The Canal Revisited by Peter Mills

Historical facts can be difficult to establish, but at least we usually know why people made things or did things.
Until we come to Titchfield, of course, with what is termed its canal, the artificial watercourse stretching from the village to the sea. Although it is inescapably there, we simply do not know when it was formed, who paid for it, and above all what it was for.
And to compound the problem, a short distance away we have the sealed-off mouth of the river Meon. This time we know (probably) when it was sealed and who paid for it, but the purpose remains a complete mystery. And finally, turning the issue upside down, we all know what a port is for.
But the problem with the ancient port of Titchfield is that we do not know for certain that it ever existed.
In the absence of knowledge, many different ideas have been developed. The simple common notion is that the sealing of the estuary stopped trading vessels from reaching Titchfield, but the link was restored by the construction of the canal.
This notion has been challenged, particularly by Ken Groves and John Mitchell (neither sadly still with us), their ideas being set out in detail in the Blue Book.
Both assumed that Titchfield had previously been a port, but neither thought (for quite different reasons) that the sealing-off directly prevented trading.
This happened much later, but whereas Ken thought that the canal subsequently retained the link, John regarded the loss as terminal, with the watercourse formed to support a water meadow system.
The principal reason for the continuing uncertainty is the almost complete lack of documentary evidence. What little we have is enigmatic and offers no clue as to purpose.
Yet the canal and the sealed estuary are both there, and what interests/exasperates me is the thought that when the construction work took place the people of Titchfield must have known quite clearly what it was all about.
But over the years all that common knowledge slowly dissipated, until today it has completely vanished. Following Ken and John’s endeavours, I have three thoughts about how we might make some further progress.
Firstly, in the absence of additional factual information, I think there needs to be a stronger focus on why things happened rather than on the when or the how.
Secondly, if possible we should pick up on Ken’s idea of commissioning some exploration of what lies at the bottom of the canal or the estuary. Finally, I think we need to look critically at the assumption that trading vessels actually made their way up the river to Titchfield.
If they did not, then the debate would take a very different turn.
Maybe none if this will yield anything more, but we could give it a try!


The most ambitious of the third Earl’s projects for the development of his estates was the closing of the Meon estuary and the replacement of the navigable tidal channel by a canal. This canal, once called the New River and in recent times just “the river”, runs to the west of the old winding channel from just below the Titchfield corn mill past the parish church and Great Posbrook to the sea near Meon beach. Visitors can follow the towpath from the footbridge behind the parish church to the former sea-lock at Meon Bridge.

The works were completed in 1611. In that year the parish register noted on 23rd June that “Titchfield Haven was shut out by one Richard Talbottes industry under God’s permission at the cost of the Right Honourable the Earle of Southampton”. Village legend has it that Dutch engineers were hired for the undertaking. This may well be true, but the Talbots were a local family, and no Dutch names appear in the parish registers.

A shingle bank was built across most of the mouth of the estuary but leaving two exits. One, to the east, was controlled by a large sluice gate which regulated the flow of water from the enclosed and now fresh water Haven into the small harbour at Hill Head. The other, to the west, originally permitted the tide to flow into a small inlet and up to a point below Meon hamlet where a sea-lock was built (SU5 32027). The remains of this lock suggest that it was a “staunch” lock, with a single pair of gates. Vessels passing back and forth would have waited until the tide reached the water level in the canal, when the gates would have been opened; the lock could not therefore, like more modern locks, have been used at all states of the tide.

We are still uncertain about the main purpose of the whole project; remarkably few documents exist which reveal much about it. There is no doubt that it was at least in part a water meadow system. Water meadows – the controlled flooding or irrigation of meadows for the production of more hay and grass – were a continental development and in 1611 only a recent introduction into England. A regular series of small sluice gates along the canal, most of them destroyed in living memory, permitted the water in the canal to be used in this way; White’s Directory in 1859 in fact says that the canal was “chiefly for the purpose of drainage and irrigation, and not now used for the navigation of barges’’. Presumably it was intended that with increased fodder the whole estate would carry a larger number of cattle and sheep, providing meat, hides and wool.

