How the Brayford Pool played a major part in Lincoln's economy...
Brayford Pool is one of Lincoln's best known landmarks after the cathedral. James Baggley takes a look at the part that the pool has played in the city's economy...
The fortunes of the city of Lincoln over the centuries have been linked in large part to the waterways that run by and through it, including Brayford Pool.
Indeed, the very name of the city derives in part from the word "Lin", which was used by the Iron Age Celts who first settled here, to denote a pool.
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When the Romans arrived in Britain in the first century AD they saw the benefit of establishing a town here.
The site was a useful fortification position to defend the Ermine Way, the road they built from London to York, but the location of the Brayford Pool would have played a large part in that decision, as it afforded a useful natural port at which goods could be despatched and unloaded, having travelled in by sea and along the River Witham.
Brayford Pool is a natural feature on the River Witham, where the course of the river turns from south to east, forming a pool at the bend.
The name Brayford is derived from "broad ford", a broad shallow area in the river which would have been used for centuries as a crossing.
The Romans had also settled along the length of the River Trent and saw the need to connect this river with the Witham.
In time they cut the Foss Dyke canal, an 11-mile stretch of water joining the Brayford Pool with the River Trent, opening up a useful navigation system in the region.
During this period the Brayford Pool would have been a hive of activity, with wharves being erected from which to load and unload goods from ships travelling between the River Trent and the North Sea.
Lincoln would have become a bustling trading centre, seeing exotic goods coming from the Mediterranean region passing through it, as well as seeing local goods and slaves being exported to Rome.
After the Romans left Britain, sometime in the 5th century, the waterways around Lincoln fell into disrepair and the country generally fell into decline.
In the 8th century, East Anglia fell prey to Viking raiders who attacked along the east coast. They soon invaded inland and eventually settled in the region, including inhabiting Lincoln.
Being seafarers, as well as great tradesmen, the Danes and Norsemen would have appreciated the potential of an inland port such as the Brayford Pool and soon goods from across their empire, such as Baltic amber and animal furs, would have made their way along the River Witham to Lincoln to be crafted and traded here.
In the Middle Ages, Lincoln became an important city, and the castle and cathedral were established and built at this time.
The city became an even greater trading centre during this time, when in 1291 it was chosen by King Edward I as a staple town.
This meant that all trade in the region had to be carried out in the city. The system of staples meant that the king's officials had an easier task of collecting taxes, as they only needed to travel to the staple towns in order to gather payments.
The Brayford Pool at this time would have continued to thrive, with the wharves constantly employed to load and unload ships, and warehouses along the side being filled with all sorts of goods from across the world, from locally produced goods for export such as woollen cloth, and imported goods coming in, such as spices and silks.
However, in 1369 Lincoln lost its status as a staple town to Boston in the south of the county. Boston was a preferred trading centre by this time, as it was closer to the coast and had an easier watercourse between it and the sea.
As a result, Lincoln's fortunes again fell into decline and the Foss Dyke canal and parts of the River Witham silted up, making the journey between the coast and the River Trent unnavigable.
Several centuries followed and in 1671 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow for the improvement of the waterways between the River Trent and Boston.
However, only the Foss Dyke canal and the short stretch of the River Witham between the Brayford Pool and the bridge on the High Street were dredged at this time.
By the 18th century, the industrial revolution was creating a demand to move raw materials together with finished goods around the country.
Roads at this time were in a perilous state of disrepair and at the mercy of robbers and highwaymen and there was therefore a renewed interest in canals as a safe alternative method of transport for freight.
In the 1740s, the Foss Dyke and River Witham were again dredged to allow navigation between the River Trent and the coast. This work was carried out by Richard Ellison, the costs incurred being recouped by levying charges for the use of the waterway.
For nearly 100 years the River Witham and Foss Dyke were again busy with barges moving goods from the coast and the River Trent to Lincoln.
The 19th century also saw the growth of the pleasure boat industry in the area, with paddle steamer packet boats plying their trade and carrying tourists along the River Witham between Brayford Pool in Lincoln and Boston, and along the Foss Dyke and River Trent to Gainsborough.
In 1846 the railways reached Lincoln and this had a dramatic impact on the Brayford Pool. The railway soon became the major competitor to Britain's new canal network, offering a safe and fast alternative means of transport for passengers and freight.
By this time, the River Witham and Foss Dyke were again in need of dredging if they were to offer a viable method of transport and the Ellison family were not inclined to carry out this vital but costly maintenance work.
It therefore sold the lease of these waterways to the Great Northern Railway Company for £10,545 per year.
The railway, in turn, deliberately failed to carry out the maintenance work to the Foss Dyke and instead offered cheap travel for passengers and freight, pricing the canal out of the market.
A further consequence was that the packet steamer business, which had once thrived in Lincoln in the early part of the 19th century, finally ended in the early 1860s.
By the end of the 1800s, the River Witham and Foss Dyke waterway was running at a considerable loss, although profits made on the railway more than covered this for the railway company.
Although damaged by the railway, the waterways and Brayford Pool continued to be used for the carrying of freight well into the 20th century.
By the early 1900s, most of the warehouses which had lined the quays of the Brayford had been replaced with factories, breweries and mills.
Large sailing barges were used to transport goods to and from these businesses along the Foss Dyke to the River Trent at Torksey and east along the River Witham to the coast. However, improvements in road infrastructure in the latter half of the 20th century sounded the death knell for the Brayford Pool as a port.
Goods could now be transported quickly and cheaply both by road and rail, and the barges of the Foss Dyke and River Witham could no longer compete.
Following a further period of decline, the Brayford Pool area has recently undergone major redevelopment and is today once again a bustling community. Now, instead of factories and warehouses on its banks, there are restaurants, bars, a cinema and a thriving seat of learning in the form of the University of Lincoln.
Where once the calls of the bargemen and stevedores would have echoed across the busy waters of the pool, now can be heard the sound of tourists and revellers enjoying all that our vibrant city has to offer.