Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet


SmallBridge Hall
Delivery of Goods by a Stour Lighter ?

(rear view)

This magnificent moated house, is believed to be one wing of a much larger Elizabethan mansion.
The house is surrounded by a moat and fronts onto the River Stour.

Whilst researching the Wormingford Cut, I observed that a tributary was constructed just above Wormingford Lock
But why ?
(between C and D on the map)

Ref:- The Essex and Suffolk River Stour Navigation


Aerial photography of the surrounding area, highlights a distinct line running from the Lock towards the north of the Hall
Could this have been a boundary fence between the Hall and the adjacent fields or even a drainage channel ?
This 1876 Map, clearly shows this to be a line of trees with possibly a hedge line.

Maps as far forward as 1891 still indicate a tree line, but by 1900 this has disappeared and been replaced by a dotted line.
It also seems to extend directly into the farm yard, the opposite side of the entrance driveway.( see below)




<<see 1900 map.

This 1925 map shows this this line extending all the way into the farm buildings

So what can we conclude from this evidence ?

My own thought's are that Lighters turned into the tributary north of Wormingford Lock to unload goods for the Hall.
The tributary was constructed because any stationary Lighter loading or unloading goods would have impeded the navigation for other traffic travelling along that stretch of River.
To impede the flow of traffic would be in violation of the Navigation by-laws

Possible goods that were transported:-
Coal for the many fireplaces inside Smallbridge Hall
Grain for a Water Mill that was located within Smallbridge Farm.
Flour from Smallbridge WaterMill

These goods were then transported using the track adjacent the Treeline
Possibly circa 1900, the trees were removed to make way for a more substantial hard surface carriagway to haul the Lighter goods.
The tributary was constructed in 1838, so after sixty years the track would have been in a very poor state so it would have required
possible reconstruction.

This may account why the track bed has been seen by one local resident across this field ( similar to crop circles) during a specific time of the year.


Little Mill Cottage was a late 17th cent Cart Lodge associated with a 17th cent farmhouse
Little Mill Cottage could have stood beside "Little Mill" one of the many medieval mills in the area
Although the rail track was found in that location, the working of "Little Mill" would have been far too early for this type of transport
Documents list a Smallbridge Mill in 1090, but it is more than likely "Little Mill"

There was also another Watermill at Hole ( now Hold) Farm using Assington Brook just to the North of Little Mill

alan beales

Heather Hargrove, Smallbridge
Mark Curteiss, Eseex CC Archeaology Dept
John Cowlin who worked for Churchs at Arger Fen
James Lunn, archivist with the River Stour Trust