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CHER Number:07896
Type of record:Monument
Name:Reach Lode

Summary - not yet available

Grid Reference:TL 551 681
Parish:Reach, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Swaffham Prior, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Burwell, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Full description

R1, Reach Lode is an artificial navigable water course three miles long, between Reach village (TL/565-/664-) and the River Cam at Upware (TL/537-/699-). It is certainly recorded in 1279 (R3) and may perhaps be identified as the 'fovea de Reche' referred to in 1097. The relationship of the Lode to the adjacent Devil's Dyke indicates that the Lode is earlier than the Dyke and is therefore likely to be Roman in date. The present appearance of the Lode is the result of a long and complex history of altering and recutting, mainly from the C17 onwards. Up to the mid C17 the alignment of the Lode was approximately as it now is except at the NW end where it swung N of the present Lode to follow the present boundary between Swaffham Prior, Burwell and Wicken. Probably in the early 1650s a straight new Lode was cut by the Bedford Level Commissioners from Reach to Upware, SW of the older Lode, on the line of the present Engine Drain and its continuation to the SW (TL/5645/6645 to TL5378/6975).This work was carried out to improve both navigation and drainage. Routine payments for the scouring of the Lode by the Bedford Level Commissioners are recorded throughout the C18. In 1766 the responsibility for drainage of the fenland SW of the Lode passed to the Swaffham and Bottisham Drainage Commissioners. In 1767 the Commissioners abandoned the Lode then existing and recut the original Lode on its present alignment. A large bank, called the 'Division Bank', then 12ft wide and 4ft high, was erected along the SW side of the Lode to protect the Swaffham fens from flooding from the Lode and the adjacent Burwell fens. Both the Bedford Level Commissioners and the Swaffham and Bottisham Drainage Commissioners continued to spend large sums of money on heightening the banks on either side of the Lode throughout the late C18 and C19 as the level of the fen sank owing to drainage. The present Lode consists of a wide water course which starts at the NW end of the Hythe at Reach village and runs for about two miles in a NW direction until it is joined by Burwell Lode approaching from the E (at TL/5474/6930). This section is almost straight except for a series of gentle curves near the SE end. At its junction with Burwell Lode, it turns sharply through 25 degrees and runs WNW for 3/4 mile on a straight line. The Lode is not fed by a major upland stream, but by two catch-water drains which skirt the fen edge NE and SE of Reach village. The Lode is 30ft wide at its SE end, gradually widening to 40ft at its junction with Burwell Lode. Thereafter it gradually widens to 50ft at Upware. It is bounded on both sides by banks up to 30ft wide. These increase in height from 4ft at the SE end to 12ft near the centre, where the Lode is crossing the open fen, and then fall to 6ft at Upware. Towards its SE end are a series of large rectangular ponds (in Reach parish), three on the NE side (TL/5604/6730 to TL/5620/6705) and one on the SW side (TL/5621/6681); it is said that the Lode banks were strengthened by clay from these ponds.

<R1> RCHM, 1972, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire. Volume II. North-East Cambridgeshire, 129 (Bibliographic reference). SCB13360.

<R2> Taylor, C., 1973, The Cambridgeshire Landscape: Cambridgeshire and the Southern Fens, 41 (Bibliographic reference). SCB14337.

<R3> Reaney, R.H., 1943, The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, 136 (Bibliographic reference). SCB13796.

Sources and further reading

<R1>Bibliographic reference: RCHM. 1972. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire. Volume II. North-East Cambridgeshire. 129.
<R2>Bibliographic reference: Taylor, C.. 1973. The Cambridgeshire Landscape: Cambridgeshire and the Southern Fens. 41.
<R3>Bibliographic reference: Reaney, R.H.. 1943. The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. 136.