River Ancholme

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The Old River Ancholme in Brigg

The River Ancholme is a navigable river in Lincolnshire, 17 miles long, and a tributary of the Humber.

The Ancholme rises south of Bishopbridge (west of Market Rasen) and flows north through the market town of Brigg before flowing into the Humber at South Ferriby.

North of Bishopbridge, where the River Rase joins the Ancholme, the river is substantially canalized and runs in two intertwining channels. The main straight channel carries most of the water and is known as the New River Ancholme, whereas the Old River Ancholme maintains its natural course but is mostly reduced to a drain, except around the town of Brigg where the two rivers create an island in the centre of Brigg known as 'Island Carr'.

The Ancholme drains a significant part of northern Lincolnshire between the Trent and the North Sea, but is no longer economically important for transport.


In its natural post-glacial state, the river's valley was flat-bottomed, for it had formed the bed of the glacial Lake Ancholme, on an outwash delta as the ice retreated,[1] and consequently fenny. As early as the 13th century local landowners paid subscriptions for work to be undertaken with the aim of facilitating navigation and land drainage.

In 1635, Owersby-based local landowner, Sir John Monson drained the Ancholme valley by cutting a straight new channel making two rivers at Brigg, which made the town less vulnerable to flooding. The draining of the Ancholme Level was a lesser project among the fenland "improvements" undertaken under contracts to patentees by the government of Charles I in the 1630s; "With the possible exception of the Ancholme Level the draining of the fens was executed and defended by a continuous and unscrupulous use of the power and authority of the royal government to manipulate local institutions and to overawe the local populace."[2]

In 1766, landowners in the Ancholme floodplain contracted Thomas Yeoman to survey the river. He pointed to the decay of Ferriby Sluice and an Act for navigation was passed in 1767, leading to a new sluice and lock at Ferriby in 1769.[3] It became an important route for transporting cargo from the rural communities to the industrial towns and the navigation was improved in the 1820s by Sir John Rennie. In the 19th century, a passenger packet boat ran from Brigg to South Ferriby and connected with a steamer to Kingston upon Hull. Many motorised vessels used the Ancholme up until the 1980s for transport of cargo to and from the factories along the river bank in Brigg.

It is quite easy for vessels on the Ancholme to exit the river at South Ferriby and enter the Humber. From the Humber, a vessel can access many other major waterways leading to the larger towns of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, as well as to the North Sea.


Today the river is mostly used for recreation, with over 600 boats registered. The river is large enough to support small barges and medium-large cabin cruisers. The river is also extremely popular with rowing, kayak and canoe clubs, with two nationally known clubs being based in Brigg. The Ancholme Rowing Club is the Rowing Club on the Ancholme, based in Brigg. The waterway is managed by the Environment Agency, which requires all vessels on the Ancholme to be registered and in possession of an up to date licence.[4]

The Ancholme boasts a number of marinas, including one in Brigg and another at South Ferriby. Each year numerous events take place on the Ancholme, from kayak races to boat races in custom home-built boats. Throughout the year, the water remains calm and the towpath alongside the river remains busy with pedestrians.


Outside links


  1. C. R. Twidale, "Glacial Overflow Channels in North Lincolnshire", Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers), No. 22 (1956:47-54).
  2. Mark E. Kennedy, "Charles I and Local Government: The Draining of the East and West Fens" Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies 15.1 (Spring 1983):19-31)
  3. Paget-Tomlinson, Edward (2006), The Illustrated history of Canal and River Navigations, p. 86 
  4. "Boat Registration, Anglian Region". Environment Agency. http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/recreation/boating/31613.aspx.