River Trent is the third-longest river in the United Kingdom. Its
source is in
Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It
flows through and drains most of the metropolitan central and northern
Midlands south and east of its source north of Stoke-on-Trent. The
river is known for dramatic flooding after storms and spring snowmelt,
which in past times often caused the river to change course.
The river passes through Stoke-on-Trent,
Burton upon Trent
Burton upon Trent and
Nottingham before joining the River Ouse at
Trent Falls to form the
Humber Estuary, which empties into the
North Sea between Hull in
Immingham in Lincolnshire. The course of the river has
often been described as the boundary between the Midlands and the
north of England.
2.1 Migration of course in historic times
7 History of navigation
7.1 The lower river
7.4 Navigation today
8 Trent Aegir
9 The literal North/South divide
10 Pollution history
11 Wildlife and ecology
13 Places along the Trent
14 Crossing the Trent
15 Power stations
16 Recreation on the Trent
17.1 List of tributaries
18 See also
21 External links
The name "Trent" is from a Celtic word possibly meaning "strongly
flooding". More specifically, the name may be a contraction of two
Celtic words, tros ("over") and hynt ("way"). This may indeed
indicate a river that is prone to flooding. However, a more likely
explanation may be that it was considered to be a river that could be
crossed principally by means of fords, i.e. the river flowed over
major road routes. This may explain the presence of the Celtic element
rid (c.f. Welsh rhyd, "ford") in various place names along the Trent,
such as Hill Ridware, as well as the Old English‐derived ford.
Another translation is given as "the trespasser", referring to the
waters flooding over the land. According to Koch at the University
of Wales, the name Trent derives from the Romano-British
Romano-British reflex of the combined Proto-Celtic
elements *tri-sent(o)-on-ā- (through-path-augmentative-feminine-)
‘great thoroughfare’. A traditional but almost certainly wrong
opinion is that of Izaak Walton, who states in The Compleat Angler
(1653) that the Trent is "... so called from thirty kind of fishes
that are found in it, or for that it receiveth thirty lesser
The Trent rises on the
Staffordshire moorlands near the village of
Biddulph Moor, from a number of sources including the Trent Head Well.
It is then joined by other small streams to form the Head of Trent,
which flows south, to the only reservoir along its course at
Knypersley. Downstream of the reservoir it passes through
Stoke-on-Trent and merges with the Lyme, Fowlea and other brooks that
drain the 'six towns' of the
Staffordshire Potteries to become the
River Trent. On the southern fringes of Stoke, it passes through the
landscaped parkland of Trentham Gardens.
The river then continues south through the market town of Stone, and
after passing the village of Salt, it reaches Great Haywood, where it
is spanned by the 16th-century Essex Bridge near Shugborough Hall. At
this point the
River Sow joins it from Stafford. The Trent now flows
south-east past the town of
Rugeley until it reaches Kings Bromley
where it meets the Blithe. After the confluence with the Swarbourn, it
Alrewas and reaches Wychnor, where it is crossed by the A38
dual carriageway, which follows the route of the Roman Ryknild Street.
The river turns north-east where it is joined by its largest
tributary, the Tame (which is at this point actually the larger,
though its earlier length shorter) and immediately afterwards by the
Mease, creating a larger river that now flows through a broad
The river continues north-east, passing the village of Walton-on-Trent
until it reaches the large town of Burton upon Trent. The river in
Burton is crossed by a number of bridges including the ornate
19th-century Ferry Bridge that links
Stapenhill to the town. To
the north-east of Burton the river is joined by the River Dove at
Newton Solney and enters Derbyshire, before passing between the
villages of Willington and
Repton where it turns directly east to
Swarkestone Bridge. Shortly afterwards, the river becomes the
Leicestershire border, passing the traditional crossing
point of King's Mill, Castle Donington,
At Shardlow, where the
Trent and Mersey Canal
Trent and Mersey Canal begins, the river also
meets the Derwent at Derwent Mouth. After this confluence, the river
turns north-east and is joined by the Soar before reaching the
outskirts of Nottingham, where it is joined by the
Erewash near the
Attenborough nature reserve and enters Nottinghamshire. As it enters
the city, it passes the suburbs of Beeston, Clifton and Wilford; where
it is joined by the Leen. On reaching
West Bridgford it flows beneath
Trent Bridge near the cricket ground of the same name, and beside The
City Ground, home of
Nottingham Forest, until it reaches Holme
Nottingham it passes Radcliffe on Trent, Stoke Bardolph
Burton Joyce before reaching Gunthorpe with its bridge, lock and
weir. The river now flows north-east below the Toot and Trent Hills
before reaching Hazelford Ferry, Fiskerton and Farndon. To the north
of Farndon, beside the
Staythorpe Power Station
Staythorpe Power Station the river splits, with
one arm passing
Averham and Kelham, and the other arm, which is
navigable, being joined by the Devon before passing through the market
Newark-on-Trent and beneath the town's castle walls. The two
arms recombine at Crankley Point beyond the town, where the river
turns due north to pass
North Muskham and Holme to reach Cromwell
Weir, below which the Trent becomes tidal.
The now tidal river meanders across a wide floodplain, at the edge of
which are located riverside villages such as Carlton and Sutton on
Trent, Besthorpe and Girton. After passing the site of High Marnham
power station, it becomes the approximate boundary between
Lincolnshire and reaches the only toll bridge
along its course at Dunham on Trent. Downstream of Dunham the river
Church Laneham and reaches Torksey, where it meets the Foss
Dyke navigation which connects the Trent to Lincoln and the River
Witham. Further north at Littleborough is the site of the Roman town
of Segelocum, where a Roman road once crossed the river.
It then reaches the town of Gainsborough with its own Trent Bridge.
The river frontage in the town is lined with warehouses, that were
once used when the town was an inland port, many of which have been
renovated for modern use. Downstream of the town the villages are
often named in pairs, representing the fact that they were once linked
by a river ferry between the two settlements. These villages include
West Stockwith and East Stockwith,
Owston Ferry and East Ferry, and
West Butterwick and East Butterwick. At
West Stockwith the
Trent is joined by the
Chesterfield Canal and the
River Idle and soon
Lincolnshire fully, passing to the west of Scunthorpe.
The last bridge over the river is at
Keadby where it is joined by both
the Stainforth and
Keadby Canal and the River Torne.
Keadby the river progressively widens, passing Amcotts
Flixborough to reach
Burton upon Stather
Burton upon Stather and finally Trent Falls.
At this point, between
Faxfleet the river reaches the
Yorkshire and joins the River Ouse to form the Humber
which flows into the North Sea.
Migration of course in historic times
Unusually for an English river, the channel altered significantly
during historic times, and has been described as being similar to the
Mississippi in this respect, especially in its middle reaches, where
there are numerous old meanders and cut-off loops. An abandoned
Repton is described on an old map as 'Old Trent Water',
records show that this was once the main navigable route, with the
river having switched to a more northerly course in the 18th
century. Further downstream at Hemington, archaeologists have
found the remains of a medieval bridge across another abandoned
channel. Researchers using aerial photographs and historical
maps have identified many of these palaeochannel features, a
well-documented example being the meander cutoff at Sawley.
The river's propensity to change course is referred to in
Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part 1:
Methinks my moiety, north from Burton here,
In quantity equals not one of yours:
See how this river comes me cranking in,
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
I'll have the current in this place damm'd up;
And here the smug and silver Trent shall run
In a new channel, fair and evenly;
It shall not wind with such a deep indent,
To rob me of so rich a bottom here.
Henry Hotspur's speech complaining about the river has been linked to
the meanders near West Burton, however, given the wider context of
the scene, in which conspirators propose to divide
England into three
after a revolt, it is thought that Hotspur’s intentions were of a
grander design, diverting the river east towards the Wash such that he
would benefit from a much larger share of the divided Kingdom.
