Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board

Paper read before the Royal Society of Arts, 21st December, 1945



Gold above and gold below,
The earth reflected the golden glow
From the river, hill and valley:
Gilt by the golden light of morn,
The Thames — it looked like the Golden Horn
And the barge that carried the coal or corn
Like Cleopatra's Galley.


Let poets rave of Arno's stream
And painters of the winding Rhine,
I will not ask a lovelier dream,
A sweeter scene, fair Thames, than thine.

On a certain occasion that great lover of London, the Rt.Hon.John Burns, is reported to have entertained a party of Americans at the House of Commons.
During their visit he took them on the terrace of the House, where, viewing the Thames, the visitors commented rather disparagingly on the size of the river as compared with such mighty American rivers as the Mississippi and the St.Lawrence.
Mr.Burns's reply was both striking and characteristic.
"Yes", said he, "I grant you have more water in your rivers, but the Thames is liquid history".
The reply was perfectly true, for small though the Thames may be compared with other great world rivers its story is woven into the warp and woof of English history.
Figures for the Thames are as follows:—
Total length from source to the Nore, 210 miles.
Rises 370 feet above sea level.
Average fall from Lechlade to London Bridge (143 miles) is 21 inches per mile.
Catchment Basin of Thames, 5,162 square miles (Mr.Frank Buckland, Select Committee on Thames River 1865, (Q.687).
Thames Valley above Teddington : N. of Thames, 1,907 square miles; S. of Thames, 1,948 square miles; total 3,855 square miles (Dr.Mill : Report for Jan. 1907).
Carrying the mind back through the centuries, one sees visions and dreams of persons and deeds associated with the river.
Caesar and his legions fording the Thames to come to grips with the Britons; Olaf of Norway in the A.D. 1009 Battle of London Bridge still commemorated in the Icelandic Saga; Norman William and his Vavasours; Princess Elizabeth at Traitors' Gate of the Tower during the reign of her sister, Queen Mary; the same Royal Virgin, now Queen, giving the accolade at Deptford to that bold pirate, Francis Drake.
Aquatic Lord Mayors' Shows on the river in bygone days conjure up memories that make one long for them to be repeated in our own day.
The Thames is intimately associated with the very foundations of English liberty, for it was at Runnymede in 1215 that Magna Carta was extorted by the Barons from King John.
For centuries it has played its part in the pageant of the English Court and of London life.
Its broad bosom has borne a hundred thousand argosies whose magic sails tell stories of sunlit lands of the sunrise, of the golden lands of the Spanish Main, or of the ghostly quiet twilight lands of the far North or far South.
From it and to it have sailed hero and coward, saint and sinner, patriot and traitor.
It saw the heir of a hundred Kings (James II) fleeing from a country whose rights and liberties he had woefully betrayed.
It saw the welcoming of his successor, whose Dutch fellow countrymen its sons had manfully resisted only a few years previously.
It saw the rise of Thames shipbuilding — and its decline.
It saw convicts shipped to Australia and welcomed the return of the grandsons of those same convicts when years after they visited the homelands in affluence.
While there have been many to sing the glories of mountain rill, or of Scottish or northern rivers, those who love the Thames have not been silent.
Pope has sung its glories and those of its tributaries in his poem "Windsor Forest"; Grey, in his ode on "A distant prospect of Eton College", waxes lyrical concerning the river.
Lovers of the Thames as widely different as Belloc, Arnold and William Watson have paid their tribute, while most of those who have spent years on its banks have fallen in love with it.
He who so loves the Thames and its ancient — and modern — story gets close to the mighty heart of England.
Concerning its source controversy has raged; some swear by Thames Head in Trewsbury Mead, near Cirencester, others swear at it, denying that this is the real source of the Thames and backing the claims of Seven Springs, near Cheltenham.
Tradition has ascribed the original and primary source of the Thames to a spot where in former times a perennial spring of water issued forth, forming Thames Head.
The well, however, out of which the water might indeed once have gushed has lost its potency.
It is arguable that in winter time the waters still well forth in copious flood, but even granting this there is ground for the uncertainty concerning the spring in Trewsbury Mead being the source of the Thames.
On the other hand, Seven Springs, near Cheltenham, which is regarded by some as the natural and commonsense source of the river, is the beginning of the rivulet which presently becomes the River Churn.
The difficulty between these competing sources is mentioned but there is this much to be said for Seven Springs, that the stream from there to the Nore is unbroken.
Where doctors differ who shall decide, and I have just stated the difficulty as a matter of interest.
In any case the Cotswold Hills, above dispute, are the cradle ground of the river, the mightiest the most important of our country's streams.
While may be it is too much to hope that the Thames, while still retaining its industry, will return to its former condition as a salmon river — I would remind you that London apprentices of former days objected to being fed with Thames salmon more than twice a week — yet it is much to be desired that the Thames from Westminster Bridge downwards should be rendered a far purer and less odorous river than it is at the present time.
As is the case with many things of might and renown, the origin of the Thames is a very modest one indeed.
While the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone trace their sources to or are fed by mountain glaciers, the Thames takes its rise in a quiet Gloucestershire spring.
Thence it flows through quiet pastoral scenes by Cricklade and Lechlade to many towered Oxford.
Leaving Oxford it passes through quaint Abingdon, past the ancestral home of the Harcourts at Nuneham, on through Pangbourne, Mapledurham and Caversham to "Biscuitville", generally known as Reading.
Leaving the biscuits and flowers of Reading, it proceeds on its way through Sonning, Shiplake, Henley, regatta town of world wide fame, Marlow, Maidenhead with its theatrical colony, to Windsor and Eton.
Then pass in quick succession Staines, Weybridge and Hampton with its memories of Cardinal Wolsey and his much-married master, Henry VIII; Kingston, with its memories of the Heptarchy still lingering in its all too narrow streets; Kew, with its famous gardens and pagoda; and Chiswick mark the path of the river to London Town.
Its path from London to the sea is marked by a wonderful chain of docks under the control of the Port of London Authority; Deptford, now fallen from the glories of the days of Evelyn and Pepys; the former Royal Palace of Greenwich, which Queen Mary II converted into a naval hospital; the Arsenal at Woolwich; cement works at Northfleet and Gravesend.
Pure at its source, and comparatively pure in its upper reaches — albeit impure from a drinking point of view — the Thames, as it reaches and passes London, acquires a foulness which is regretted by all who love it.
There is food for moralising in the thought that it goes in all its foulness for cleansing to the mighty mother of life — the ocean floods.