On the other hand, the third Earl, as we have seen, was also interested in shipping. He was a very active sponsor of the exploration and development of North America. Closer to home his enthusiasm was once illustrated by his advice to a friend that Titchfield was the best place on the mainland from which to take a ferry to the Isle of Wight and it is inconceivable that he would have willingly given up the capacity which even the muddy old channel had provided of bringing heavy goods up to Titchfield. Indeed, the siting of the canal, with its broad, fairly straight channel leading up to just below the com mill (grain, flour), next to the tannery (lime, hides leather), past the church (stone) and with a bridle path to the market square (wool) is too deliberate to be an accident.

But there is a third possible motive for the project. The Earl and his friends were very enthusiastic sportsmen – fishing, shooting and hunting animals of all kinds. The newly enclosed area around the Haven was, as it still is, rich in wild life, and it is not impossible that this wealthy and still fairly young man was deliberately creating an expensive playground. Indeed it may be that the intended multiple uses of this project were one reason for its failure: it is possible that neither the navigation nor the irrigation were efficient enough to make the expensive maintenance of the lock and the sluices (and perhaps at first a swing-bridge on the Crofton Road) worthwhile.

Inevitably too the Earl and his successors had to contend with the forces of nature – floods, high tides, currents and storms. A map in the Hampshire Record Office, undated but apparently from about 1750, makes it clear that sometime in the early eighteenth century the original shingle bank had been destroyed by the sea and a second bank had to be built (the bank on which the beach huts now stand) about two hundred yards seaward of the first, and a new sluice constructed to drain the Haven about a hundred yards inland from the original sluice (parts of which can still be seen). The upkeep of the whole system was obviously an endless drain on the estate’s resources.
At the same time the value of the trade in and out of Titchfield declined as from 1650 to 1750 the little town went through perhaps the lowest point in its prosperity. Eighteenth century maps show us that a permanent bridge was built at the end of Bridge Street, and farm bridges near Great and Little Posbrook, which would have made navigation difficult if not quite impossible. More important the width of the lock at Meon was filled by two small arches and the whole structure changed into a bridge. Of the present Meon Road only the old lock gates remain as sluice gates.

Further works took place in the early nineteenth century, the brick bridge carrying the turnpike being built across the head of the canal below the mill, and the farm bridges near Great and Little Posbrook being replaced by twin- arched brick bridges. The little tidal inlet which had once carried boats up to the lock still remained, and Ordnance Survey maps of the mid-nineteenth century still mark the old lock as “Highest Point to which Ordinary Tides flow”. But the diaries of James Hewett of Posbrook (now in the Portsmouth Records Office) show that in the 1870’s its mouth was being closed by shingle drift. Hewett in fact obtained Board of Trade permission to dig a new outlet to “Posbrook Haven” but his efforts evidently failed. “Posbrook Haven” is now the area of stagnant water and reeds immediately behind the beach huts. In the 1890’s a new brick sluice was constructed above the lock to control the water from the canal into the main Haven and thence into the sea at Hill Head.

Those visitors to the site, however, who look beyond the modern tarmac can still see the masonry of the Earl’s original lock, its stone almost certainly taken from demolished abbey buildings and its method of construction very similar to that of its contemporary. Stony Bridge near the abbey. This may have been a relatively small and ultimately unsuccessful project; but it was fifty years earlier than the Itchen Navigation and 150 years earlier than the Duke of Bridgewater’s famous canal at Manchester.