Downstream of Burton upon Trent, the river increasingly trends
northwards, cutting off a portion of
Nottinghamshire and nearly all of
Lincolnshire from his share, north of the Trent. The idea for
this scene, may have been based on the disagreement regarding a mill
weir near Shelford Manor, between local landowners Gilbert Talbot,
Earl of Shrewsbury, and
Sir Thomas Stanhope which culminated with a
long diversion channel being dug to bypass the mill. This took
place in 1593 so would have been a contemporary topic in the
Pleistocene epoch (1.7 million years ago), the River Trent
rose in the Welsh hills and flowed almost east from
Vale of Belvoir to cut a gap through the limestone ridge
at Ancaster and thence to the North Sea. At the end of the
Wolstonian Stage (c. 130,000 years ago) a mass of stagnant ice left in
Vale of Belvoir caused the river to divert north along the old
Lincoln river, through the Lincoln gap, along what is now the course
of the Witham. During a following glaciation (Devensian,
70,000 BC) the ice held back vast areas of water – called
Humber – in the current lower Trent basin. When this
retreated, the Trent adopted its current course into the Humber.
River Trent within England
The Trent basin covers a large part of the Midlands, and includes the
majority of the counties of Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire,
Nottinghamshire and the West Midlands; but also includes parts of
Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire,
Warwickshire and Rutland. The catchment
is located between the drainage basins of the Severn and its tributary
the Avon to the south and west, the Weaver to the north-west, the
tributaries of the
Yorkshire Ouse to the North and the basins of the
Welland, Witham and Ancholme to the east.
A distinctive feature of the catchment is the marked variation in the
topography and character of the landscape, which varies from the
upland moorland headwaters of the Dark Peak, where the highest point
of the catchment is the
Kinder Scout plateau at 634 metres
(2,080 ft); through to the intensively farmed and drained flat
fenland areas that exist alongside the lower tidal reaches, where
ground levels can equal sea level. These lower reaches are protected
from tidal flooding by a series of floodbanks and
Elsewhere there is a distinct contrast between the open limestone
areas of the
White Peak in the Dove catchment, and the large woodland
Sherwood Forest in the Dukeries area of the Idle
catchment, the upland Charnwood Forest, and the National Forest in the
Soar and Mease drainage basins respectively.
2% Natural grassland
Wetlands & lakes
Land use is predominantly rural, with some three-quarters of the Trent
catchment given over to agriculture. This ranges from moorland grazing
of sheep in the upland areas, through to improved pasture and mixed
farms in the middle reaches, where dairy farming is important.
Intensive arable farming of cereals and root vegetables, chiefly
potatoes and sugar beet occurs in the lowland areas, such as the Vale
of Belvoir and the lower reaches of the Trent, Torne and Idle.
Water level management is important in these lowland areas, and the
local watercourses are usually maintained by internal drainage boards
and their successors, with improved drainage being assisted by the use
of pumping stations to lift water into embanked carrier rivers, which
subsequently discharge into the Trent.:29
The less populous rural areas are offset by a number of large
urbanised areas including the conurbations of Stoke-on-Trent,
Birmingham and the surrounding
Black Country in the West Midlands; and
in the East Midlands the major university cities and historical county
seats of Leicester,
Derby and Nottingham. Together these contain the
majority of the 6 million people who live in the catchment.
What is notable is that the majority of these urban areas are in the
upper reaches of either the Trent itself, as is the case with Stoke,
or the tributaries. For example,
Birmingham lies at the upper end of
the Tame, and
Leicester is located towards the head of the Soar.
Whilst this is not unique for an English river, it does mean that
there is an ongoing legacy of issues relating to urban runoff,
pollution incidents, and effluent dilution from sewage treatment,
industry and coal mining. Historically, these issues resulted in a
considerable deterioration in the water quality of both the Trent, and
its tributaries, especially the Tame. To bring clean water to the
Birmingham Corporation created a large reservoir chain
and aqueduct system to bring water from the Elan Valley.
Underlying the upper reaches of the Trent, are formations of Millstone
Coal Measures which include layers of
sandstones, marls and coal seams. The river crosses a band of Triassic
Sherwood sandstone at Sandon, and it meets the same sandstone again as
it flows beside Cannock Chase, between
Great Haywood and Armitage,
there is also another outcrop between
Weston-on-Trent and King's
Mercia Mudstone formation at Gunthorpe
Armitage the solid geology is primarily Mercia
Mudstones, the course of the river following the arc of these
mudstones as they pass through the Midlands all the way to the Humber.
The mudstones are not exposed by the bed of the river, as there is a
layer of gravels and then alluvium above the bedrock. In places,
however the mudstones do form river cliffs, most notably at Gunthorpe
and Stoke Lock near Radcliffe on Trent, the village being named after
the distinctive red coloured strata.
The low range of hills, which have been formed into a steep set of
cliffs overlooking the Trent between
also made up of mudstones, but are of the younger Rhaetic Penarth
In the wider catchment the geology is more varied, ranging from the
Precambrian rocks of the Charnwood Forest, through to the Jurassic
limestone that forms the
Lincolnshire Edge and the eastern watershed
of the Trent. The most important in terms of the river are the
extensive sandstone and limestone aquifers that underlie many of the
tributary catchments. These include the Sherwood sandstones that occur
beneath much of eastern Nottinghamshire, the
Permian Lower Magnesian
limestone and the carboniferous limestone in Derbyshire. Not only do
these provide baseflows to the major tributaries, the groundwater is
an important source for public water supply.
Gravel Terraces of the River Trent
Sand, gravels and alluvium deposits that overlie the mudstone bedrock
occur almost along the entire length of the river, and are an
important feature of the middle and lower reaches, with the alluvial
river silt producing fertile soils that are used for intensive
agriculture in the Trent valley. Beneath the alluvium are widespread
deposits of sand and gravel, which also occur as gravel terraces
considerably above the height of the current river level. There is
thought to be a complex succession of at least six separate gravel
terrace systems along the river, deposited when a much larger Trent
flowed through the existing valley, and along its ancestral routes
through the water gaps at Lincoln and Ancaster.
This ‘staircase’ of flat topped terraces was created as a result
of successive periods of deposition and subsequent down cutting by the
river, a product of the meltwater and glacially eroded material
produced from ice sheets at the end of glacial periods through the
Pleistocene epoch between 450,000 and 12,000 years BP. Contained
within these terraces is evidence of the mega fauna that once lived
along the river, the bones and teeth of animals such as the woolly
mammoth, bison and wolves that existed during colder periods have all
been identified. Another notable find in a related terrace system
Derby from a warmer interglacial period, was the Allenton
Gravel extraction at Besthorpe
The lower sequences of these terraces have been widely quarried for
sand and gravel, and the extraction of these minerals continues to be
an important industry in the Trent Valley, with some three million
tonnes of aggregates being produced each year. Once worked out,
the remaining gravel pits which are usually flooded by the relatively
high water table have been reused for a wide variety of purposes.
These include recreational water activities, and once rehabilitated,
as nature reserves and wetlands.
During the end of the last
Devensian glacial period the formation of
Humber in the lowest reaches of the river, meant that substantial
lake bed clays and silts were laid down to create the flat landscape
of the Humberhead Levels. These levels extend across the Trent valley,
and include the lower reaches of the Eau, Torne and Idle. In some
areas, successive layers of peat were built up above the lacustrine
deposits during the Holocene period, which created lowland mires such
as the Thorne and Hatfield Moors.
The topography, geology and land use of the Trent catchment, all have
a direct influence on the hydrology of the river. The variation in
these factors is also reflected in the contrasting runoff
characteristics and subsequent inflows of the principal tributaries.
