River Tone

From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
The River Tone near Burrowbridge

The River Tone is a river about 21 miles long, all in Somerset. Its source is at Beverton Pond near Huish Champflower in the Brendon Hills. It is dammed at Clatworthy Reservoir and from the reservoir outfall continues through Taunton and the Curry and Hay Moors (which are designated as a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'. Finally, it flows into the River Parrett at Burrowbridge.

An Act of Parliament granted in 1699 authorised work that made the river navigable as far as Taunton. The act specified that profits should be used to benefit the poor of Taunton, but the Proprietors succeeded in avoiding their obligation until 1843, when they used the proceeds from the sale of the navigation to fund a wing of the Taunton and Somerset Hospital, and to aid the Taunton Market Trust.

The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal opened in 1827, which provided an easier route than the river, and protracted legal battles followed over ownership of the river and water rights for the canal. These were not finally resolved until 1832, when the Canal Company formally took over the river navigation. The ability to navigate the river gradually deteriorated, not helped by the abandonment of the River Parrett as a navigation route in 1878. Following flooding in Taunton in 1960, much of the river between there and its mouth was straightened, and the navigation locks were removed. That at Ham was blown up by the Territorial Army. Navigation rights were repealed in 1967.


Clatworthy Dam

The river is about 21 miles long[1] from its source at Beverton Pond, at an elevation of 1,230 feet above sea level in the Brendon Hills. Over its first two miles the river follows a south-easterly course and drops around 490 feet before discharging into Clatworthy Reservoir, which also impounds the waters of 5 other streams.

The river continues as the outflow from the main dam of the reservoir, passing to the west of the village of Clatworthy before following a southerly course which passes to the east of Huish Champflower. The river enters a steeply wooded section at Washbattle bridge.[2]

The River Tone at Tracebridge

The B3227 road from Wiveliscombe crosses from the east to the west side of the valley at Waterrow bridge. By the time it reaches Stawley bridge and turns south-east,[1] it has lost another 410 feet and is just 330 feet above sea level. At Tracebridge, the river turns to the north-east and then the north. Here the course of the derelict Grand Western Canal crossed the Tone on an aqueduct which now carries a footpath.[3][4]

The river passes over weirs at Greenham, Tone and Nynehead, after which it is crossed by the aqueduct of the Grand Western Canal and the railway, both on their own routes to Taunton. A disused bridge, constructed in 1817,[5] spans the river at Nynehead.[6] The river turns to the north-east near Bradford on Tone, beneath the 15th century Bradford Bridge,[7][8] and then to the east near Upcott Bridge, where there were two mills.

At Roughmoor its course is crossed by Silk Mills Road. There is a scheme to make the river navigable from here to the town centre as a way of encouraging transport with less environmental impact.[9]

A footbridge crosses the top of French Weir at Taunton

The French weir in Taunton is the head of navigation as boats can not be taken upstream of this point. As it makes its way through the town centre to Firepool weir and the junction with the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, it passes under the North Bridge, which was constructed in 1895,[10] and Priory Bridge Road. Next comes the A358 Obridge viaduct, the A38 Bathpool Bridge and the M5 motorway bridge. Firepool weir was reconstructed in 1967 as part of the plans to straighten the river through the town centre and down to Bathpool in order to provide better flood defences. These works swept away the remains of the original navigation. There is a disused five-arched railway bridge built in 1863 at Creech St Michael.[11] Nearby is the aqueduct that carried the Chard Canal over the river from 1842 until 1866. The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre, is close to the riverside.[12] Ham weir stands as a reminder of the location of the lock there. After Knapp bridge, the sluice at Newbridge marks the upper tidal limit of the river.

