Langham Mill pre 1906
Langham Pumping Station

The mill at Langham had closed by 1924 and the site was bought by South East Essex Waterworks (now Essex and Suffolk Water). The waterworks were given permission to demolish the mill and built a pumping station to extract water from the river. The water was treated in Langham and piped to Danbury and then on to London. The waterworks were allowed to extract 12 million gallons a day and that continues to this day.

The painting on the left (above) was painted before 1906 and is owned by Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/langham-mill-235

Rebuilding Locks - 1920s

1920s - Flatford Lock under restoration

As part of the planning permission to build the pumping station at Langham,  Essex and Suffolk Waterworks were required to rebuild the locks at

  • Stratford,
  • Dedham,
  • Flatford 
  • Brantham 

Because of the interest in Constable the lock at Flatford was rebuilt so that was like the original lock, apart from having sides made of concrete.This probably makes the Flatford Lock unique because other locks in the country have a more modern and efficient design.

Stratford Pumping Station & Abberton Reservoir - 1935

Stratford Pumping Station
Abberton Reservoir

In 1935 South East Essex Waterworks were building a new reservoir in Abberton.  They got permission to extract the water for it from their pumping station in Stratford St Mary, the untreated water being pumped direct to Abberton. They were allowed to extract up to 35 million gallons a day, but had to let at least 4 million gallons a day flow on past Stratford towards Flatford. In practice under normal conditions the Stour was unable to supply all that water and so only the minimum was allowed to flow past Stratford and much of that was lost before Flatford.

 The original reservoir  was just a reservoir but the current one was constructed with advice from RSPB and is called Essex Wildlife Centre. It has islands and other features to attract different birds. David Attenborough opened it and said that it was one of the best projects he had seen 

A new pumping station at Brantham

The greatly reduced flow due to water extraction at Stratford allowed salt water to reach as far as Flatford and that killed many trees and plants. That was eventually solved by a new pumping station downstream of Flatford at Brantham installed being installed. This meant that the Waterworks could allow a minimum of 7 million gallons a day to flow past Flatford as they could recover it from the new pumping station. That continues to this day and can result in sudden changes in the depth of the Stour, depending on how much is being extracted.

Ely Ouse To Essex Transfer System.

River Ouse at Denver Sluice

More water needed – increased housing in the South East

  • In 1964 the solution was to pump excess water from the Ely Ouse to the Stour via the Denver Sluice, called the Ely Ouse to Essex Transfer System.

  • In 2006 because of the anticipated further increased demand for water  it was decided to increase the rate of transfer from the Ouse into the Stour.

Both of the above added to the supply and also helped reduce flooding in the Fens.

To cater for the increased volume of water the following improvements and developments took place:  A new gravity fed pipeline was built from Kirtling Green to Wixoe, a distance of 15k m

  • A new pumping station was built at Wormingford which pumps direct to Abberton Reservoir, a distance of 17km. The route is via Fordham, Copford, Heckford Bridge, Birch and into the west end of Abberton. The route is via Fordham, Copford, Heckford Bridge, Brich and into the West End of Abberton
  • The capacity of Abberton Reservoir was extended by 60%. Even before the expansion, Abberton was one of the largest reservoirs in the country. Essex and Suffolk have a licence to abstract a maximum of 450M litres (450,000 tons) per day, provided of course, that there is enough surplus water in the Ouse.

Water Abstraction Today

  • Water is pumped from the Denver Complex, (near Kings Lynn) and joins the River Stour at Kirtling Green in Cambridgeshire.
  • Some water is then pumped out at Wixoe (near Haverhill in Suffolk) to the River Pant (just east of Saffron Walden in Essex) and from there to Hanningfield Reservoir (between Billericay and Chelmsford)).

  • The remainder flows down the River Stour where most is extracted at Stratford St Mary Pumping Station and is piped to Abberton Reservoir (near Colchester).
  • The water from Abberton is pumped to Layer de la Haye for treatment and then goes to serve the needs of south Essex.

The distance between the Denver Complex and Abberton Reservoir is 141km but the water flows in existing water courses for about two thirds of this distance.

  • The pipe arriving at Kirtling Green has a diameter of 1.83m and is capable of carrying hundreds of tons of water per day.
  • This use of the Stour as an artery for water means that even at the height of summer there is plenty of water in the river. It is a very good use of a precious resource and in a dry summer water from the Ouse provides over a third of the supply.