The largest of these is the River Tame, which contributes nearly a
quarter of the total flow for the Trent, with the other significant
tributaries being the Derwent at 18%, Soar 17%, the Dove 13%, and the
Sow 8%.:36–47 Four of these main tributaries, including the Dove
and Derwent which drain the upland Peak District, all join within the
middle reaches, giving rise to a comparatively energetic river system
for the UK.
Rainfall in the Trent valley
Rainfall in the catchment generally follows topography with the
highest annual rainfall of 1,450 mm (57 in) and above
occurring over the high moorland uplands of the Derwent headwaters to
the north and west, with the lowest of 580 mm (23 in), in
the lowland areas to the north and east. Rainfall totals in the
Tame are not as high as would be expected from the moderate relief,
due to the rain shadow effect of the Welsh mountains to the west,
reducing amounts to an average of 691 mm (27.2 in) for the
tributary basin. The average for the whole Trent catchment is
720 mm (28 in) which is significantly lower than the average
United Kingdom at 1,101 mm (43.3 in) and lower than that
England at 828 mm (32.6 in).
Like other large lowland British rivers, the Trent is vulnerable to
long periods of rainfall caused by sluggish low pressure weather
systems repeatedly crossing the basin from the Atlantic, especially
during the autumn and winter when evaporation is at its lowest. This
combination can produce a water-logged catchment that can respond
rapidly in terms of runoff, to any additional rainfall. Such
conditions occurred in February 1977, with widespread flooding in the
lower reaches of the Trent when heavy rain produced a peak flow of
nearly 1,000 m3/s (35,000 cu ft/s) at Nottingham. In
2000 similar conditions occurred again, with above average rainfall in
the autumn being followed by further rainfall, producing flood
conditions in November of that year.
Another meteorological risk, although one that occurs less often, is
that related to the rapid melting of snow lying in the catchment. This
can be a result of a sudden rise in temperature after a prolonged cold
period, or when combined with extensive rainfall. Many of the largest
historical floods were caused by snowmelt, but the last such episode
occurred when the bitter winter of 1946-7 was followed by a rapid thaw
due to rain in March 1947 and caused severe flooding all along the
At the other extreme, extended periods of low rainfall can also cause
problems. The lowest flows for the river were recorded during the
drought of 1976, following the dry winter of 1975/6. Flows measured at
Nottingham were exceptionally low by the end of August, and were given
a drought return period of greater than one hundred years.
Discharge of the
River Trent at various locations
Stoke on Trent
The river's flow is measured at several points along its course, at a
number of gauging stations. At
Stoke-on-Trent in the upper reaches,
the average flow is only 0.6 m3/s (21 cu ft/s), which
increases considerably to 4.4 m3/s (160 cu ft/s), at
Great Haywood, as it includes the flow of the upper tributaries
draining the Potteries conurbation. At Yoxall, the flow increases to
12.8 m3/s (450 cu ft/s) due to the input of larger
tributaries including the Sow and Blithe. At
Drakelow upstream of
Burton the flow increases nearly three-fold to 36.1 m3/s
(1,270 cu ft/s), due to the additional inflow from the
largest tributary the Tame. At
Colwick near Nottingham, the average
flow rises to 83.8 m3/s (2,960 cu ft/s), due to the
combined inputs of the other major tributaries namely the Dove,
Derwent and Soar. The last point of measurement is
North Muskham here
the average flow is 88.4 m3/s (3,120 cu ft/s), a
relatively small increase due to the input of the Devon, and other
The Trent has marked variations in discharge, with long term average
monthly flows at
Colwick fluctuating from 45 m3/s
(1,600 cu ft/s) in July during the summer, and increasing to
151 m3/s (5,300 cu ft/s) in January. During
lower flows the Trent and its tributaries are heavily influenced by
effluent returns from sewage works, especially the Tame where summer
flows can be made up of 90% effluent. For the Trent this proportion is
lower, but with nearly half of low flows being made up of these
effluent inflows, it is still significant. There are also baseflow
contributions from the major aquifers in the catchment.
Average monthly flows of Trent in cubic metres per second measured at
In the lower tidal reaches the Trent has a high sediment load, this
fine silt which is also known as ‘warp', was used to improve the
soil by a process known as warping, whereby river water was allowed to
flood into adjacent fields through a series of warping drains,
enabling the silt to settle out across the land. Up to 0.3 metres
(1 ft) of deposition could occur in a single season, and depths
of 1.5 metres (5 ft) have been accumulated over time at some
locations. A number of the smaller Trent tributaries are still named
as warping drains, such as Morton warping drain, near
Warp was also used as a commercial product, after being collected from
the river banks at low tide, it was transported along the Chesterfield
Canal to Walkeringham where it was dried out and refined to be
eventually sold as a silver polish for cutlery manufacturers.
Largest floods on the
River Trent at Nottingham
Level at Trent Bridge
Normal / Avg flow
The Trent is widely known for its tendency to cause significant
flooding along its course, and there is a well documented flood
history extending back for some 900 years. In
Nottingham the heights
of significant historic floods from 1852 have been carved into a
bridge abutment next to Trent Bridge, with flood marks being
transferred from the medieval Hethbeth bridge that pre-dated the
existing 19th-century crossing. Historic flood levels have also been
recorded at Girton and on the churchyard wall at
Trent Bridge flood marks
One of the earliest recorded floods along the Trent was in 1141, and
like many other large historical events was caused by the melting of
snow following heavy rainfall, it also caused a breach in the outer
floodbank at Spalford. Some of the earliest floods can be assessed by
Spalford bank as a substitute measure for the size of a
particular flood, as it has been estimated that the bank only failed
when flows were greater than 1,000 m3/s
(35,000 cu ft/s), the bank was also breached in 1403 and
Early bridges were vulnerable to floods, and in 1309 many bridges were
washed away or damaged by severe winter floods, including Hethbeth
Bridge. In 1683 the same bridge was partially destroyed by a flood
that also meant the loss of the bridge at Newark. Historical archives
often record details of the bridge repairs that followed floods, as
the cost of these repairs or pontage had to be raised by borrowing
money and charging a local toll.
The largest known flood was the
Candlemas flood of February 1795,
which followed an eight-week period of harsh winter weather, rivers
froze which that meant mills were unable to grind corn, and then
followed a rapid thaw. Due to the size of the flood and the ice
entrained in the flow, nearly every bridge along the Trent was badly
damaged or washed away. The bridges at Wolseley, Wychnor and the main
Swarkestone were all destroyed. In Nottingham,
residents of Narrow Marsh were trapped by the floodwaters in their
first floor rooms, boats were used to take supplies to those stranded.
Livestock was badly affected, 72 sheep drowned in
Wilford and ten cows
were lost in Bridgford. The vulnerable flood bank at
breached again, floodwaters spreading out across the low-lying land,
even reaching the
River Witham and flooding Lincoln. Some 20,000 acres
(81 km2; 31 sq mi) were flooded for a period of over
Flood marks at Girton showing the height of the 1795 flood and others
A description of the breach was given as follows:
The bank is formed upon a plain of sandy nature, and when it was
broken in 1795, the water forced an immense breach, the size of which
may be judged from the fact that eighty loads of faggots and upwards
of four hundred tons of earth were required to fill up the hole, an
operation which took several weeks to complete.
The flood bank was subsequently strengthened and repaired, following
further floods during 1824 and 1852.
The principal flood of the 19th century and the second largest
recorded, was in October 1875. In
Nottingham a cart overturned in the
floodwaters near the
Wilford Road and six people drowned, dwellings
nearby were flooded to a depth of 6 feet (1.8 m). Although not
quite as large as 1795 this flood devastated many places along the
Burton upon Trent
Burton upon Trent much of the town was inundated, with
flooded streets and houses, and dead animals floating past in the
flood. Food was scarce, "in one day 10,000 loaves had to be sent into
the town and distributed gratuitously to save people from famine".
