of the most famous Viking battles in Britain, the Battle of Maldon, took place directly beside the river in 991. The Vikings were successful in battle against the Anglo-Saxons, claiming victory in this Dark Age battle.

The Blackwater was a source of fish and oysters for the town of Maldon during the Roman occupation. The remains of Saxon fish traps were discovered in the river in the 1990s.[2]

During the winter of 1776 the Blackwater froze from Maldon to Osea island, a distance of some four miles. The ice trapped fishing and cargo carrying vessels and blocked any imports of coal, oil, wool to Maldon.[3]

In 1793 the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company was formed by act of Parliament[4]. Over the next four years, the company built a navigation from Chelmsford to meet the tidal estuary of the River Blackwater in Colliers Reach at the place that's today called Heybridge Basin (after the canal basin there).

The burgers of the borough of Maldon refused to allow the canal to pass through their borough[5], so the company routed it just outside the borough boundary, which is why it ended up at Colliers Reach, rather than at Maldon. From Chelmsford, the navigation mainly followed the course of the River Chelmer until it reached Beeleigh, near Maldon. Then it followed the course of the River Blackwater to Heybridge, and from there via a canal to the sea lock at Colliers Reach.

A weir connected the navigation to the tidal river Blackwater at Heybridge, where it powered a water mill. Heybridge mill was demolished after severe flooding in this area in 1953, but the mill house still stands. The river itself (now known as Heybridge Creek here) was dammed between Heybridge Hall and Potman marsh in 1954 as part of a programme of flood defence improvements. Most of the water flowing down the River Blackwater nowadays flows over a weir at Beeleigh and along the tidal section of the Chelmer before rejoining the Blackwater just below the Hythe at Maldon.

In 1865 HM Government passed the Maldon Harbour Act authorized construction of a wharf on the west side of the southern end of Heybridge Creek on land belonging to the Great Eastern Railway Company, and improving the channels of the rivers Chelmer and Blackwater[6].

Ten thousand pounds were spent on widening, deepening and improving the river from the Fullbridge to just downriver from Herring's Point, near Heybridge Basin. After this, vessels had to pay a toll of 3 pence a ton if they were under 50 tons register or 6 pence a ton if they were over that[7].

A medieval 5-arched stone bridge over the River Blackwater at Heybridge (from which that village got its name) was replaced in 1870 by a 2-arched brick one[7]. That bridge was at the north end of the Causeway, at its junction with Heybridge Street and Holloway Road, but the bridge there now is hardly distinguishable as such.

Industry

The Maldon Crystal Salt Company produces crystaline sea salt by traditional panning techniques from the waters of the Blackwater.[8]

Osea Island

Osea Island, in the Blackwater Estuary

Osea Island is situated on the Blackwater Estuary, north of Steeple.

Northey Island

Northey Island owned by the National Trust, is approximately one mile to the west of Osea Island. It is part of an ancient landscape and is connected to the shore by a tidal causeway. It is believed by some to have been the site of the Battle of Maldon in 991 AD and offers birdwatching opportunities.

See also

References

Coordinates: 51°45′13″N 0°39′29″E / 51.75365°N 0.65815°E / 51.75365; 0.65815

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