The town of Titchfield has had a long association with the sea and it was a small, but thriving, port connected to the Solent by, firstly the River Meon and, secondly, by a man-made water channel. There is no written history of the origin of this water channel, which is now known as the Titchfield Canal but, however, it is there for all to see. It is 2 miles long (3000 metres), between 16fit. and 20ft. (5 metres) wide and, originally, the water channel would have been a minimum of between 6ft. and 7ft. (2 metres) deep (there would have been between 2ft. and 3ft. of ‘freeboard’ above the level of water, as in all canals). The path of the canal is relatively straight, with few bends. The amount of material which would have been removed in the building of the canal has been calculated to be approximately 30000 cubic metres, equating to about 60000 tonnes of soil/aggregate.
With the very limited technology available until the Industrial Revolution, and the lower physical stature of the general populace, it is estimated that, at the time of the building of the canal, it would take 100 men one year to dig out and distribute that amount, by hand. This takes into account both the vagaries of the weather and the lack of daylight hours in the winter. In the 17th Century, there would not have been that number of available able-bodied men in the whole of the Parish of Titchfield, so a smaller number over a longer period is more likely, mostly sub-contracted from outside the district. Using modem costs, and allowing for overheads, this has been calculated as the equivalent to an outlay of between £2m and £3m. Why is there no record of this significantly large amount of monetary outlay, or the employment of the workforce?
We have, however, two records, from the period which contain facts of relevance to the situation in Titchfield Haven in the early 1600s; the Titchfield Parish Registers and the 1605/10 map of the Titchfield Manorial Estate. An earlier record states that John Leland, the renowned antiquary, visited Titchfield in 1542 and wrote that, ‘below Warebridge (identified as the river bridge on Bridge Street) the river ebith and floweth’; so was tidal. The Parish Registers state that, in June 1611, Titchfield Haven was shutt out by one Richard Talbotts, at the costs of the Earle of Southampton; this was Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624). The inhabitants of Titchfield Parish would have witnessed the sea coming in, up close to the town, twice a day, and then disappearing again as the tide went out. The area over which this apparent phenomenon happened is called T itc h fie ld Haven, and the reasonable interpretation of ‘sh utt out’ is that it refers to the sea as being shut out. There is some evidence that the passage from the sea to Titchfield had a very d ifficu lt entrance/exit to the sea, was not easily navigable from there to the town, and it has been suggested that silting-up might have been an increasing problem.
A further reference in the Parish Registers states that a Richard Talbutt died in 1629, and he was described as the Sirvayer of Water Woorkes at Meene lane end. ‘ Meene lane end’ can be interpreted as the end of the lane through the hamlet of Meon, which is exactly where the present sea-lock exists, and ‘Water Woorkes’ is one way of describing a sea-lock incorporated into a waterway system which, later, will be seen to have some significance.
The 1605/10 map of the Titchfield Manorial Estate has been researched recently and is, in all probability, genuine. It can be shown that the mathematical knowledge in the early 17th Century was sufficiently advanced to produce such an accurate map; this mathematical/engineering knowledge would, also, have been necessary in closing the estuary, and building a Canal New River. The 3rd Earl of Southampton was, as has been established, associated with at least two of the leading scientists and mathematicians of the day, Henry Briggs and Edward Wright, and they would have been available to him for providing the essential expertise.
The map in Figure 1 is a detail from the 1605/10 map and shows the Meon Estuary at low tide with no canal. The shingle bank is clearly seen, resulting in a narrow exit to the sea, and the river bifurcates outside the Estuary in the littoral region below the high tide mark, and amalgamates with the Solent. At high tide, this bifurcation would have been covered with water, and it is not known whether the shingle bank was covered; Figure 2 shows the river mouth at both low and high tide, and the existence of the shingle bank emphasises the narrow entrance to the Haven, which would even more hazardous if the shingle bank were covered at high tide. The distance from Meon Lane End to the Hill Head bluff is approximately 600 metres, and this is the minimum length of the barrier necessary to close off the estuary. The existence of the shingle bank would have been of great benefit to the construction engineers, and the higher the bank was above the low tide mark, the less in -fill material would be needed to complete he barrier. As will be explained later, the closure of the Haven would have been a lengthy exercise, probably costing far more than the sum, calculated above, to build the canal.
Until recently, the commonly held belief was that the 3rd Earl of Southampton built the canal in conjunction with closing the estuary. The lack of documentary evidence has caused this assumption to be questioned, together with references, through various sources of a later period, to land associated with a ‘New River’. On these later documents there is nothing to identify to where on the river they referred; the term ‘New River’ was used for man-made extensions to the River Meon system well outside the canal area. Another commonly held opinion was that the estuary was closed in order to reclaim valuable land from the sea which, on closer engineering examination, can be shown to be an impossibility, except for very small parcels of land in certain peripheral parts of the littoral area, to be explained later.