In Newark the water was deep enough to allow four grammar school boys
to row across the countryside to Kelham. The flood marks at Girton
show that this flood was only 4 inches (100 mm) lower than that
of 1795, when the village was flooded to a depth of 3 feet
West Bridgford in the floods of March 1947
On 17–18 March 1947 the Trent which had been rising ever higher,
overtopped its banks in Nottingham. Large parts of the city and
surrounding areas were flooded with 9,000 properties and nearly a
hundred industrial premises affected some to first floor height. The
suburbs of Long Eaton,
West Bridgford and Beeston all suffered
particularly badly. Two days later, in the lower tidal
reaches of the river, the peak of the flood combined with a high
spring tide to flood villages and 2,000 properties in Gainsborough.
River levels dropped when the floodbank at Morton breached, resulting
in the flooding of some 78 sq mi (200 km2; 50,000
acres) of farmland in the Trent valley.
Flooding on the Trent can also be caused by the effects of storm
surges independently of fluvial flows, a series of which occurred
during October and November 1954, resulting in the worse tidal
flooding experienced along the lower reaches. These floods revealed
the need for a tidal protection scheme, which would cope with the
flows experienced in 1947 and the tidal levels from 1954, and
subsequently the floodbanks and defences along the lower river were
improved to this standard with the works being completed in
1965. In December 2013, the largest storm surge since the
1950s occurred on the Trent, when a high spring tide combined with
strong winds and a low pressure weather system, produced elevated
tidal river levels in the lower reaches. The resulting surge
overtopped the flood defences in the area near
Keadby and Burringham,
flooding 50 properties.
Holme Sluices: part of the
Nottingham flood defences
The fifth largest flood recorded at
Nottingham occurred in November
2000, with widespread flooding of low-lying land along the Trent
valley, including many roads and railways. The flood defences around
Nottingham and Burton constructed during the 1950s, following the 1947
event, stopped any major urban flooding, but problems did occur in
undefended areas such as Willington and Gunthorpe, and again at Girton
where 19 houses were flooded. The flood defences in Nottingham
that protect 16,000 homes and those in Burton where they prevent 7,000
properties from flooding were reassessed after this flood, and were
subsequently improved between 2006 and 2012.
History of navigation
River Ouse and
The Island Sand
(shares bridge with rly)
M180 motorway bridge
River Idle (moveable sluice)
Chesterfield Canal, West Stockwith
A631 Trent Bridge, Gainsborough
Sheffield to Lincoln Railway
A57 Dunham Toll Bridge
former Chesterfield-Lincoln Rly
Cromwell Lock and weir
A1 Winthorpe Bridge
East Coast Main Line
East Coast Main Line bridge
Newark Nether Lock
Nottingham - Lincoln Railway
A46 Newark Bypass Bridge
Newark Town Lock
A46 Newark Bypass Bridge
Nottingham - Lincoln Railway
Hazelford lock and weirs
Gunthorpe lock and weir
A6097 Gunthorpe Bridge
Stoke lock and weir
Rectory Junction Viaduct
Holme lock, National Watersports Centre
Meadow Lane Lock
Erewash Canal and River Soar
M1 motorway bridge
Trent and Mersey Canal
Cavendish Bridge (limit of navigation)
(site of mill and lock)
Disused railway bridge
B5008 Willington Bridge
(site of disused mills and lock)
A511 Burton Bridge
Bond End Branch
(formerly leading to Trent and Mersey Canal)
A5189 St Peters Bridge
Nottingham seems to have been the ancient head of navigation until the
Restoration, due partly to the difficult navigation of the Trent
Bridge. Navigation was then extended to Wilden Ferry, near to the more
recent Cavendish Bridge, as a result of the efforts of the Fosbrooke
family of Shardlow.
Later, in 1699, the baron William Paget (Lord Paget), who owned coal
mines and land in the area, obtained an
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament to extend
navigation up to Fleetstones Bridge, Burton, despite opposition from
the people of Nottingham. Lord Paget seems to have funded the work
privately, building locks at King's Mill and Burton Mills and several
cuts and basins. The Act gave him absolute control over the building
of any wharves and warehouses above
Nottingham Bridge. Lord Paget
leased the navigation and the wharf at Burton to George Hayne, while
the wharf and warehouses at Wilden were leased by Leonard Fosbrooke,
who held the ferry rights and was a business partner of Hayne. The two
men refused to allow any cargo to be landed which was not carried in
their own boats, and so created a monopoly.
In 1748, merchants from
Nottingham attempted to end this monopoly by
landing goods on the banks and into carts, but Fosbrooke used his
ferry rope to block the river, and then created a bridge by mooring
boats across the channel, and employing men to defend them. Hayne
subsequently scuppered a barge in King's Lock, and for the next eight
years goods had to be transhipped around it. Despite a Chancery
injunction against them, the two men continued with their action.
Hayne's lease expired in 1762, and Lord Paget's son, the Earl of
Uxbridge, gave the new lease to the Burton Boat Company.
Trent and Mersey Canal
Trent and Mersey Canal was authorised by
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament in
1766, and construction from
Shardlow to Preston Brook, where it joined
the Bridgewater Canal, was completed by 1777. The canal ran
parallel to the upper river to Burton upon Trent, where new wharfs and
warehouses at Horninglow served the town, and the Burton Boat Company
were unable to repair the damaged reputation of the river created by
their predecessors. Eventually in 1805, they reached an agreement
with Henshall & Co., the leading canal carriers, for the closure
of the river above Wilden Ferry. Though the river is no doubt legally
still navigable above Shardlow, it is probable that the agreement
marks the end of the use of that stretch of the river as a commercial
The lower river
The first improvement of the lower river was at Newark, where the
channel splits into two. The residents of the town wanted to increase
the use of the branch nearest to them, and so an
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament was
obtained in 1772 to authorise the work. Newark Navigation
Commissioners were created, with powers to borrow money to fund the
construction of two locks, and to charge tolls for boats using them.
The work was completed by October 1773, and the separate tolls
remained in force until 1783, when they were replaced by a
one-shilling (5p) toll whichever channel the boats used.
Users of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Loughborough Canal and the
Erewash Canal next demanded major improvements to the river down to
Gainsborough, including new cuts, locks, dredging and a towing path
suitable for horses. The Dadfords, who were engineers on the Trent and
Mersey Canal, estimated the cost at £20,000, but the proposal was
opposed by landowners and merchants on the river, while the Navigator,
published in 1788, estimated that around 500 men who were employed to
bow-haul boats would have lost their jobs. Agreement could not be
reached, and so
William Jessop was asked to re-assess the situation.
He suggested that dredging, deepening, and restricting the width of
the channel could make significant improvements to the navigable
depth, although cuts would be required at Wilford,
and Holme. This proposal formed the basis for an Act of Parliament
obtained in 1783, which also allowed a horse towing path to be built.
The work was completed by September 1787, and dividends of 5 per cent
were paid on the capital during 1786 and 1787, increasing to 7 per
cent, the maximum allowed by the Act, after that. Jessop carried out a
survey for a side cut and lock at Sawley in 1789, and it was built by
At the beginning of the 1790s, the Navigation faced calls for a bypass
of the river at Nottingham, where the passage past
Trent Bridge was
dangerous, and the threat of a canal running parallel to the river,
which was proposed by the
Erewash and the Trent and Mersey Canal
companies. In order to retain control of the whole river, they
supported the inclusion of the Beeston Cut in the bill for the
Nottingham Canal, which prevented the
Erewash Canal company from
getting permission to build it, and then had the proposal removed from
Nottingham Canal company's bill in return for their support of the
main bill. The parallel canal was thwarted in May 1793, when they
negotiated the withdrawal of the canal bill by proposing a thorough
survey of the river which would result in their own legislation being
put before parliament.
