Historical Position

The Isle of Axholme lies at the extreme north western corner of Lincolnshire. It is bounded on the eastern side by the Trent, and on the northern and north-western sides by the old river Don, which flowed by Crowle, Luddington and Garthorpe into the Trent.


In doing so it formed part of the boundary between Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. The old rivers Torne and Idle formed the western boundary and the ancient Bykersdyke, which runs from the Idle to the Trent, may be regarded as completing the circuit.


The first thing you notice about the Isle is the nature of the rivers. They meander along with no clear direction. This is explained by the land being relatively flat and without a gentle gradient to provide a directional flow.


This led to ‘inundation’, i.e. flooding, and was caused when the water level of the River Trent was too high, such that the waters from the Rivers’ Idle and Torn, having nowhere to drain, flooded the adjacent low lying land.


Going back to the ninth century, records exist of various schemes to control this ‘inundation’, but for the greater part, any success was short lived. This can mainly be attributed to the construction materials used, particularly as they would invariably comprise wood and earth.


Attempts have been made to deal with the problem and Vermuyden, perhaps one of the best known, was, in the fifteenth century, commissioned to drain the area.

His contribution was to straighten the course of the Rivers Idle and Torn from the south, and the River Don from the west, with a link to an outfall into the river Trent at Althorpe.


This was not altogether successful as it resulted in some previously dry areas now being subject to flooding.


Other schemes were devised and employed to effect an improvement and for the next 200 years, the whole area was gravity drained using sluice gates.

So Why do we have a Pumping station at Owston Ferry?

The Isle of Axholme Parliamentary Enclosure in 1801 led to the Ferry drain being created. It linked to the ancient Monkhams drain which runs to the south of Owston Ferry in such a way that waters to the west of the high ground in the Isle of Axholme could be drained to the River Trent.

Looking west from outside the building, you will see “Drain Head” and two distinct channels of water. The one on the left is the Snow Sewer, and the on the right is Ferry Drain.

Depending on the volume of water and the state of the tide in the Trent, the water levels in both the Snow Sewer and Ferry Drain can be below the level of the River Trent, and so they may both require pumping assistance to lift the water into the River Trent.


The more local drainage area at that time included areas of low-lying land to the south of the Snow Sewer, and in consequence the drainage water from that area had to be culverted to pass under the Snow Sewer on its way to Ferry Drain. It was this culvert that was to prove problematic because during periods of heavy rainfall, the valves at the Snow Sewer culvert closed and so prevented the flow of drainage water from the south to the Ferry Drain.


After much local discussion landowners were presented with two possible remedies. One was to provide another sluice into the tidal Trent at a point south of the Snow Sewer while the other necessitated deepening the existing Ferry Drain by about four foot and erecting a pumping station at the sluice. The consulting engineer at the time, John Simmons of Doncaster, recommended the latter and this Pumping Station was erected in 1910.


The amount of water being removed from the Isle of Axholme varies according to the time of year. More water is allowed to remain in the drains during the summer months for abstraction to water crops and less during the winter.

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