There is much evidence that Titchfield was a fairly busy, if small, port, and it can be argued, effectively, that Henry, the 3rd Earl of Southampton had every incentive to keep the port open. He was an early industrialist with a great interest in Virginia and the East Indies. He had Iron Mills at Titchfield and Beaulieu (also, he had plans for using Botley Mill). Continuing the export of wool and leather products and the import of goods (wine, for instance) was still a high priority, and frequent visits to the Isle of Wight, where he was Governor, would have been important; the plying of ships to and from London, and along the whole of the south coast, might have been equally relevant. Also, social visits to both Beaulieu and the Isle of Wight were important, especially if they involved Royalty, or other important people. All of the above indicates that having a channel open to enable vessels, whatever they might have been, to travel up to Titchfield would have pre-eminence amongst the 3rd Earl’s industrial, and private, projects.
A case has been made, therefore, for the 3rd Earl to build a canal, but what are the alternatives? A n interesting factual observation is that, in order to build the Titchfield Canal it is not necessary to close the Haven. Therefore, the fundamental question that can be asked is, why did he close the Haven? The conclusion sheds a new light on the whole Titchfield Canal enigma.
Firstly, we must consider the problem of how did Richard Talbot (modern spelling), possibly under the direction of engineers, Henry Briggs or Edward Wright, set about closing an estuary over a distance of 600/700 metres, using the rudimentary tools, and techniques, which were available at the start of the 17th Century. After much discussion with the engineering fraternity, it is concluded that there would have been only one practical method of creating a barrier 4 metre wide and 1.5 metres above the maximum high water mark, which is considered to be sufficiently robust to withstand the most severe of storms normally encountered in the Solent. This would be by, firstly, in-filling the deepest level, which was the main exit to the sea at the H ill Head bluff until the land level at that point was at the same height as the shingle bank and, then, progressively in-filling upwards, until the estuary was closed. Obviously, by gradually increasing the height over which the water flows during each tide, an ever larger lake is formed inside the estuary as low tide approached, and the level of sea-water dropped below the in-fill height. The addition of the layers could be undertaken at the speed of availability of infilling material, but it is obvious that it would, quite quickly, restrict the draft of ships which could enter the Haven, and the size of the lake, so formed, would increase in depth with each in fill. This method would be the only choice for the restricted technology of the 17th Century. Finally, a lake was formed inside the Haven, which would be approximately the size of the previous water area at high tide; the water enclosed in the lake would have been part sea water and part fresh water. A n approximation of the lake formed in the estuary is indicated in Figure 3, shown overlaid on top of a modern satellite photograph; the outline approximates to the high water mark of the 1605/10 map but, clearly, the actual lake would have been different in detail. There might well have been some land reclamation, as mentioned above, which would have been relatively easy without the daily two tides, and there would have been some areas of the peripheries of the lake which were shallow enough to allow easy closing off to form dry land.
It has been substantiated that a lake would have been formed behind the barrier of the closure, and this would be fed by the main River Meon, the various tributaries within the estuary, run-off surface water from the surrounding countryside and sea water, both deliberately introduced and during the inclement weather periods, especially high south-west winds, to which the Solent is occasionally exposed. To compensate for this, not inconsequential, constant ingress of water, it would be necessary to insert a controllable sluice/lock system allowing excess water to flow out into the sea which, in consequence, would keep the height of the Titchfield Lake well below the closure barrier height. The lack of a road system at Hill Head Bluff, and the potential engineering difficulties associated with the tidal race at that point, the western end would be a favourite location. Referring to figure 4, the closure of the estuary has been completed, a sluice/lock introduced along the shingle bank, towards the Meon Lane End area and exiting directly onto the beach. As seen above, the Parish Register relates that a Richard Talbutt died in 1629, and he was described as the Sirvayer of Water Woorkes at Meene lane end. The assumption has already been made that this refers to our Richard Talbot, who was a man of some consequence, having organised the unique closure of a substantial haven, demonstrating his outstanding engineering skills. The term ‘Surveyor’ was given to such eminent figures as Henry Briggs, Edward Wright, William Oughtred, Edmund Gunter and other leading mathematicians of the age, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that the ‘Water Works’ referred to had some significance, justifying the continued employment of a man of such worth; there had to be a sluice/lock, and there was a Water Works at Meon Lane End, and it is difficult to imagine that they were not one and the same. The lock as shown in Figure 4 would have been quite rudimentary in operation and, it can be argued, that it was not necessary to employ Richard Talbot to look after it; we have to suggest more realistic alternatives.
