Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation History

Photo: Reproduced from an original photograph of an early cruise organised by the then Chairman, the late Alderman T.J.D. Cramphorn, for his friends, 1903.

The Company of Proprietors of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation was formed under an Act of Parliament in 1793, following an earlier unsuccessful Act in 1766 when insufficient funds were raised. The Navigation joined the sea at Heybridge, rather than the sea port of Maldon, owing to objections from landowners and other port interests in the town who feared the Navigation would bring a loss of trade.The community around Heybridge Basin rose following the construction work in the 1790s, as the area was entirely rural farmland until the building of the Navigation.   

When carrying trade along the navigation stopped, in 1972, the Navigation Company was, at first, resistant to use of the waterway by pleasure traffic, but a spirited campaign by The Inland Waterways Association's Chelmsford Branch led to acceptance and a steady growth in pleasure craft numbers.  IWA's Chelmsford Branch has supported the waterway ever since, and organised the restoration of Springfield Basin during 1992, re-opening at the 1993 National Trail Boat Rally held there.  During the next ten years, the Association raised over £400,000 to repair locks and weirs at Hoe Mill, Stoneham's, Barnes Mill and Sandford locks.  A locally-based Chelmer Canal Trust, originally a 'Friends of the Navigation', was formed to add its support.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Navigation Company diversified its activities and then ran info financial difficulties, going into administration in 2003.  Following negotiations with the Company of Proprietors and the joint administrators of the Company, The Inland Waterways Association's subsidiary company Essex Waterways Ltd took over the management of the Navigation on 14th November 2005, in order to save the waterway from closing.  The arrangement provided that IWA undertook day-to-day responsibilities for the Navigation, as well as assuming responsibility for all income and expenditure relating to it, although the freehold ownership of the waterway remains with the Navigation Company.

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