William Jessop performed the survey, assisted
by Robert Whitworth, and they published their report on 8 July 1793.
The major proposals included a cut and lock at Cranfleet, where the
River Soar joins the Trent, a cut, locks and weirs at Beeston, which
would connect with the
Nottingham Canal at Lenton, and a cut and lock
at Holme Pierrepont. An
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament was obtained in 1794, and
the existing proprietors subscribed the whole of the authorised
capital of £13,000 (equivalent to £1,370,000 in 2016),
The aim of the improvements was to increase the minimum depth from 2
feet (0.6 m) to 3 feet (0.9 m). By early 1796, the Beeston
cut was operational, with the Cranfleet cut following in 1797, and the
Holme cut in 1800, with the whole works being finished by 1 September
1801. The cost exceeded the authorised capital by a large margin, with
the extra being borrowed, but the company continued to pay a 7 per
cent dividend on the original shares and on those created to finance
the new work. In 1823 and again in 1831, the Newark Navigation
Commissioners proposed improvements to the river, so that larger
vessels could be accommodated, but the Trent Navigation Company were
making a good profit, and did not see the need for such work.
The arrival of the railways resulted in significant change for the
Company. Tolls were reduced to retain the traffic, wages were
increased to retain the workforce, and they sought amalgamation with a
railway company. The
Nottingham and Gainsborough Railway offered £100
per share during 1845, but this was rejected. Tolls decreased from
£11,344 (equivalent to £920,000 in 2016), during 1839 to £3,111
(equivalent to £270,000 in 2016), in 1855. Many of the connecting
waterways were bought by railway companies, and gradually fell into
disrepair. In an attempt to improve the situation, the Company toyed
with the idea of cable-hauled steam tugs, but instead purchased a
conventional steam dredger and some steam tugs. The cost of
improvements was too great for the old company, and so an Act of
Parliament was obtained in 1884 to restructure the company and raise
additional capital. Failure to raise much of the capital resulted in
another Act being obtained in 1887, with similar aims and similar
results. A third Act of 1892 reverted the name to the Trent Navigation
Company, and this time, some improvements were performed.
Newark Town Lock
With traffic still between 350,000 and 400,000 tonnes per year, Frank
Rayner became the engineer in 1896, and the company were persuaded
that major work was necessary if the navigation was to survive. The
engineer for the Manchester Ship Canal, Sir Edward Leader Williams,
was commissioned to survey the river, while negotiations with the
Staffordshire Railway, who owned the
Trent and Mersey Canal
Trent and Mersey Canal and
had maintained its viability, ensured that some of the clauses from
previous Acts of Parliament did not prevent progress. A plan to build
six locks between Cromwell and Holme, and to dredge this section to
ensure it was 60 feet (18 m) wide and 5 feet (1.5 m) deep
was authorised by an
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament obtained in 1906. Raising
finance was difficult, but some was subscribed by the chairman and
vice-chairman, and construction of
Cromwell Lock began in 1908. The
Newark Navigation Commissioners financed improvements to Newark Town
lock at the same time, and dredging of the channel was largely funded
by selling the 400,000 tonnes of gravel removed from the river bed. At
188 by 30 feet (57.3 by 9.1 m), Cromwell lock could hold a tug
and three barges, and was opened on 22 May 1911. The transport of
petroleum provided a welcome increase to trade on the river, but
little more work was performed before the beginning of the First World
Increased running costs after the
First World War
First World War could not be met by
increasing the tolls, as the company had no statutory powers to do so,
and so suggested that the Ministry of Transport should take over the
navigation, which they did from 24 September 1920. Tolls were
increased, and a committee recommended improvements to the river.
Nottingham Corporation invested some £450,000 on building the locks
authorised by the 1906 Act, starting with Holme lock on 28 September
1921, and finishing with Hazelford lock, which was formally opened by
Neville Chamberlain on 25 June 1926. A loan from Nottingham
Corporation and a grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee enabled
the Company to rebuild Newark Nether lock, which was opened on 12
During the early 1930s, the Company considered enlarging the
navigation above Nottingham, in conjunction with improvements to the
River Soar Navigation, between
Trent Lock and Leicester. There were
also negotiations with the London and North Eastern Railway, who were
responsible for the
Nottingham Canal between
Trent Lock and Lenton.
Plans for new larger locks at Beeston and
Wilford were abandoned when
the Trent Catchment Board opposed them. The Grand Union refused to
improve the Soar Navigation, because the Trent Navigation Company
could not guarantee 135,000 tons of additional traffic. The Company
also considered a plan to reopen the river to Burton, which would have
involved the rebuilding of Kings Mills lock, and the construction of
four new locks. An extra set of gates were added to Cromwell lock in
1935, effectively creating a second lock, while the Lenton to Trent
Lock section was leased from the LNER in 1936, and ultimately
purchased in 1946.
Hoveringham in 1954
Frank Rayner, who had been with the Company since 1887, and had served
as its engineer and later general manager since 1896, died in December
1945. Sir Ernest Jardine, who as vice-chairman had partly funded the
first lock at Cromwell in 1908, died in 1947, and the company ceased
to exist in 1948, when the waterways were nationalised. The last act
of the directors was to pay a 7.5 per cent dividend on the shares in
1950. Having taken over responsibility for the waterway, the Transport
Commission enlarged Newark Town lock in 1952, and the flood lock at
Holme was removed to reduce the risk of flooding in Nottingham. More
improvements followed between 1957 and 1960. The two locks at Cromwell
became one, capable of holding eight Trent barges, dredging equipment
was updated, and several of the locks were mechanised. Traffic
increased from 620,000 tonnes during 1951 to 1,017,356 tonnes during
1964, but all of this was below Nottingham. Commercial carrying above
Nottingham ceased during the 1950s, to be replaced by pleasure
Although commercial use of the river has declined, the lower river
between Cromwell and
Nottingham can still take large motor barges up
to around 150 feet (46 m) in length with a capacity of approx
300 tonnes. Barges still transport gravel from pits at Girton and
Besthorpe to Goole and Hull.
The aggregate carrier Tinno passing
Keadby in 2002
The river is legally navigable for some 117 miles (188 km) below
Burton upon Trent. However, for practical purposes, navigation above
the southern terminus of the
Trent and Mersey Canal
Trent and Mersey Canal (at Shardlow) is
conducted on the canal, rather than on the river itself. The canal
connects the Trent to the Potteries and on to
Runcorn and the
Down river of Shardlow, the non-tidal river is navigable as far as the
Cromwell Lock near Newark, except in
Nottingham (Beeston Cut &
Nottingham Canal) and just west of Nottingham, where there are two
lengths of canal, Sawley and Cranfleet cuts. Below Cromwell lock, the
Trent is tidal, and therefore only navigable by experienced,
well-equipped boaters. Navigation lights and a proper anchor and cable
are compulsory. Associated British Ports, the navigation authority for
the river from Gainsborough to Trent Falls, insist that anyone in
charge of a boat must be experienced at navigating in tidal
Trent Falls and Keadby, coastal vessels that have navigated
Humber still deliver cargoes to the wharves of Grove Port,
Neap House, Keadby, Gunness and Flixborough. Restrictions on size mean
that the largest vessels that can be accommodated are 100 m
(330 ft) long and 4,500 tonnes. The use of a maritime
pilot on the Trent is not compulsory for commercial craft, but is
suggested for those without any experience of the river. Navigation
can be difficult, and there have been a number of incidents with ships
running aground and in one case, striking
Keadby Bridge. The most
recent occurrence involved the Celtic Endeavour being aground near
Gunness for ten days, finally being lifted off by a high
Main article: Trent Aegir
Trent Aegir seen from West Stockwith,
Nottinghamshire 20 September
At certain times of the year, the lower tidal reaches of the Trent
experience a moderately large tidal bore (up to 5 feet [1.5 m]
high), commonly known as the
Trent Aegir (named after the Norse sea
god). The Aegir occurs when a high spring tide meets the downstream
flow of the river. The funnel shape of the river mouth
exaggerates this effect, causing a large wave to travel upstream as
far as Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and sometimes beyond. The Aegir
cannot travel much beyond Gainsborough as the shape of the river
reduces the Aegir to little more than a ripple, and weirs north of
Nottinghamshire stop its path completely.
