Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

The River Stour Navigation

To be read in conjunction with the River Stour Navigation page



Although the Wormingford Cut is just a few metres outside the Bures parish boundary,
it`s a fine example of engineering the river to solve a problem.

To overcome persistent grounding of the "Lighters" in Wormingford Millpond, a by-pass channel was constructed.

Barges in Wormingford Cut from a painting by Olwen Titchmarsh


The majority of people who travel along the road past Smallbridge Hall, are totally unaware the hedgerow conceals a hidden river bed. Although now dry, it can still clearly be seen from footpaths which runs alongside the entire channel length



This 1930`s (left) map of the area indicates both the original 1705 navigation channel through the millpond and the by-pass channel constructed in 1838.

The new channel had two locks:-
Location C = Wormingford Lock
Location G = Swan Lock.

These locks were required to lower the water level under the road bridge in order for the "lighters" to safely pass underneath.

Unfortunately once the traffic ceased around 1930 the channel became derelict together with the locks.

Today only a few traces of the two original locks remain
(see below)

LOCATION "A" :- the southern entrance to the cut
has now been blocked by soil.
LOCATION "B":- channel once again filled in with soil
2007. Note the two trees on the right photograph >
You can still see one surviving oak tree and the
overgrown river course
Lighter approaching Wormingford Lock circa 1900
Wormingford Mill in the background
LOCATION "C":- Wormingford Lock
timber from lock gates still standing
Wormingford Lock circa 1950`s
road 8
LOCATION "D":- channel showing lock gate timber to the left LOCATION "E":- Modern roadbridge over channel. The original bridge was much higher and steeper to allow the "lighters" passage underneath.


LOCATION "F":- Clearly defined dry river bed channel
LOCATION "G":- Swan Lock
lock gate timbers, 2007
The locks were very basic in their design. Large timbers were driven vertically into the sides of the river bank then supported by horizontal timbers along its length.

At either end of the lock to prevent the sides collapsing inwards there were either 2 or 3 parallel lintels or crossbeams. The gate(s) were operated by pulling on a chain from the river bank.
LOCATION "G":- Swan Lock
circa 1900
LOCATION "G":- Swan Lock
lock gate timbers, circa 1950
LOCATION "H":- clearly defined dry channel
LOCATION "I":- The by-pass cut coming in from the right
(line of trees) now filled in with soil where it joins the Stour to the North
Unfortunately the by-pass channel is now dry, as both ends have been blocked by soil.
This was to prevent the cut flooding from the main river without any source of control.


Looking at the full Navigation map at the top of the page, a small tributary emerges from the North of Wormingford Lock.

I would speculate this was for unloading/loading Lighters with goods destined for Smallbridge Hall.

As Smallbridge had its own WaterMill this could have been grain or flour.
Possibly coal for the many fireplaces in the Hall

The tributary was essential because any stationary Lighter would have impeded the movement of other Lighters using the cut

Updated 03/08/07
Updated 25/05/2015 with Tributary information
Credit:- River Stour Trust, Mark Curteiss
Swan & Wormingford Lock pictures courtesy of "The Essex and Suffolk River Stour Navigation"