Returning to the need of the Earl to maintain a port at Titchfield, the existence of a large lake, equivalent to high tide conditions in the Haven, would enable shipping to be used continuously between the closing barrier and the Town. Inevitably, the sluice/lock would need to be fa r more complicated than that suggested so far, but Henry Wriothesley, and his engineers, would have been able to obtain details of the type of lock which was b e in g used on the Exeter Canal, the first canal to be built in the British Isles in the post-Roman period, which had been completed some 40 years earlier; reports state that the lock used in Exeter was a pound lock which had never before been used in this Country. Such a lock would increase the importance of the ‘water works’ and further justify Richard Talbot as the surveyor. The use of a pound lock would extend, considerably, the period of time over which ships could enter the lake, especially if a relatively deep channel were created running from the lock to the sea, and thus, considering the advantages gained, the Earl would have a far more satisfactory access to the Port of Titchfield than previously. We have, therefore, found a very plausible reason as to why Henry Wriothesley closed out the Haven in 1611, which is far superior to the alternatives. For instance, desiring to have a lake for wild fowl ‘conservation’ for hunting, possibly allied to extending fish stocks, or that the possession of a large lake, subjected to conservative landscaping, would enhance his reputation and Estate, and impress those who need impressing (James I, for instance). It is difficult to see the economic justification for these other concepts, but extravagant follies undertaken by the aristocracy were far from unknown.
Existing sluice/lock at Meon Lane End is, clearly, associated with a later period in the canal’s history, and we have no records of what was put in position in 1611; it is interesting to consider possible alternatives as to where the first lock was positioned, and some possibilities as to where the shipping channel was located. From Figure 4, it can be seen that the position of the lock is not a favourable position for a shipping channel; examination of the littoral area inshore from the shingle bank shows a marshy and shallow area which would probably be unsuitable for the shipping channel. In Figure 5 the sluice/lock has been moved to approximately where the current lock is situated, with a channel to the sea, as would have been used for the canal when it was in operation. The shipping channel shown in the first drawing, avoids the marshy area mentioned previously, and joins the main river course. The second drawing utilises the current path of the canal up to where the Posbrook Brook (Pos Brook?) enters the Haven, using the path of this stream for the shipping route. These suggestions are conjecture only, and there is no evidence of any validity, but they illustrate that the lower canal could have been built by the 3rd Earl and feeding into the main river channel.
Examination of the urban part of the canal, between Bridge Street and Titchfield M ill, shows that that part of the canal is about 6 metres wide along much of its length, and those
parts which are less in width can be seen to be overgrown , due to build-up of the banks by silt and vegetation, the result of poor maintenance, and could have accommodated small seagoing ships of the 17th and 18th Centuries. This urban section could have been built at the time of the Haven Closure, and joined to the main river in, or to the south of, the Bridge Street area. There is a later map of the Titchfield Estate, dated 1753, showing this urban section, which is included in Figure 6 together with a redrawn version, helping to clarify the details; comparing this map with current maps of the area show that it was drawn to a considerably high level of cartographic accuracy. One interpretation of these details is that there is plenty of room to sail, or tow, small sea-going ships, a berthing area and, it can be argued, room for them to be turned around. Once again, there is no written record of the building of this part of the canal, but it would have been very much in the Earl’s interest to have this part of the canal in place.
If further evidence is needed to prove that a lake filled the majority of the estuary on the closing off, a survey of the current topography and terrain is sufficient. The estuary is 2 miles long and between l/4 mile and 1/2 mile in width, and the land level is completely flat at, or just above, mean high water mark; a study of geology will tell one that this is indicative of silt deposit associated with river flooding. What is currently visible along the length of the estuary are meadows of a swampy nature, with no evidence of arable farming, along which flows the remains of the original River Meon, interspersed by small and larger lakes, especially towards the sea. Flooding still takes place in the upper reaches of the estuary and in the water meadows further upstream; measurements of the actual amount of silt deposited during these flood periods varies from year to year but, typically, of the order of 10 mm or 20mm, although the winter of 2010/11 has produced over 50 mm of deposit along the banks of the leat to Titchfield Mill. Having established that the River Meon is a silt bearing river, and as there is little reason to believe that it was not, also, silt bearing in the 17th Century, it can be seen that it would not take many years for the flooded closed-off estuary to silt up along the peripheries, the mud flats and the main littoral area of the original estuary and, inevitably, into the main shipping channel. This would have the effect of reducing the size of the lake, affecting the passage of ships, if that were still taking place, and it can be postulated that the silting-up could be seen to be effective within 30 years of the closure; there would be much further deposit over the years before the levels reach those seen currently. When the lake became too silted-up to allow the easy passage of ships is not known but, it is considered that this could easily have been so by 1660. If the canal were not built shortly after the closure of Titchfield Haven, the silting-up of the lake within the estuary could be cited as a reason why it was built, or why the two ends were joined together. It is thought possible that, as the silting-up became worse, the canal at the top and bottom ends was added to, in fairly short lengths, over a period of some years. Examination of the existing canal shows that there is some indication of variation in topography along its length, which might indicate that it was not completed in one piece, but this appearance could be due to variable maintenance on various portions of the canal.