The literal North/South divide
Main article: North–South divide (England)
The Trent historically marked the boundary between Northern England
and Southern England. For example, the administration of Royal Forests
was subject to a different
Justice in Eyre north and south of the
river, and the jurisdiction of the medieval Council of the North
started at the Trent. In addition to this, the University of
Oxford was formerly divided into a northern nation and a southern
nation, the former consisting of
English people north of the River
Trent and the Scots and the latter consisting of
English people south
of the Trent, the Irish, and the Welsh.
Some traces of the former division remain: the Trent marks the
boundary between the provinces of two English Kings of Arms, Norroy
and Clarenceux. This divide was also described in Michael
Drayton's epic topographical poem, Poly-Olbion, The Sixe and Twentieth
And of the British floods, though but the third I be,
Yet Thames and Severne both in this come short of me,
For that I am the mere of England, that divides
The north part from the south, on my so either sides,
that reckoning how these tracts in compasse be extent,
Men bound them on the north, or on the south of Trent
It is not clear when pollution first became an issue for the River
Trent, but in the late 1880s, it had a thriving salmon fishery, with
the river producing an annual catch of some 3,000 fish, a decade
later, this had fallen to 100. The collapse of the fishery was
due to the rapid population increase of the towns that developed
following the Industrial Revolution. The tipping point being the
introduction of piped water and a basic sewer network, which meant
that effluent, which was previously stored in cesspits, was carried
away through drains into the nearest brook.
...the polluted state of the Trent is a terror to Trentham.
Duke of Sutherland, describing the river in his injunction of
This was a particular problem in
Stoke-on-Trent and the growing towns
of the Potteries. Due to the relatively small size of the Trent and
its tributaries such as the Fowlea Brook, which drained these towns,
the river and brooks were unable to dilute the inflow of domestic
sewage and soon became overwhelmed and badly polluted.
At the downstream end of the Potteries was Trentham Hall, here
pollution became so bad that the owner, the Duke of Sutherland, made a
claim against the local Fenton council in 1902. He also took out an
injunction against the council to prevent the ongoing contamination
causing a "most foul and offensive stench", the river not even being
suitable to water grazing cattle on the estate.
Fowlea Brook - once a very heavily polluted tributary of the Trent
Although he provided land for a sewage works nearby at Strongford, the
problems continued such that in 1905 the Levenson-Gower family left
Trentham altogether and moved to their other properties, including
Dunrobin Castle in Scotland.
Until the outbreak of the Second World War, the main source of
pollution continued to be the Potteries, although there was
contamination from the Tame and other lower tributaries it was not as
prominent. During the 1950s, however, the same problem of effluent
dilution that occurred in Stoke began to become significant in
Birmingham and the Black Country. Domestic effluent and polluting
discharges from the metal working industries in the upper reaches,
combined to affect the whole length of the tributary River Tame.
The Tame pollution also reached the Trent as well, with one of the
worse effected reaches being that downstream of the confluence with
the Tame through Burton, this being exacerbated by its late
introduction of sewage treatment, and the substantial wastewater
arising from the breweries in the town. Angling clubs in Burton
used the Dove or local lakes for fishing, as the Trent through the
town was absent of any fish. Downstream, the inflow of cleaner water
from the Dove and then the Derwent meant that conditions improved
enough to allow recreational coarse fishing in the lower
The pollution of the "Trent catchment was probably at its worst in the
late 1950s", this being the result of the ongoing
industrialisation of the urban areas, combined with the interruption
and under investment caused by two world wars, which lead to only
piecemeal improvements of the sewerage treatment infrastructure taking
place. One effect of this pollution was that the upper and middle
reaches were completely devoid of any fish life.
I received this morning a letter from the secretary of a Burton rowing
Last Thursday, its senior eight were out rowing when
members of the crew were seized with pains in the chest.
This was caused by fumes rising from the river.
John Jennings MP for Burton-upon-Trent, 1956.
John Jennings, the local MP for Burton highlighted these problems in a
speech to the House when he stated in 1956, that as in previous years
the river had been declared unsafe for swimming on advice from the
medical officer, and how its unhealthy condition affected a local
From the 1960s onwards, there were gradual but steady improvements to
the inadequate sewage works and sewers built during the Victorian era
in the urban areas, but this was expensive, and took time to complete.
The changes were helped by the introduction of more stringent
pollution control legislation, which required industrial waste to be
discharged to sewers, and the formation of the Trent River Authority,
which had new duties relating to managing water quality issues. Other
changes, such as the replacement of town gas with natural gas, saw the
end of the polluting and toxic coal tar emissions to rivers in
In 1970, Mr Jennings again raised the issue of pollution through
Burton, the River Tame continuing to be a source of the problem, and
further improvements were promised. The responsibility for sewage
treatment works still belonged primarily to local authorities, which
often meant an uncoordinated approach and a proliferation of small
works. In 1974, these works were transferred to the regional water
authorities, with the
Severn Trent Water Authority
Severn Trent Water Authority taking over the
role for the Trent catchment. This led to increased investment, the
closure of older and smaller works, with sewage treatment being
combined at larger modern works such as Strongford and Minworth.
The economic recession in the 1970s meant that there was a
considerable contraction of heavy industrial sectors, reducing
pollution loadings from factories and foundries. Later improvements
such as the series of purification lakes that were constructed on the
Tame in the 1980s, which allowed contaminated sediment to settle out
from the river, also reduced pollution levels, and lessened the impact
of first flush runoff events in the lower Tame and the middle
Caddisfly larva, intolerant of pollution, are used as an indicator
species in the Trent Biotic index
The improvements in water quality along the Trent were recorded
through the chemical monitoring of the river from the 1950s. Polluting
substances such as ammonia showed a reduction, as did the biochemical
oxygen demand, an indicator of the contamination present in the river.
There were corresponding increases in dissolved oxygen, an indicator
of a healthy river environment. The programme of monitoring also
extended to taking biological samples, and one of the first biotic
indices used for assessing the ecological rather than the chemical
quality of rivers was developed by the local river board in the 1960s.
Using invertebrates as an indicator of pollution levels, it was
appropriately named the Trent Biotic index.
By 2004, it was reported that the Trent was cleaner than it had been
in the last 70–80 years, and that episodic incidents of pollution
had also reduced considerably since the 1970s. The river remains
vulnerable to these pollution events, such as the one that occurred in
October 2009 when an accidental release of cyanide from a factory into
the sewer system in Stoke-on-Trent, affected the treatment works at
Strongford. This resulted in the release of raw sewage and the
chemical into the river, killing thousands of fish, and posing a
health risk to river users as far south as Burton.
Although now considered cleaner, there are still problems with diffuse
pollution from agricultural runoff and urban areas, as well as point
source contamination from sewage works. The improvements that
have taken place mean that the Trent can be used for public water
consumption. Riverside lakes near
Shardlow act as a reserve water
Nottingham and Derby, and water is also abstracted at
Torksey and Newton-on-Trent for supplies in Lincolnshire.
