Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

The River Stour Navigation

river map

Although Pitmere Lock is just outside the Bures parish boundary, it is of interest to those using the river.

As you can see from the photograph the river suddenly takes a sharp detour and eventually comes back on itself a few hundred yards further on. This was unsuitable for navigation by the lighters, due to its tight curvature.

A by-pass channel with two lock gates was constructed to avoid this bend.
Because of its remote location the lock was permantely staffed complete with accommodation.

A classic example of engineering to avoid a loop in the river.


River Stour showing by-pass channel and the Stour Valley Railway line
Pitmere Lock with house taken circa 1900
Same location taken 2008.
Entrance to by-pass channel dated 1926
Same photograph taken 2008, still showing the footbridge.
Lock Keepers House, access by a footbridge
The footbridge still exists to the island today, but unfortunately
it is a modern day replacement

Beneath the footbridge you can still see the remains of the old lock support beams (2008)

The island today where the lock-keepers house once stood.
It is still possible to see broken bricks and debris on the surface.
NOTE:- This is Private Property

The main river course runs to the left, the by-pass channel
continues under the footbridge

Constructing the by-pass channel and lock resulted in one major problem. Why would the lock fill up, when the water could so easily take the route of the main river ?

The problem was solved by installing sluice gates along the main river course to impede its flow.

The photo on the left shows:-
(a) The lock supports in front of the house
(b) The sluice gate to the rear of the house

Lock and Sluice gates

Circa 1920. Children swimming in the lock

There is no official register of lock-keepers but we know of at least three:

William Blois(1) was lock-keeper around the 1860`s. He was also responsible for looking after the steam driven barge that was experimented with during this time.

In Victorian times rowing boats could be hired from the lock-keeper for travelling up and down the river.

Ernie Boyd(2) was the last lock-keeper at Pitmere. He was the navigation foreman for all the locks in the immediate area. He was well trained for the task as his father(3) had also been entrusted with the same job.
Mr Boyd retired from the river in 1912 when regular traffic ceased and the house became vacant.

Throughout the 1920`s the Nicolson family from Halstead rented Pitmere Island together with the house for weekend and holiday use

Pitmere Lock was ideal for swimming as it was one of the few locks along the river which had a wooden floor.

The Environment Agency has installed this weir on the Henny Side of Pitmere Lock to maintain the water levels.
Portage sites are located either side of the weir to allow small craft to negotiate this obstacle.

Updated 23/03/08
Credit:- River Stour Boating.
B & W images courtesy of "The Essex and Suffolk River Stour Navigation"
Colour images by Alan Beales 2008