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Spalford Gap and Flooding of the Trent

Please note this article is based on current research that is still to be finalised.

Spalford Gap_map.jpg

This hamlet was once known as Spaldford. It was one of five places between Newark and Torksey where the Trent could break through and flood land across to Lincoln as it had originally done. It was thought that defensive banks here dated back to Roman times, and at Spalford was a mile and a half long and ten feet above the land. Some geographers have suggested that the Wath Bank was originally formed by an old course of the river itself, but was certainly there by about 900AD. There are so many flood banks in the area it is difficult to trace them all but another ran along the main road except for a ‘meander’ near the village.

A severe flood breached the bank in February 1141, when it rained after a period of freezing weather, and in 1403 when it caused change in the river channel. There was a bad flood in 1736 but at Candlemas 1795 the outer bank (known as the Wath bank) broke catastrophically at the south-east foot of Clifton Hill. Long period of frost followed by heavy snowfall followed by sudden thaw – the melted snow ran across the frozen surface. The water breached the bank and flooded the whole area across to Lincoln, several people commenting that ‘it came roaring across the moor’ until at Lincoln it became trapped behind the High Street which is ten feet above the land level. It flooded 20,000 acres for three weeks at depths of up to ten feet. Villages like Skellingthorpe were cut off except by boat for three weeks. By the 1880s the bank was described as ten to fifteen feet high.

Saxilby was so badly flooded in 1795 that many people had to live in the church while water was up to the bottom of the windows at the Sun Inn; and floods extended down to Torksey and Hardwick. Although the bank was repaired and an Act passed in 1804 to improve the Witham drainage, no funds were available to maintain it and in November 1852 waters overtopped it again. The bank on the Dunham side collapsed first and this saved the east from further disaster. Mr Nevile of Thorney tried to organise repairs but the work was delayed in an argument over how they would be paid, and it was also very dangerous with ten feet of water on one side and little on the other. There were further problems in 1875 and again in 1947 when it was considered that roadworks had made the problem worse, probably when the road was straightened; the bank was breached between Girton and Spalford. A new bank was built in 1964.

Spalford Warren is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, noted for its sands.

Adrian Gray, MA (Cantab)
Historical Adviser to Bassetlaw Christian Heritage
Director, Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours
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