Wildlife and ecology
Artificial changes along the Trent, due to navigation, farming,
mineral extraction and drainage works, mean that much of the riparian
landscape has been altered, reducing the amount of natural habitat.
The river channel links the remaining, but fragmented wetland areas
and nature reserves, providing a refuge for native and migrant
species. These include wildfowl and wading birds that
use the Trent Valley as a migration corridor, with the river also
being used as a wildlife route by mammals such as otters and
non-native American mink.
Grey heron fishing in the Trent
Additional nature conservation areas were created beside the river in
the 20th century, when a number of disused gravel pits, were
rehabilitated as nature reserves. One of the most important
of these is Attenborough Nature Reserve, a 226-hectare (560-acre) Site
Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is visited by wildfowl
such as wigeon, teal and the red-breasted merganser. Wading birds such
as oystercatcher and bittern have also been observed at the reserve;
as have kingfishers, reed warblers and water rails.
Other managed wetland sites along the river include Beckingham
Marshes, Croxall Lakes, Drakelow, and Willington Gravel Pits. At
Besthorpe near Newark, breeding pairs of little egrets and grey herons
have been observed.
The Trent valley also links together other SSSI and local nature
reserves, which have varying habitats not only for birds, but also
mammals, insects and fish, a good example is the tributary River Mease
where the entire watercourse has been designated both as a SSSI and a
European special area of conservation.
One of the more unusual ecological sites is Pasturefields nature
reserve near Hixon, an inland saltmarsh, which is a rare habitat for
the UK. A vestige of the saline marshes created by the brine springs
that seep from the groundwater of the Mercia mudstones, the reserve
contains salt tolerant species normally found on the coast, such as
sea plantain, arrowgrass and milkwort.
Improvements in water quality and subsequent fish stocks, in
combination with the ban on the use of certain persistent pesticides
have meant that otters have now returned to the Trent system, having
been absent as recently as the 1980s. A survey in 2003 showed a
doubling in the number of sites where evidence, such as spraints and
footprints of these elusive animals were found. They have also now
been sighted at locations such as Wolseley, Willington, and
Attenborough. Seals have been reported up to near
the head of the tidal section at Newark.
Fishing on the Trent near Ingleby by George Turner, 1850
Evidence of fishing along the Trent can be traced back to the
Neolithic period, with the possible remnants of a fish weir discovered
in the abandoned river channels at Hemington. More definitive
finds from the medieval period were also found at this site and near
Colwick. These consisted of V shaped alignments of stakes; wattle
panels and a large wicker trap and demonstrate that passive fishing
techniques were in use on the river.
The Domesday catalogue showed that there were many successful mills
and fisheries along the Trent. Mills were important locations for fish
and eel traps, the eels being caught during ‘quill time’ between
mid-August and early September. Written records show that in the
12th century landlords were paid in salmon, in lieu of rent at Burton
In the 17th century
Izaak Walton described the
River Trent as 'One of
the finest rivers in the world and the most abounding with excellent
salmon and all sorts of delicate fish.' A list composed in 1641
for the Trent, contained thirty types of fish and other species
including those that migrated from the sea such as shad, smelt, salmon
and flounder, and riverine species such as trout, grayling, perch and
The largest of those listed was the sturgeon, which at one time were
caught in the Trent as far upstream as King’s Mill, but only in low
numbers. Particular examples included one of 8 feet (2.4 m) taken
near Donington castle in 1255, and another at King's Mill of 7 feet
(2.1 m) in 1791. The last known catch was in 1902 near
Holme, the fish was 8 1⁄2 feet (2.6 m) and weighed 250
pounds (110 kg).
The effluent and industrial pollution of the early 20th century, led
to a rapid decline in fish stocks, large stretches of the river became
fishless and species such as salmon almost disappeared. As water
quality improved from the 1960s onwards, fish numbers recovered, and
recreational coarse fishing became more popular.
Fishing on the Trent near Hazelford Ferry, 2009
By the 1970s the Trent was regarded as 'one of the most productive
rivers in the British Isles'. by anglers, who would travel from
Yorkshire and other surrounding areas, to fish the Trent as
their local rivers still remained badly polluted and were absent of
Analysis of catch returns from 1969 to 1985, showed that the fish
caught most often by anglers were barbel, bream, bleak, carp, chub,
dace, eel, gudgeon, perch, and roach. Over the study period the
returns revealed that there was a variation in the species caught,
with a shift from roach and dace based catches, to one of chub and
bream, a change that was perceived by anglers to represent a
‘serious detriment’ to the fishery. This led to comments that
the river had become ‘too clean for its fish’, and its popularity,
especially for match fishing, declined from the mid 1980s.
Competition from other fisheries such as well stocked ponds and lakes
with better amenities and more consistent catches of fish also meant a
reduction in the appeal of fishing the Trent.
Recreational fishing is still popular, although anglers no longer line
the banks as they once did. There are many fishing clubs that use the
river, with catches including barbel, bream, carp, chub, dace, pike,
Salmon, a species that became virtually extinct due to historic
pollution, have been progressively reintroduced on the tributaries
since 1998, with thousands of salmon parr being released into the Dove
and its tributary the Churnet each year. Returning adult salmon
have been seen leaping over weirs on the river and in 2011 a
large salmon weighing over 10 pounds (4.5 kg) was caught at an
undisclosed location, and was 'thought to be the biggest caught on the
Trent in the last thirty years'.
Places along the Trent
Burton upon Trent
Map showing riverside towns and cities along the course of the Trent
Cities and towns on or close to the river include:
Burton upon Trent
Crossing the Trent
Prior to the mid-18th century there were few permanent crossings of
the river with only four bridges downstream of the Tame confluence:
the old medieval bridges at Burton, Swarkestone,
Nottingham (known as
Hethbeth Bridge) and Newark, all first built by 1204. There were,
however, over thirty ferries that operated along its course, and
numerous fords, where passage was possible, their locations indicated
by the suffix ‘ford’ in many riverside place-names such as
Hanford, Bridgford, and Wilford.
Barton Ferry in 1949
Glover noted in 1829 that all three types of crossing were still in
use on the
Derbyshire section of the Trent, but that the fords were
derelict and dangerous. These fording points only allowed passage
across the river when water levels were low; when the river was in
flood a long detour could be required. He reported that they could be
treacherous to the unwary, since there were few gauges to show if the
river had become too deep to cross, and that they were rarely used
except by locals who knew them well. One of the earliest known
fords was the crossing at Littleborough, constructed by the Romans it
was paved with flagstones, and supported by substantial timber
pilings. The importance of these fords was demonstrated by their
inclusion in the 1783 navigation Act, which limited any dredging at
these sites so that they remained less than 2 feet (0.61 m)
Farndon ferry in 1907 showing the white frontage of the Britannia Inn
Ferries often replaced these earlier fording points, and were
essential where the water was too deep, such as the tidal section of
the lower river. As they were a source of income, they were recorded
Domesday Book at a number of locations including Weston on
Trent and Fiskerton, both of which were still in operation in the
middle of the 20th century. The ferry boats used along the Trent
ranged in size from small rowing boats, to flat decked craft that
could carry livestock, horses, and in some case their associated carts
Bridges over the river were created in Saxon times at
least (and for a time just north of Newark at Cromwell, although it is
not known how long that bridge site lasted), and formed major centres
of trade and military importance. King Edward fortified the
Nottingham bridge in 920, while a notable battle took place at
Burton's bridge in 1322, and another in 1643. The medieval bridges of
Nottingham survived relatively intact until the 1860s, when
both were replaced and demolished. The central arches of the medieval
Swarkestone bridge were knocked out by the great flood of 1795 and
rebuilt, but the bridge’s more rural location allowed large portions
of the medieval bridge to survive and remain in use today. Crossing a
wide flood plain, the bridge is almost one mile (1.6 km) long, a
laborious project to allow flood waters to pass under it. At Newark,
the last bridge on the Trent until modern times, the bridge was
rebuilt in 1775. At least one other medieval attempt was made to
bridge the Trent near Wilden at Hemington, but this was gone long
before the end of the Middle Ages. The complex of three bridges
provides evidence of attempts to keep a crossing open over slightly
more than two hundred years from 1097, with three bridges constructed
on the same site but felled by scouring, floods and course migration
of the river to the south eroding the bridgehead. The bridge was
probably gone by around 1311 when nearby Wilden ferry, near Shardlow
was first recorded, and the site thereafter went without a bridge
Cavendish Bridge opened around 1760. As no archive sources
record that the Hemington bridge existed, there may have been other
medieval bridge projects now forgotten. (Until the late 18th century,
a long period of stagnation for economic and technical reasons limited
the number of bridges over the Trent; it has been noted that
relatively few bridges were constructed in
England on new sites
anywhere between around 1250–1300 and 1750.) Cavendish
Bridge was itself damaged beyond repair by a flood in March 1947,
requiring a temporary
Bailey bridge to be used until a new concrete
span was constructed in 1957.
