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Hatfield Chase drainage
Hatfield Chase, South Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, UK
associated engineer
Cornelius Vermuyden
John Smeaton
date  1626 - 1628, 1776 - 1789
UK era  Stuart  |  category  Drainage System  |  reference  SE708100
Hatfield Chase is the largest of three adjoining low-lying regions bounded by the Rivers Ouse, Trent and Idle, that covers some 10,625 hectares to the south east of Doncaster. These were drained during the 17th and 18th centuries, transforming boggy fens into valuable and productive agricultural land.
Hatfield Chase covers 6,680 hectares of land between Stainforth, Keadby, Stockwith and Misson. The area is bordered by the Rivers Don, Trent and Idle and crossed by the River Torne. Today the chase is bisected by the M180 motorway.
In 1626, King Charles I granted 5,670 hectares of the chase to Dutch engineer Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, thereby establishing the Hatfield Chase Corporation. During 1626-8, Vermuyden attempted to drain and reclaim the low-lying land.
Among other measures, including cutting new drains, Vermuyden altered the courses of the rivers. The River Don was redirected near Thorne into the River Aire. The River Torne’s course was straightened and connected to a new sluice that emptied into the River Trent at Althorpe. At the place known as Idlestop, the River Idle was diverted into the River Trent via the Bycar Dyke.
The scheme met with only partial success. Overflows from rivers caused flooding in areas that previously had remained dry during wet weather. Flooding from the River Torne, which had been put into a series of sharply angled straight sections, was a particular problem. In 1643, local people living in Isle of Axholme flooded the chase by raising the gates on the Snow Sewer (in the south of the region) as revenge on the landowners.
Ongoing improvements in the late 17th century included the construction of the wide channel known as the Dutch River, which took water from the River Don in the north of the district.
John Smeaton was retained for the period September 1764 to 1789 to advise on effective drainage of the entire 6,680 hectares. Thomas Yeoman made further suggestions in 1774. The works included a new drain and sluice at Keadby, widening the sluices at Althorpe and Owston, improving the route of the River Torne, building several new bridges, providing substantial embankments and widening existing drains.
Phased construction began in summer 1776, with an Act of Parliament granted in 1783 for additional works from 1787. The project was completed in 1789, at a total cost of around £20,000. Apart from the difficulty of having to remodel some of the watercourses constructed in the previous century, the scheme added 16.1km of new cuts.
In the 1790s, William Jessop completed the drainage of Everton, Gringley, Walkeringham and Misterton Carrs and installed additional sluices at Stockwith.
This 18th century work set the pattern for land drainage for many years, and much of it remained in action well into the 20th century. Some traces of the cuts and sluices may still be seen.
In 1813, under the provisions of the Hatfield Chase Drainage Act, a steam engine was erected in the south of the region to help with pumping out water. Later, in 1854, another act established the Hatfield Chase Warping & Improvement Company, which existed until 1916. This company purchased the Snow Sewer and used it to flood the adjacent land periodically, which benefited from the layer of warp (silt) deposited by the water.
In 1862, the old system of land owning and fees (paid by tenants) was replaced by the Corporation of the Level of Hatfield Chase and rates (paid by the same tenants). After that, the chase was administered by an Internal Drainage Board. In February 1941, under the 1930 Land Drainage Act, the corporation was transferred jointly to the Trent River Catchment Board and the River Ouse (Yorkshire) Catchment Board. In 1974, new Severn Trent Water Authority assumed responsibility for the area.
However, in 1987, the Corporation of the Level of Hatfield Chase Internal Drainage Board was formed as an independent body by order from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food. It operates according to the terms of the 1991 Land Drainage Act, and is responsible for maintaining water levels and preventing flooding.
In September 1999, part of the chase was designated a new Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its nutrient-rich acidic water habitats. The citation relates to 45 hectares of land around the North Idle Drain, North Level Engine Drain and South Engine Drain, together with some of their feeder ditches.
Resident engineer (1776-83): Matthias Scott
Resident engineer (1783-9): Samuel Foster
Research: ECPK
reference sources   JS

Hatfield Chase drainage