For the purposes of this Paper, the legislative history of the Thames may be divided as follows :- A — Prior to 1857.
B — From 1857 to 1866.
C — From 1866 to 1908.
D — From 1908 to 1930.
E — From 1930 to present day [1945].
The earliest note of actual traffic on the river is contained in the Chronicle of Abingdon Abbey, which states that in the days of Abbot Ordric (1054-1066) beyond the precinct of the church at a place called Barton, next the hamlet of Thrup, the wide bed of the river used to cause rowers no little difficulty.
The citizens of Oxford, therefore (having most traffic there) petitioned that the course of the river might be diverted through the church's meadow further south, and for this 100 herrings or anchovies should be paid as toll to the cellarer of the monastery.
In the final days of the life of Edward the Confessor in 1065-1066 — he died on January 5th in the latter year — the following law, inter alia, was passed:- "If mills, fisheries, or any other works are constructed to their (the four royal rivers) hindrance, let these works be destroyed, the waters repaired, and the forfeit to the King not forgotten.
" The four rivers in question were the Thames, the Severn, the Trent, and the Yorkshire Ouse.
From the date of the earliest records down to 1350 the general jurisdiction over the River Thames, and over the three or more other royal rivers, was a prerogative of the Crown exercised through mere special, temporary commissions, constituted chiefly by letters patent.
Magna Carta alluded to the Thames and said: "Let all kiddles be abolished.
The kiddles were rough weirs of stakes and brush­wood to keep up a head of water for millers, and large quantities of small fish were caught in them.
This upset the peasants who fished for food; and, in one petition, it was complained that mill owners caught the fish and fed them to swine, which was against the will of God.
In 1350 Parliament passed its first Act against obstructions of the navigable highway of the river.
The execution of this and of subsequent early Acts was also entrusted to commissions.
The earliest approach to a permanent public control, the Oxford-Burcot Commission inaugurated in 1605 and strengthened in 1623, was confined to its own district, and its membership was limited to eight connections of the University and City of Oxford.
Under it the first building of modern locks on the Thames took place.
The first general public authority was constituted in 1695, and from that time downwards there has been an almost unbroken succession of commissions.
There must be reserved between 1197 and 1857 the jurisdiction of the City of London; strict as far westward as Staines, vague and doubtful beyond.
In 1751, after a bitter fight with the Corporation of London, the Thames Commissioners, 600 in number, were appointed, and they gradually built the pound locks above Staines; and, at the same time, the Corporation built the pound locks below Staines.
No locks, in the familiar modern sense of the term, were built upon the Thames between those of the Oxford-Burcot Commission, whose works were completed about 1635, and 1771, nearly a century and a half later — an interval very surprising and very difficult to account for.
Local jurisdiction exercised by larger riparian communities over their own districts of the river should not be forgotten.
In some obscure and unrecorded fashion other powerful corporations such as Windsor and Kingston once exercised a more or less exclusive control over their communication by water with their neighbours and with London.
The bare fact that there were towns on the banks between which the water would often be the quickest and easiest communication, presupposes some immemorial, decentralised jurisdiction, or prescription, in support of local navigation against encroachments.
In June, 1847, the first Thames Conservancy Bill appeared before Parliament, promoted by the City Corporation itself, suggesting a new authority for the River Thames.
This was to comprise the Lord Mayor, the First Lord of the Treasury, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, the last Lord Mayor, the Chairman of the Trinity Board, two Aldermen, the Admiralty Hydrographer, and eight common councilmen.
Year after year this Bill was presented but made no progress.
In 1855, £30,000 being urgently required by the Corporation for repairs and building, the Common Council of the City declined to lend it, and the Navigation Committee turned in despair to the Government.
They were somewhat coldly informed that it was their duty to find the money.
The dispute, however, ended in a compromise and on March 1, 1857, the Crown rights and those of the City were conveyed to a new Board of Conservancy, except in places immediately adjacent to royal property.
The new Board was to consist of eleven persons — the Lord Mayor, two Aldermen, four nominees of the Common Council, the Deputy Master of Trinity House, and three nominees of the Crown.
These conditions were embodied the same year in the Act 20 & 21 Vict.
, C.
Under this statute it was recited that extensive dredging was necessary; that many unauthorised encroachments must be removed; that the steam traffic needed regulation; and that the whole river up to Staines ought to be placed under one authority possessing the powers formerly enjoyed by the City.
This body was forthwith constituted, with a few differences from the original suggestions.
Instead of the three Crown nominations two were to come from the Lord High Admiral, one from the Privy Council, and the fourth from Trinity House of Deptford Strond, thus forming a Board of twelve in all.
The City of London was thus finally excluded from the ancient office it had enjoyed and exercised wholly or in part during the greater part of seven centuries.
Shortly, the effect of that Act was, in particular, to establish a new body, viz.
, the Conservators of the River Thames in whom were vested (inter alia) the various previously disputed matters of jurisdiction, etc.
, claimed by the Crown and the Corporation respectively, from Staines to the Nore.
