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RIVER BLYTH NAVIGATION

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In the 18th century Halesworth was the centre of a prosperous farming district. Local interests wanted a link with the sea via the River Blyth and Southwold harbour, the main promoter being Thomas Knight, a Halesworth brewer. John Reynolds made a survey and an estimate in 1753, but no Act of Parliament came until 1757, followed by a re-survey by Langley Edwards and a report by John Grundy, both in 1759. By 1761 the river was open to Halesworth basin, nine miles long, with four locks. Thomas Manning had been the engineer. Successful at first, the Blyth's future depended on the preservation of Southwold harbour, subject to the feeble scour of the tide, made feebler by the local landowners who enclosed the saltings by Blythburgh upstream from Southwold. Gradually the harbour was ruined, in spite of a short-lived prosperity for the navigation in the 1830s due to the energy of a Halesworth malster, Patrick Stead. By the 1850s there was little trade on the Blyth, and the last Wherry came in about 1906. In 1911 abandonment was proposed and the locks were closed in 1934. But the river is still navigable up to Blythburgh.

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