Curry and Hay Moors, an area of low-lying fenland close to the river, are a Site of Special Scientific Interest.[13] A railway bridge carries the Taunton to Castle Cary railway line over the river, after which is the Curry Moor pumping station. Two more road bridges at Athelney and Stanmoor cross the river before it joins the River Parrett at Burrowbridge, where the junction is overshadowed by Burrow Mump.[14]

Flood defences

The Tone in flood, between Curry Moor and Hay Moor

The first Curry Moor pumping station was built in 1864, to house a steam engine and pump.[15] A cottage for the operator was built next to it at the same time. This installation lasted until 1955, when a new pumphouse was constructed to house two diesel pumps. The steam engine was retained for historical reasons, and is located in part of the new building. The diesel pumps were supplemented by an electric pump in 1983, and a programme of refurbishment was carried out in 2008, which included the construction of a new outfall into the river.[16]

In 1951, very heavy rainfall resulted in large portions of the Tone valley below Taunton flooding. Analysis of what had happened indicated that the channel was of insufficient size to carry the volume of water, which fell on the hills to the west and then flowed down the river. The easy solution of widening the channel was not available, as there were houses built along the south-eastern bank for around two miles above the junction with the River Parrett. The flooding revealed that although these properties were not normally affected by floods, there was significant seepage through the banks. There was no likelihood of sufficient money being available to buy all the houses to demolish them, and so a programme of constructing concrete cores in the centre of the banks began in 1956 and continued until 1964.[17]

New flods in October 1960 broyught forwad plans for a flood relief channel centred at first on the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal, which follows a slightly higher course to the west but the estimated cost of £1.7 million was prohibitive, and so a cheaper scheme was effected, straightening the river where it meandered, widening the bridge openings, and demolishing navigation locks and weirs.[18]

Satellite image showing the extent of flooding on 19 February 2014

A new sluice was constructed at Newbridge, incorporating tidal gates, which effectively prevent tides from passing further up the river. The removal of the navigation works at Ham proved particularly difficult, and acted as a training exercise for the Territorial Royal Engineers. Men from the 205 (Wessex) Field Squadron RE (TA) used 200 lb of explosives to blow up the half-lock and a mud-filled barge which could not be moved.[19] The river banks were raised to give more protection to the villages of Creech St Michael, Ham and Ruishton, but the channel was still only capable of discharging 2,500 cubic feet/s, whereas the channels through Taunton were designed to handle 4,500 cubic feet per second. The programme was completed in 1967.[19]

The winter flooding of 2013–14 on the Somerset Levels showed that ultimately nature would beat even these works.

On the river

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about River Tone)


  1. 1.0 1.1 "River Tone". Somerset Rivers. http://somersetrivers.org/index.php?module=Content&func=view&pid=23. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  2. "Circular Walk Seventeen — Chipstable and the River Tone — Exploring Taunton Deane". Taunton Deane Council. http://www.tauntondeane.gov.uk/irj/go/km/docs/CouncilDocuments/TDBC/Documents/Heritage%20and%20Landscape/Circular%20Walks/20061101Chipstable.pdf. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  3. "Tone Aqueduct (Grand Western Canal)". Grace's Guide. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Tone_Aqueduct_(Grand_Western_Canal). Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  4. "The West Deane Way: East Nynehead/Tonedale". Taunton Deane Borough Council. http://www.tauntondeane.gov.uk/irj/go/km/docs/CouncilDocuments/TDBC/Documents/Heritage%20and%20Landscape/West%20Deane%20Way/West%20Deane%20Way%20-%20Walk%203%20-%20East%20Nynehead%20-Tonedale.pdf. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  5. "Bridges Along the River Tone". Institute of Civil Engineers. http://www.somerset.gov.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=41817. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  6. National Heritage List 1060317: River Tone Nynehead Bridge
  7. National Heritage List 1060375: Bradford Bridge Bradford Bridge
  8. National Heritage List 1060342: River Tone Hele Bridge, Bradford
  9. "River Tone Regeneration Area". Project Taunton. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071020012002/http://projecttaunton.co.uk/296/regeneration-areas-34/river-tone-165.html. 
  10. National Heritage List 1234029: Tone Bridge
  11. National Heritage List 1308024: Five Arch Bridge, Creech St Michael
  12. National Heritage List 1344736: Brewery House
  13. SSSI listing and designation for Curry and Hay Moors
  14. National Heritage List 1344609: Burrow Mump Church
  15. Williams 1970.
  16. "Watching brief (2008), Curry Moor Pumping Station, Burrowbridge". Somerset County Council. http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/details.asp?prn=28667. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  17. Williams 1970, pp. 247–248
  18. Williams 1970, pp. 249–250
  19. 19.0 19.1 Haskell 1994, pp. 109–110
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Template:Cite map
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 Template:Cite map