The Authority constituted under the Act of 1866 is the only body that ever held sole jurisdiction under statute over the whole navigable river from Cricklade to Yantlet Creek, practically opposite Southend.
Five new members were added to the then existing eighteen Conservators, and new revenue was to be secured by a £1,000 annual contribution from each of five Metropolitan Water Companies.
No new flow of sewage into the river was to be allowed; and existing sewage works were to cease using it after due notice.
There appears to have been a minor scandal from a financial point of view in connection with the debts owing to bond holders prior to this body being set up, as ultimately they became worth practically nothing.
Some bonds originally issued in 1771 were exchanged for Thames Conservancy Stock for about 5 per cent.
of their face value.
The body thus created undoubtedly did some really good work in the direction of regulation and cleansing.
It may be noted also that the Act of 1866 was the first and a most important Parliamentary landmark (or watermark) in the relations between the Thames Conservancy and the then Metropolitan Water Companies, predecessors of the present Metropolitan Water Board, for regulating (in place of certain former agreements) the terms and conditions of the abstraction of water from the river and imposing on the Conservators certain new powers and duties regarding the prevention of pollution of the Thames and certain tributaries.
The next step of importance was the Thames Conservancy Act, 1894, which, although to a great extent a consolidation Act, also provided for the reconstitution of the Conservators and increased their powers in various respects and dealt further with their relations with the Metropolitan Water Companies.
Up to 1908 the policy of Parliament in legislating for the Thames had been one of gradual centralisation; but in that year it took a somewhat different course when the Port of London Act was passed, whereby the Port of London Authority was created and constituted, and there was transferred to them the control of the Thames below the boundary of the Parishes of Twickenham and Teddington, thereby (inter alia) depriving the Conservators of considerable revenue previously accruing to them from sources within the limits of the Port of London, etc.
The Conservators themselves were also reconstituted, but were given no new source of revenue.
The Act actually came into force on April 1, 1909; and incidentally it may be noted that the same Government which introduced payment of Members of Parliament, abolished the statutory personal payments previously received by the Conservators.
Under this Act the jurisdiction over the non-tidal waters became for the first time something approaching democratic, and the extent of the Conservancy jurisdiction was modified.
The number of Conservators was reduced to twenty-eight.
Four were deputed by the Board of Trade to represent expressly the barge and pleasure traffic.
One came from the Port of London Authority, two from the Metropolitan Water Board, three from the London County Council, two from the Corporation of the City of London, and the remainder from the seven upper riparian county councils and various riverside boroughs and urban councils.
Between 1908 and 1924 various Acts were passed dealing further, mainly, with the relations between the Conservators and the Metropolitan Water Board, culminating in the Thames Conservancy Act, 1924, for (inter alia) giving effect to certain recommendations in that behalf of an InterDepartmental Committee, which sat in 1923.
Throughout the above mentioned period of statutory evolution the jurisdiction of the Conservators may (with gradual variation and extensions) be said to have been confined to the same three main subject matters, viz.
, Conservancy of the Navigation, Regulation of the Flow, and Prevention of Pollution, and it was not until 1930 that any notable addition was made to the scope of their activities.
This was effected by the Land Drainage Act, 1930, by which the Conservators (who were thereby again reconstituted) were made the Catchment Board of the Drainage Area of the Thames above Teddington with the general powers conferred by that Act on Catchment Boards in general, including the power of recovering their expenses incurred in the exercise of those new powers, i.e, by precepting upon Internal (or minor) Drainage Boards, and County and County Borough Councils.
(Incidentally, the Conservators subsequently took steps to have all Internal Boards in their area abolished, so that their levies under the Act of 1930 are now made on County and County Borough Councils only.
) During the passage through Parliament of the Bill for the Act of 1930, the question arose whether the Catchment Board for the Thames Area should be a new and separate body or that the object of Parliament should be achieved by clothing the existing Conservators with the necessary new and additional provisions in that behalf.
The latter course was adopted (in contradistinction to the case of the River Lee, in which the former course was chosen); and it should therefore be clearly understood that the Conservators are one and the same body (in direct descent from the first Authority created in 1857) and not two separate undertakings.
Only time will show whether the Thames model in that behalf or the Lee model is the better from the point of administering the various functions concerned.
It remains to refer to the Thames Conservancy Act, 1932, by which the above mentioned Act of 1894 and subsequent Conservancy Acts were repealed and consolidated, without prejudice to the Conservators' position arising out of the Land Drainage Act.
Today, therefore, the Conservators' writ runs on a navigable waterway some 136 miles in length; in an area of land about 3,812 square miles for the purposes of the prevention of pollution; and, as regards land drainage work, over a "main river" (inclusive of the Thames itself and certain tributaries) approximately 1,419 miles in length.