It would be interesting to find out what had happened for other closures of estuaries but, so far, only one has been located. That is the closure of the river Wansbeck, in Northumberland in 1975, and they were under the impression that they were the first in the U K . They inserted a barrier about 500 metres upstream from the mouth of the estuary, and a lake has been formed upstream, over a distance of about 2 miles; the barrier includes a pound lock and a sluice to enable excess water to be discharged. Obviously, the engineering methods used were of the 20th Century, but the effect over the estuary was exactly the same as in Titchfield in 1611, and it is interesting to record that they are already, suffering from problems of silting, but the use of the closed river for navigation is minimal.
A further point to be discussed is whether an Act of Parliament would have been required for the closure; a considerable portion of land was to be acquired by the landowner, Henry Wriothesley, the 3 rd. Earl of Southampton. An Act of Parliament was required before the Exeter Canal was built, and this procedure continued for subsequent developments of a similar nature. Because there is no record of an Act of Parliament it must be assumed that Royal permission was received, without any written confirmation. The 3rd Earl of Southampton was seen to have the favour of James I and it has to be assumed that he obtained a special grant from the King. The next King, Charles I came to the throne shortly after Henry Wriothesley died, and his son made no contact with Royalty for some years,
leaving his mother to oversee the Titchfield Estate. The build up to the Civil War commenced during this time, and it difficult to see that the closure of estuaries, and the
building of canals had any precedence in daily affairs. Also, it is impossible to see that any permission would have been granted during the Commonwealth period, and subsequently, for the work at Titchfield to be undertaken without an Act of Parliament. The conclusion is that the 3rd Earl of Southampton was, uniquely, able to close the estuary, and build a canal, albeit in small portions. It has been established, clearly, that he closed the Titchfield Haven, but whether he built a canal is open to conjecture, but a case has been made. The position of the canal on the 1605/10 map is indicated in Figure 7.
After much due consideration, it is thought that the suggestion that the 3rd Earl closed the Haven, in order to use it as an improved shipping channel, to keep open the Port of Titchfield, is the only one which has a financially viable essence and, hence, is the most likely reason. However, we have no documentary evidence, other than the Parish Records, and the topographical evidence of today. It is closed from the sea, recorded in the Titchfield Parish Records, and we have a New River/Canal, with a sluice/lock, with contention, and conflicting records, as to when it was built; the sluice in Hill Head Harbour is an obvious, fairly modern, addition. The 3rd Earl had the incentive of requiring the town of Titchfield still to be classed as a port, and to have easier access to the town harbours, and the alternative reasons for closing the estuary have little to commend them, in comparison to the theory outlined above. The closing of the estuary was carried out at the costs of the right honourable the Earle of Southampton and, if the costs of the top and bottom sections of the canal were included in this cost, then the fact that no record of the huge cost of building the complete canal can be found, would be explained; the cost of joining up the top and bottom portions of the canal, maybe in separate sections, would be comparatively small and, therefore, not accurately recorded. The time-scale in carrying out this prodigious task is not known, but it could have taken years to complete and, possibly, modifications and improvements could have been annual events, together with the inevitable maintenance, largely the clearing of debris, dredging the channels and repair of storm damage.
If the 3rd Earl did not use the lake, formed when he closed the estuary, for the passage of ships up to the town of Titchfield, then he is the prime contender for building the complete Canal/New River at, or around, the time that he closed the estuary. The lack of any financial records for such an expensive operation, the need to have the Port of Titchfield in operation, the question of the lack of an Act of Parliament and the failure to establish anyone else who had the incentive, establish this contention. The question of building the new waterway as an irrigation channel is discounted because of the huge cost, the unnecessary size (length and width) and the swampy nature of the meadows to be irrigated. The alternative is that the 3rd Earl, at vast cost, closed the estuary because he could and, some 60 years later, an unknown person, with little incentive, built a canal, also at huge cost, and with no Act of Parliament, which has little credence. In circumstances where there is controversy, it is often sensible to invoke Ockham’s Razor: that which is the most logical and simple is usually correct.