The Driffield Navigation is an extension to the River Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It runs from the end of Aike Beck, near Beverley and continues through the Holderness Plain up to the small market town of Driffield. There are branches off to Corps Landing, and North Frodingham. The Leven Canal leaves the navigation, in the tidal river section 2 miles north of Hull Bridge.
An Act for improving the Navigation of the River Hull and Frodingham Beck, from Aike Beck Mouth to the Clough, on the East Corner of Fisholme, and for extending the said Navigation, from the said Clough, into or near the Town of Great Driffield, in the East Riding of the County of York.
The navigation was to become an amentity for the town, and people of Driffield, and so commissioners were appointed. They ran the canal, and were responsible for borrowing the money to build the navigation, and to levy tolls based on tonnage of cargo.
The original plans for the canal section of the navigation allowed for 4 locks. Each lock was timber floored, and built to accommodate "Driffield Sized" Humber Keels of 61ft length and 14ft 6" beam (18.6m x 4.4m). Keels could carry a maximum of 100 tons but were limited to a maximum of 70 tons in the Navigation due to draft limits.
Trade in the early years did not develop as rapidly as had been hoped. Many of the problems to the development of traffic in these early years stemmed from the restrictions imposed by the Hull Bridge, near Tickton, and the shallow depth of the navigation due to silting. These factors, coupled with the short period of time either side of high tide that vessels could gain access to the Navigation through Snakeholme Lock, made the need for modification to the Navigation obvious.
Dredging was performed down to Aike Beck, and rather than build a new lock further downstream, the lock at Snakeholme was made into a staircase. This lower chamber with a deeper cill allowed vessels to use it over a greater range in water levels. The Commissioners also wanted to extend the Navigation down to Hull Bridge, but the Beverley Corporation - the owners of the bridge - opposed the suggestion.
In 1801, after a prolonged stoppage at Hull Bridge, an act was created to improve the Navigation. This allowed the Commissioners to rebuild Hull Bridge within 6 years, to build a new lock at Struncheon Hill, and to create a new lock cut. Hull Bridge was replaced in 1803, and the other works completed in 1805.
Traffic increased, and even with the advent of the railway in 1846, the canal continued to flourish. However by 1870, trade started to fall off. By 1922 the tolls were £714 and the profits £88. In 1931 receipts were £414 and the profits down to £11.
With the demise of commercial navigation, the interest of the Commissioners waned. In 1955 an unauthorised fixed bridge was built across the navigation at Whinhill but the IWA received the assurance that, if at any future date the navigation was reopened to Driffield, the bridge would be removed. The major obstruction to the renewal of the navigation to Driffield was incurred in 1967, when the County Council replaced the bridge which carries the public right of way over the Navigation at Wansford with a fixed bridge. As this action was taken without the agreement of a quorum of Commissioners the legality of the step must be questioned. Only a Court could adjudicate on this action.
In 1996 Town Lock was restored completely by volunteers and fund raising. This effort helped to obtain further grants, and in 2003 two major obstacles were officially opened. Brigham swing bridge, last opened in the 1960's and then replaced by a fixed structure in the 1970's was restored to full operation. This allows navigation to Snakeholme Lock, 1.2 miles (1.9km) away. Snakeholme lock was official opened later the same year, though a fixed bridge over the tail of the lock limits headroom to 6 feet (1.8m). There are plans to replace it with a swing bridge.
In 2005, Whinhill Lock was restored, and opened to navigation. Unfortunately another fixed farm access bridge has been placed over the lock chamber, and limits use to boats of 4.6 m (15 feet) in length or less.
Work is now well in hand to obtain funding to replace the final obstructions to Navigation at Wansford, Snakeholme and Whin Hill.
|Location||Km from Aike Beck||Miles from Aike Beck|
|Struncheon Hill Lock||6.1||3.8|
|Emmotland (junction with West Beck)||8.0||5|
|Fisholme (junction with Frodingham Beck)||9.2||5.76|
|River Head, Driffield||17.1||10.7|