From the foregoing it will be seen that the present Thames Conservancy, in addition to the old duties covering the river and its tributaries from the source to Teddington has the new duties of land drainage.
The old duties are as follows:— navigation, regulation of water works, pollution and finance.
I will deal with these seriatim.


The Conservancy are responsible for the proper navigation between Cricklade and Teddington, 136 miles, and the working of forty-four locks and ten ferries on the Thames and one lock on the Kennet.
For these duties they employ a Chief Inspector and four assistants, each with a motor launch, and each assistant has a definite length of river.
They have to see that craft navigate with care; that there is no undue speed; and that all byelaws are observed and no obstructions created.
They deal with moorings and act more or less as river police, and they keep order at the regattas, including Henley.
They check the registration of launches and boats.
They see that the lock keepers and ferrymen do their work properly and the locks are kept clean.
They see the water is regulated properly and records kept of water levels.
They collect the money received in lock tolls by the lock-keepers.
The Conservancy have five lock-keepers at Teddington, three at Molesey and Sunbury, and one at each of the others, with a summer assistant.
There is a relief lock-keeper for each six locks, so that every one gets a day off once a week.
The Admiralty ask the Conservancy to look out for boats flying the wrong flag, so if you fly a Union Jack you are liable to a fine of £500.
The Conservancy also have an Inspector of Motor Launches to inspect them and certify that they comply with the regulations for prevention of fire, and no launch may go on the river without such certificate.
A launch on fire in a crowded lock might prove a major disaster.
The ten ferries are where the towpath changes sides, and were established to take the towing horses over.
It is years since horses did any towing, and the ferries are mainly used for taking the public across.


This is very important and no easy job and the Conservancy have not control of all the sluices as the mills regulate these, and in getting flood water away, their interests sometimes clash; but on the whole, they are very helpful.
The Conservancy have at all times to keep the water in all reaches up to head for navigation and milling and yet get the water away as quickly as possible in times of flood and conserve it in times of drought.
The weirs and sluices, 157 in number, are worked by the lock-keepers under the supervision of the Chief Navigation Inspector, who, in times of difficulty, gets orders from the Chief Engineer of the Conservancy.
The action of the lock keepers has to be carefully co-ordinated.
If one draws too much, one can get periods of too much and too little water in a reach alternately, and this goes down from reach to reach.
The Conservancy gets complaints, and it takes some time to get right.
The mills on the tributaries shut down or open up their gates without the Conservancy knowing, and this upsets calculations, especially in time of drought.
The Conservancy have telephones at all the important locks, and this arrangement is a great help in co-ordinating the work and in getting prompt instructions from Head Office.
The flow is gauged at Teddington and worked out every day.

Actual flow20,135.7 m.g.18.11.1894 16.9 m.g.29.10.1934.
Natural20,236.4 m.g.18.11.1894. 140.5 m.g.9.7.1934.