When bridge construction resumed, toll bridges were often constructed
on the site of ferry routes. Such was the case at Willington,
Gunthorpe and Gainsborough.
Ferry Bridge built in 1889, crosses the river between
Stapenhill near Burton, there were similar calls for a new bridge,
a tally of usage showed that the foot ferry was being used 700 times
per day. The new Ferry Bridge was opened in 1889, although it needed
the financial support of the brewer and philanthropist Michael Bass to
pay for the construction, and later in 1898 to purchase the existing
ferry rights so that it became free of tolls.
The toll bridges were mostly bought out by the county councils in the
19th century following government reforms, one of the earliest being
Willington in 1898, the first toll free crossing was marked by a
procession across the bridge and a day of celebration. The
only toll bridge that remains across the Trent is at Dunham, although
it is free to cross on Christmas and Boxing Day.
Main article: Megawatt Valley
Cottam Power Station
The tall chimneys and concave shaped cooling towers of the many power
stations are a dominant and familiar presence within the open
landscape of the Trent valley, which has been widely used for power
generation since the 1940s.
The primary reason for locating so many generating stations beside the
Trent was the availability of sufficient amounts of cooling water from
the river. This combined with the nearby supplies of fuel in the form
of coal from the
Yorkshire coalfields, and the
existing railway infrastructure meant that a string of twelve large
power stations were originally constructed along its banks. At
one time these sites provided a quarter of the electricity needs of
the UK, giving rise to the epithet 'Megawatt Valley'.
Once these early stations reached the end of their functional life,
they were usually demolished, although in some cases the sites have
been retained and redeveloped as gas fired power stations.
In downstream order, the power stations that continue to use, or have
used the river as their source of cooling water are: Meaford, Rugeley,
Drakelow, Willington, Castle Donington, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Wilford,
Staythorpe, High Marnham, Cottam, West Burton and Keadby.
The three largest remaining coal-fired stations at Ratcliffe, Cottam
and West Burton still use domestic coal supplies, although this is now
being replaced by imported coal brought by ship from abroad.
There is one hydroelectric power station on the river, Beeston Hydro
at Beeston Weir.
Recreation on the Trent
Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre in
Nottingham next to the
Along with other major rivers in the Midlands, the Trent is widely
used for recreational activities, both on the water and along its
riverbanks. The National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont, near
Nottingham combines facilities for many of these sports, including
rowing, sailing and whitewater canoeing.
Trent Valley Way
Trent Valley Way created in 1998 as a long distance footpath,
enables walkers to enjoy the combined attractions of ‘the river’s
rich natural heritage and its history as an inland navigation’.
Extended in 2012, the route now runs from
Trent Lock in the south
Alkborough where the river meets the Humber. It combines
riverside and towpath sections, with other paths to villages and
places of interest in the wider valley.
Historically swimming in the river was popular, in 1770 at Nottingham
there were two bathing areas on opposite banks at
Trent Bridge which
were improved in 1857 with changing sheds and an assistant. Similar
facilities were present in 1870 on the water meadows at
Burton-on-Trent, which also had its own swimming club. Open water
swimming still takes place at locations including
Colwick Park Lake
adjacent to the river, with its own voluntary
lifeguards. The first person to swim the entire
swimmable length of the Trent was Tom Milner, who swam 139 miles
(224 km) over nine days in July 2015.
Rowing clubs have existed at Burton, Newark and
Nottingham since the
mid-1800s, with various regattas taking place between them, both on
the river and on the rowing course at the national watersports
Trent Valley Sailing Club near Trent Lock
Both whitewater and flat water canoeing is possible on the Trent, with
published guides and touring routes being listed for the river. There
is a canoe slalom course at Stone, a purpose built 700 m
(2,300 ft) artificial course at Holme Pierrepont, and various
weirs including those at Newark and Sawley are all used for whitewater
paddling. Various canoe and kayak clubs paddle on the river including
those at Stone, Burton, and Nottingham.  
Established in 1886 the Trent valley sailing club is one of two clubs
that use the river for dingy sailing, regattas, and events. There are
also a number of clubs that sail on the open water that has been
created as a result of flooded gravel workings which include
Hoveringham, Girton, and Attenborough.
Organised trips on cruise boats have long been a feature of the Trent,
at one time steam launches took passengers from
Trent Bridge to
Colwick Park, similar trips run today but in reverse, starting from
Colwick and passing through
Nottingham they use boats known as the
Trent Princess and Trent Lady. Others trips run from Newark castle,
and two converted barges; the Newark Crusader and
provide river cruises for disabled people via the St John Ambulance
Waterwing scheme. 
Although Spenser endowed 'The beauteous Trent' with 'thirty different
streams'[d] the river is joined by more than twice that number of
different tributaries, of which the largest in terms of flow is
the Tame which drains most of the West Midlands, including Birmingham
and the Black Country. The second and third largest are the Derwent
and the Dove respectively; together these two rivers drain the
Derbyshire and Staffordshire, including the upland areas
of the Peak District.
River Soar which drains the majority of the county of
Leicestershire, could also be considered as the second largest
tributary, as it has a larger catchment area than the Dove or Derwent,
but its discharge is significantly less than the Derwent, and lower
than the Dove.
In terms of rainfall the Derwent receives the highest annual average
rainfall, whereas the Devon, which has the lowest average rainfall is
the driest catchment of those tabulated.
Statistics of the Trent’s largest tributaries
List of tributaries
Tributaries of the Trent
Alphabetical listing of tributaries, extracted from the Water
Framework Directive list of water bodies for the River Trent:
Joins Trent at
River Derwent, Derby
Ford Green Brook
Grassthorpe Beck (Goosemoor Dyke)
Holme Dyke (Bleasby)
River Idle, Nottinghamshire
Morton Warping Drain
Old Trent (High Marnham)
Radcliffe on Trent
Sewer Dyke (North Clifton)
Longdon / Armitage
River Soar, Leicester
The Beck (Carlton on Trent)
Carlton on Trent
Warping Drain (Keadby)
Warping Drain (Owston Ferry)
List of rivers of Great Britain
Trent River Authority
Trent Valley Line
Trent Valley Way
List of fish in the River Trent
Trent River (Ontario)
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Photographs along the Trent in
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Catchment Tributaries of the
English Heritage and
Birmingham research project.
Predictive Modelling of Multi-Period Geoarchaeological Resources at a
River Confluence English Heritage, University of
University of Exeter
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Trent Valley GeoArchaeology
River Trent through Nottingham. Pictures & slide show.
Ceremonial county of Derbyshire
Boroughs or districts
North East Derbyshire
See also: List of civil parishes in Derbyshire
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings