Waveney Navigation

Geldeston_Lock Geldeston Lock

Together the rivers Yare and Waveney were a major contribution to trade in Norfolk, the Yare for transporting goods between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and the Waveney for goods between Beccles and Yarmouth. In 1670 an Act was passed to improve the navigation beween Beccles and Bungay, a distance of some 7 miles, and 3 locks were constructed at Wainford, Ellingham and Geldeston (Shipmeadow). This part of the Waveney was closed to navigation in 1934.

Whilst this navigation prospered the traders of Norwich and Beccles were becoming more and more annoyed that all their goods had to be trans-shipped at Yarmouth because of the shallowness of Breydon Water. Against tremendous opposition from Gt Yarmouth in 1826 the Norwich & Lowestoft Navigation Company attempted to get an Act through Parliament to deepen the Yare, between Norwich and Reedham, build a canal from Reedham to Haddiscoe (Haddiscoe New Cut), enlarge Outon Dyke and create a link bewteen Outon Broad and Lake Lothing. All that work simply to avoid Gt Yarmouth and use Lowestoft as their access to the North Sea. They lost the first bill but were successful in 1827 despite the good people of Gt Yarmouth spending £8000 in an attempt to secure it's defeat.

William Cubitt was the engineer in charge of construction and the entire 32 miles from Norwich to Lowestoft was completed in 1833. Despite the high hopes for this venture operating costs were always greater than the revenue and the coming of the railways just aggravated the situation. By 1842 most of the trade from Beccles and Norwich had reverted to Gt Yarmouth as Lake Lothing has silted up.

There is still commercial trading to Norwich by water but all these vessels use the Gt Yarmouth route rather than via Lowestoft and Haddiscoe New Cut. In fact there was a suggestion in 1954 that the New Cut be closed but this met with massive opposition and these waterways are now very heavily used by leisure traffic.

More information is available in 'The Canals of Eastern England' by John Boyes and Ronald Russell, published by David & Charles as the last part of its 'Canals of the British Isles' series in 1977.

Peter Bendall's web site here has some interesting data on the Waveney and some thoughts on it's source.

As the Little Ouse which flows to Thetford and the Waveney both rise from the same watershed just north of Redgrave it has long been suggested that there should be a link between these two rivers raising the exciting possibility of cruising from Gt Yarmouth, via Denver Sluice into the Midlands canals.


Geldeston (Shipmeadow) lock, an engraving dated 1878 but taken from a picture painted around 1830. The large building behind the trees is Geldestone Maltings and the small building to the right behind the trees is now part of Geldeston Locks Inn. The landlord very kindly gave us permission to copy this picture which hangs behind the bar.