The actual flow is the quantity gauged at Teddington Weir; the natural flow is the actual flow plus the quantity abstracted for water supply by the Metropolitan Water Board and suburban water companies.
With a flow not exceeding 4,500 millions, the river should keep within its banks above Shepperton, but below Shepperton, owing to the Thames Improvement Scheme, the river should keep within banks until the flow exceeds 7,500.
The Conservancy ought not to get a flood of 20,000 millions again owing to improvements, better regulation and control, but one never knows what a combination of melting snow or frozen ground with rain falling will do.
By statute the Metropolitan Water Board is not allowed to take any water when the flow goes down to 170 millions at Teddington; and this is to allow sufficient fresh water to go down through London.
When this happens they have to draw on the reservoirs; and the Metropolitan Water Board is now building three new ones holding 12,000 millions between them, bringing the total storage up to 30,000 millions.
Further reservoirs are projected with an additional storage capacity of approximately 11,500 m.g.
This extra storage will make things easier for the Conservancy.
The average consumption of the Board during 1940-41 was 302 millions a day, of which 184 millions came from the Thames.
The highest consumption ever recorded on one day was 410 millions a few years ago.
In times of drought the Conservancy have to nurse the water down the river and keep it up at the Water Board's intakes at Staines, Penton Hook and Walton.
There is always the closest co-operation between the Conservancy and the Water Board.
It would not be inappropriate if I here referred to the part that Captain Bray, the Chairman of the Thames Conservancy, and a member of my own Board, has played in obtaining this co-operation.
My own dealings with him have always been of the most cordial nature and I have found both him and my fellow conservators ever ready to appreciate the importance of the Water Board point of view and the reaction of the performance of their duties on London's water supply.
Some little time ago the Conservancy started gauging the Thames at Days Lock, near Dorchester, above the entrance of the Thame.
Above Days there is no water from chalk formations, below it is mostly chalk.
Interesting facts are that the capacity of the Thames from Lechlade to Teddington is 4,500 millions — a little more than one of the Water Board's new reservoirs — and that on a hot and sunny day in July, seven million gallons are lost from the river by evaporation.


This is under the Chief Engineer, Mr.Stock.
The Thames is divided into three sections with works and repair yard at Sunbury, Reading and Oxford, each under a District Engineer.
The Conservancy do, and always have done, all work by direct labour.
The Thames Conservancy Improvement Scheme, 1930-35, costing £300,000 between Shepperton and Teddington, was carried out by direct labour.
They have to keep 45 locks and 158 weirs in good order and repair.
The lock houses, certain accommodations, bridges and all constructional work have to be kept up.
Then the Conservancy have to keep the river dredged between Lechlade in Gloucestershire and Teddington.
This is done by mechanical dredgers and drag lines, with a certain amount of hand dredging.
The weeds have to be cut in places.
There is a lot of campshedding, concrete bagging, etc.
to be done to prevent scour and erosion.
Soundings and surveys of the river bed have to be made, and the Conservancy have enough under water work to employ a whole time diver.
At this moment the department employs 250 men, besides the 250 on land drainage, making a total of 500.
All this work entails a heavy and anxious responsibility on the Chief Engineer of the Conservancy.
The wear and tear and decay all goes on underwater and unseen.
No one knows what a big flood will do.
Constant and never ceasing supervision is necessary to prevent a big disaster.


The Conservancy have power to prevent any injurious matter entering any watercourse or ditch in the whole Catchment Area that ultimately communicates with the Thames.
Of course, this is for the protection of undertakings getting water from the Thames.
Banbury, Witney, Oxford and Reading, the Woking Water Company, South West Suburban, the West Surrey, and, last but not least, the Metropolitan Water Board all get their water from the Thames and its tributaries.
Normally the area is divided into two districts with a Chief Inspector in charge of each, and under them are sixteen Deputy and Assistant Inspectors.
They have to inspect all sewage disposal works and the drainage of premises of all description, and they take all the samples which are analysed by the Conservancy's own Analyst.
War demands have produced modifications, but the inspection is carried out as zealously as ever.
From the point of view of the Metropolitan Water Board it is essential that this should be so, for while the Board can purify almost any water, the higher the purity of incoming water the better it is for the Water Board.
Pollution is growing less and less in the built up areas and villages owing to the increasing number of main drainage schemes.
The effluents from these give the Conservancy very little real trouble.
The country districts are more difficult than they used to be.
There is much more water consumed, the clean milk campaign has led to far more washing down of cowstalls, etc.
, and there is much more effluent from farms to dispose of.
Milk, as far as the Thames Conservancy is concerned, is an evil thing.
The effluent from milk factories is very difficult to treat.
One part of milk in ninety-nine parts of water makes as bad an effluent as crude sewage.
The Conservancy do not mind water being added to the milk, but they do mind milk being added to the water.
Sugarbeet factories are difficult, but now Eynsham has closed down, the Conservancy have none.
Paper mills are troublesome, especially the washings from esparto grass, as the suspended and colloidal matters are difficult to get rid of.
The Conservancy only makes chemical analyses.
In the Thames they provide a river of great chemical purity; and, in consequence it is bacteriologically as pure as, if not purer than, any other rivers.
The present standard of purity for sewage effluents was fixed many years ago when the science of water examination was more in its infancy than is the case to-day.
In many quarters it is thought that there must be upward revision of these standards now that the war is over.
The water undertakers have to deal with the bacteriological question and chlorination and filtration are necessary.
With these pre­cautions the Metropolitan Water Board provides London with the purest water in all the world.
Nature is a wonderful purifier of water.
The splashing of the water over the numerous overfalls oxygenates it.
The slow-moving stream in times of drought works wonders, as the water rests, and at times in summer there is an algal growth that absorbs oxygen in the dark and gives it out in the light, and so we gain, as the hours of daylight are longer than the dark.
Local authorities, owners and occupiers throughout the whole Catchment Area are amazingly helpful; and I am glad of this opportunity to pay tribute to them and to those who act for them for their willing and ready co-operation.
Prosecutions are few and far between, as it is generally found that remonstrance and reason do the work that otherwise would be done by the strong arm of the law.
It will be realised that sewage authorities, with a great influx of population, both civil and military, have many troubles of their own.
These troubles are realised by the Conservancy and allowances made, but ultimate purity according to a standard must be attained.


Thames Conservancy Funds and Land Drainage Funds are quite separate, but as some of the work done on the Thames to weirs and sluices, dredging, etc., enures to the benefit of land drainage, a proportion of the costs of these are paid out of the Land Drainage Account.
A portion of head office and establishment expenditure is also paid.
The Conservancy income is fixed and they are really hard up.
The total income is about £130,000 (plus about £13,000 paid by Land Drainage), of which £90,000 is paid by the Metropolitan Water Board; other water companies pay £6,000, contributions from local authorities below Windsor £6,000, lock tolls from tugs, barges, launches and pleasure boats £12,000, registration of launches, boats, etc.
, £12,000.
The merchandise traffic is slowly diminishing, I am sorry to say, and there is none above Oxford now the Thames and Severn Canal is derelict.
The traffic was 358,000 tons in 1927 and 317,000 in 1937.
Reference has already been made to the extra work at the locks due to traffic of a secret nature, and this, of course, will increase the tonnage in the present and future years.
What the financial return on this tonnage will be it is impossible to say at the present time, but the Thames Conservancy always takes the philosophic view that any income from proper sources is very welcome.
The Thames Conservancy spend about £50,000 a year in works of maintenance, river purification service about £13,000, lock-keepers and ferrymen £10,000, pensions £12,000, loan charges £23,000 — these are the main items.
They have had to spend a good deal of capital money in rebuilding locks and weirs.
The rebuilding of Molesey and Shepperton Weirs recently cost about £9,000 each.
To rebuild a lock may cost £14,000.
The Conservancy accounts are audited by a Treasury Auditor and have to be laid before Parliament.


The Act of 1930 made the Thames Conservancy the Thames Catchment Board as well.
Catchment Boards are responsible for maintaining a free channel for water in what are scheduled by the Ministry of Agriculture as main rivers, i.e., the main arterial drainage channels.
It was the bad state of these and the fact that it was difficult to compel the various riparian owners and occupiers to clean them out that led to the passing of the Act.
The first essential of land drainage is that the main channels shall be consistently kept clean from end to end and then the minor water­courses and ditches can be dealt with.
The work is done under the Chief Engineer of the Conservancy, and the Catchment Area is divided into three with a District Engineer and an assistant in each.
A Surveyor with a roving commission is kept at head office to investigate special matters and complaints.
When the Act came into force, 594 miles were declared main river.
Later, when the Wey Improvement Scheme was finished, 94 miles of the Wey were taken on; up to October 1, 1939, a further 731 miles were mained, making a total of 1,419 miles of main river the Conservancy have to keep clear.
This last addition of 731 miles was in consequence of a scheme for abolishing all the eleven Internal Drainage Boards.
Under the Act the Conservancy had to put forward a scheme dealing with them.
The existing ones were working badly.
They were too small.
Most of their money went in administration, and very little work was done to the streams at all.
The Conservancy could have taken them over; they could have amalgamated them; they could have enlarged them; they could have made fourteen new ones covering the whole lowland area.
The eleven existing Boards only covered 79,000 acres out of 314,000 acres of lowland area.
The Conservancy found a scheme for fourteen new Boards would cost £15,000 a year more in maintaining the rivers than if they did the Work themselves.
So they put up a scheme under which they were all abolished.
Hertford objected and so the Minister held an Inquiry; and, after a five-days hearing, decided in the Conservancy's favour.
The Boards were abolished and 731 miles of additional streams were mained.
The Land Drainage Fund gets its money by precept on the general funds of the County Councils and County Boroughs; and, under the Act, the Conservancy are limited to a 2d. rate.
However, the Conservancy came to a gentleman's agreement with the counties that, during the first five years after taking over the new rivers, their rate should not have exceeded 1d. in the £ for the whole land drainage work.
The actual figures are for the year to March 31, 1940, £52,000 or 0.72 of a 1d. in the £, and for the fifth year to March 31, 1944, £70,000 = 9'7d.
This is now modified and it is expected that, in spite of the figures mentioned, a 2d. rate for land drainage will come into operation in the year 1943.
After the initial clearance has been finished, the Conservancy's costs should drop, but every effort is being made to bring as much acreage into a cultivatable state as possible.
The Catchment Board cannot rate land, their money coming out of the general rates of the Counties.
Only Internal Drainage Boards can rate land, so if these were to be abolished, it would be immediately said, "How can your scheme of abolition be fair as land is de-rated and this is a Land Drainage Act?" Captain Bray has always contended that "Land Drainage" is a misleading term.
"Disposal of surplus rainfall" describes it better.
I agree with him on this.
Building development, impervious surfaces, new roads, tarred roads have brought the water travelling down to the lowland area more quickly and in greater volume than in days gone by, they have caused the streams in those areas to be unable to deal with the water, and it is fair that the community, other than the agricultural, should bear a great deal of the cost.
But, although land is derated, the industry of agriculture is not.
The farm homes and cottages pay rates; and, if you work it out, on many farms the rateable value of farm house and cottages is 20 to 25 per cent of what the rateable value of the whole farm would be if land were not derated.
Industrial hereditaments are derated 75 per cent, so a farm derated 75 to 80 per cent.
is much on a par with industry.
But the matter does not end there.
There are many watercourses not scheduled as main river that form the link between towns and villages and the main rivers and which take much water from built-up areas and from roads, and the occupier of the land through which they run is the only person who can be made to clear these out and he can be made to do it at his own expense under Section 35 of the Act.
Agriculture is, therefore, in the Conservancy's opinion, bearing its full burden of the cost of disposal of surplus rainfall, and their scheme spreads the burden of the cost over all sections of the community in the fairest possible way.
The work the Conservancy do is all done by many separate gangs of men each under a foreman.
They remove all dead trees, trim overhanging boughs, cut weeds and remove bad flams and patches of silt, and they try to restore the natural flow of the stream.
They give them what they call amongst themselves "A good mush out", and when they have mushed them out, they keep them mushed out.
With a view to helping land drainage matters, drafts of conscientious objectors and Italian prisoners have been given to the Conservancy.
The last named have worked very well indeed.
The Conservancy consult owners and occupiers before they do any work.
They want pleasant and friendly co-operation; and thanks to owners and occupiers, they get it.
The Conservancy try to preserve amenities and interfere as little as possible with the looks of the countryside.
They do not like cutting trees.
They like to do their work so that when the inevitable scars have healed no one can see they have ever been there.
This is a short summary of the Conservancy's activities.
The work is very varied and very interesting.
The Standing Committees of the Conservancy consist of :— Works, Navigation and Regulation of Water, River Purification, Finance and General Purposes, Parliamentary, Land Drainage, and Establishment.
These, however, are not functioning at the present time, their work being undertaken by two Special Committees:— Civil Defence Special Committee, and Drainage of Land Emergency Special Committee.
There is also another small committee of a special character which deals with the lock staff.
Since my appointment to the Conservancy I have had the honour and pleasure of serving on the Civil Defence Special Committee which undertakes the whole of the work of the Conservancy except that covered by the Land Drainage and Lock Staff Special Committees.
The Conservancy itself meets quarterly, but the Special Committees mentioned meet monthly.
Before I close I would like to pay my acknowkdgments to those who have helped me in the preparation of this paper.
These are :— Captain Bray, to whose paper to the Surveyors' Institution I am indebted; Mr. Fred S. Thacker (The Thames Highway); the Board's own Handbook; Mr. A.Crook and Mr.D.J.Day, of the Clerk's Department; and last, but by no means least, my Secretary Miss M.J.Sabourin, to whose energy and patience I am very much indebted.
May I conclude as I began, by inflicting upon you some verses descriptive of the Thames:

The song that the River sang.
Ere he merged in the infinite sea
Like a strong soul turned without pang
To his rest in Eternity.
And ever he chanted and ever he ran,
And ended with joy as with joy he began
And thus he sang to me.

I rise in a western hill,
In a covert of dew and of moss,
A murmunng musical reel
A Maiden's leap could cross.
Small furry creatures and snakes that glide
Come stopping to drink in the hot noon tide
And birds my waters toss.

By Lechlade I murmur and run,
Then mingle with children at play
In meadows whose lover the sun
Has filled with the burden of May,
And love has not dimpled the face of a girl
More softly than mine as I eddy and whirl
Where islands check my way.

Mine ancient course I keep
Where Oxford sets her spires,
And far away I sweep
Through broad and leafy shires.
And swift and strong I hurry on down
To the old grey bridge at Henley Town,
In a course that never tires.

By ait and wind-swept down
And toll from many a rill
, I wind through the Royal Town.
And pass sweet Cooper's Hill.
And broad and strong and full to the lips,
I cradle at last the mighty ships
Whose sails the sea winds fill.

So the Thames rejoiced and sang
As he drew to the sea and his rest.
His strong soul knew no pang
Though he flung one sigh to the West,
And brave hearts end like the noble stream
Having lived life full and followed the gleam,
Having sought and found the best.

{Lantern slides illustrative of the lecture were shown.}

This brings to an end the story of the Thames, from the earliest times before the Conquest up till to-day.
In conclusion, I can say that the Thrones Conservancy is facing its reconstruction tasks with zeal and vigour; and, speaking for my colleague and myself, I can say that neither Thames-side people nor London will be let down by it.


Major W.H.Cadman:
May I ask the lecturer in connection with this fascinating story which he has given us whether the question of irrigation has ever cropped up?
We have been told about drainage; has the use of water for irrigating the land been considered?
The problem in the Thames Valley is to get the water away rather than to spread it over the land.
The question would apply more to East Angla and Palestine.

Lt.Colonel J.D.K.Restler:
Perhaps I may be permitted to dot the i's and cross the ts on questions of history.
It is fifty years since I first owned a steam launch on the Thames and it is amazing to think of the extraordinary development that has taken place in one short lifetime.
In the year of the very big flood, I actually saw water up to within nine inches of the top of the banks of the Hampton Works.
At the time that was one of the main works for the supply of London.
If the water had risen another nine inches, it would have swept the banks away together with a large section of the filtration works for the supply of London, which would have been a major disaster.
That was largely due to the very severe flooding taking place before the new weirs were constructed.
In fact I believe it was one of the nearly major disasters which resulted in the redesigning of the weirs.
Six months after that — this is an extraordinary thing which has not happened since and I hope will not happen again — I saw an ox roasted in the middle of the river at Hampton.
Mr. Berry sadly referred to the stopping of ship building on the lower Thames.
I saw at the Thames Iron Works, the First Class Battleships, "Duncan", the "Cornwallis" and the "Albermarle" all on the stocks at the same time.
At one time both Thorney-crofts and Yarrow were building on the river.
London was one of the great ship building centres of the community.
Many of us think that it is a great pity that London is not still building ships.
One further matter of interest is that I saw tidal water flowing into the reservoirs at the Old Battersea Works at Battersea Reach.
It seems most amazing now-a-days, when you think of all the trouble and care which is taken to sterilize water, that water on the top of the flood tides was actually being taken into the supply of London.

Mr.Geoffrey Hutchinson:
As I listened to the paper which we have heard, there was one point which I thought might be of practical importance.
We know, Sir, that you, before very long, will probably be introducing a Bill which will give us a new form of river authority.
The special feature of that authority will be that the new River Boards, as I understand them, will combine the functions of the catchment authorities, the river pollution authorities, and, to a certain extent, the navigation authorities.
I was particularly interested in what Mr.Berry had to tell us about the experience of the Thames Conservancy, because that body appears to be the prototype of these new boards.
The Thames Conservancy does already combine in a single organisation those three functions.
I should be interested if Mr. Berry could give us the benefit of his experience upon that authority as an indication of the way in which he thinks that these new over authorities are going to function.
I was a little disturbed to hear that apparently a precept representing a twopenny rate is already likely to prove insufficient for the Thames Conservancy.
I hope that that will not prove the case with these new river boards, because, if it does, it may well be that the county councils will have to consider the additional burden which may be placed upon them.
I think I can say that the Thames Conservancy works with as little friction as any body upon which I serve.
In my opinion it is the type of body that is most efficient for this work.
I am sure Mr.Hutchinson will agree with me that the Minister of Agriculture is deserving of every sympathy in trying to marry together all the different interests in order to produce his River Boards Bill.
In the White Paper, the Thames Conservancy, together with the Lee Conservancy, is held up as an example of what the new board should be.
I am hoping that the Thames Conservancy model will be followed rather than the Lee Conservancy model.
With regard to the twopenny rate, that was a matter of pure speculation on my part; but, bearing in mind the increase in costs and also bearing in mind the point that one does not see why the upland authorities should not pay as well as London, the precept might well rise above twopence.
I am told you cannot get much for twopence these days.
It may well be that we shall have to adjust our idea's of rating and everything else.
But the work of the Thames Conservancy must go on, not only for the protection of riparian area and county boroughs, but in order that the Thames may be preserved as our great heritage.

It has taken me just one hour and ten minutes to appreciate exactly why I was invited to be chairman.
My ex-colleague, Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson, has raised the matter to a very high level.
I should like to tell you that we are in communication with the appropriate authorities, who, despite what may be said by the outsider to the contrary, are never anxious to throw the rate-payers' money away.
I am sure you have all been interested in the lecture.
For myself, it has been a real treat.
When the time comes for my prospective measure to be approaching possible preparation, I shall know at least of one source of information, advice and guidance which may help me over many hurdles.
I would like to say on your behalf how much we appreciated Mr. Berry's paper.
It has been a real intellectual and historical treat, and I think the heartiest vote of thanks is due to Mr. Berry.

(The vote of thanks was carried with acclamation.)

Mr. Chairman, I hope you will allow me to say that in the preparation of talks of this character, seeing that I am a lover of history, I get my own reward in the work of preparation.
It has been of intense interest to prepare this paper, and I am glad it has proved to be acceptable to you.
I think I in turn would like to express your appreciation of the honour done to us by the Minister, who, out of a busy life, has spared valuable time to come here to-day.
Mr. Williams and I campaigned together during the war in Connection with the "Dig for Victory" campaign.
I remember he pointed out that it was rather strange that in days gone by a certain noble Lord, who had lived all his life on the land, had been made Minister of Mines, whereas Mr. Williams, who has spent a fair part of his life in mines, was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.
I think we can all rejoice that he has made himself master of his subject.
It was so in the last Parliament and it is so in this.
The fact that a Minister of the Crown has found time to honour us with his presence is a matter which is worthy of our most grateful thanks.

(The vote of thanks was carried with acclamation and the meeting then terminated.)