These are Extracts from the Parish records on the events leading to the covering of the Great Whyte, Ramsey.
May 31st, 1838
A meeting was held in the vestry of the Parish Church with Mr James Jones in the chair. Mr John Serjeant proposed and Mr Samuel Staffurth seconded that;
“As it is represented the Surveyors of the Highways of this Parish have for upwards of 40 years past repaired the River Brink from the High Bridge to the Bridge called Southams’ Bridge and beyond it that the same be repaired forthwith where necessary.”
These minutes are the start of the events that led to covering over the Great Whyte. An amendment was moved by Mr Hicks Ridlington that the Surveyor of Highways had no right to repair the river brink and that it was the up to the proprietors of the houses fronting the river and the expense should not rest with the parish. There was no seconder so that the first proposal was passed and a committee of James & Joseph Jones with Samuel & William Staffurth, Andrew Newton, John Younge Beard, Mr James Lavender and such occupiers and parishioners as chose to attend, were appointed to meet the Surveyor of Highways at seven o’clock the next morning at Southams’ Bridge. They were then to report back to the meeting that was arranged for Monday next in the Vestry.
On the 4th June 1838
The Ramsey Parishioners met again in the Vestry. It was agreed to repair the boarded section of the brink with deal boards and oak piles, and part of the brick section should also should be repaired. The expenses should be met out of the highway rates.
On the 31st August, 1841
Mr James Jones took the chair and it was resolved that the Horseware next the High Bridge be filled up and the Bridge be widened to the width of the street by making a brick wall next the garden of the premises now occupied by James Caton. The meeting also took into consideration that the arching over of the river from the High Bridge to the steps called ’Descows Steps’ would be of great public advantage. Thomas Darlows’ offer of 25,000 bricks was accepted and a rate of 6d. in the pound granted for the work.
Three years passed before any further work was required and then on the 31st August 1849 a meeting was held to discuss cleaning out the river. Edward Fellowes was in the chair and it was agreed to construct a dam at Flagholt and at the Arch and then ‘mill out’ the water. This was proposed by Henry Saunders and seconded by Isaac Palmer. Henry Saunders and Samuel Golden proposed that a committee of seven be appointed to plan a permanent improvement of the Town River. The following gentlemen agreed to serve, Isaac Newton, George Infield, Henry Saunders, William Staffurth, Overall Ibberson, and the Surveyors of Highways.
The meeting of the 21st Feb. 1851
Was told of the serious effects from the work done by the Middle Level Drainage Commissioners to the Town River on navigation and to the Ford or Gravel. Mr Staffurth was in the chair and it was resolved unanimously that as the Middle Level had destroyed the road across the Gravel that they should erect a bridge across the river and make compensation for other damage to the river and navigation.
A copy of the minutes of the meeting were sent to Mr Day, Clerk to the Middle Level and it was agreed at the next meeting on the 11th March ’51 to meet Mr Walker, engineer to the Middle Level. The date was set at the 20th March and a committee of William Staffurth, Thomas Darlow, Thomas Mawdesley, John Serjeant, Overall Ibberson and the Surveyors of the Highways appointed.
This Committee reported back to the meeting of the 25th March. Mr Walker said that The Middle Level had accepted liability but strongly recommended that the Parish of Ramsey arch over the Town River and provide a landing place for goods at the end of the Town. He also said that if the Town were to give up the request to the Middle Level to clean out the Bill Lode, that the Middle Level would consider a liberal contribution towards the scheme. It was agreed to hold a meeting for all the Inhabitants of Ramsey to take the subject fully into consideration.
This meeting was held on the 4th April in the Church Vestry. Mr Overall Ibberson took the chair and a committee was appointed to negotiate with the Middle Level Commissioners. This was to consist of William Staffurth, Overall Ibberson, Thomas Darlow John Serjeant; Thomas Smith Mawdesley and that three gentlemen should be a quorum. The Surveyors of the Highways were to be requested to assist the committee.
William Staffurth took the chair at the meeting of the 13th June when it was reported that the Commissioners had offered £1,000 as compensation for not requiring the Bill Lode to be scoured out, the loss of the Ford or Gravel, a landing place and some Indemnity for not doing the above work. The committee declined the offer.
Edward Fellowes M.P. took the chair on the 14th August 1851 when it was resolved unanimously that an application be made to the Middle Level to grant the sum of £1,500 in consideration of their not being requested to excavate the Bill Lode or to restore the Gravel or Ford. It was moved by John Serjeant and seconded by Overall Ibberson that it was expedient to arch over the Town River.
September 12th 1851.
Edward Fellowes took the chair and inform the meeting that the Middle Level had agree to offer £1,500 in return for not being required to excavate the Bill Lode. Mr Serjeant moved and Overall Ibberson seconded that i1 this offer be accept as it was not likely to be any advantage to the Parish to have any such work on the Bill Lode done . An amendment was moved by Henry Saunders and seconded by Henry Groomes that the Middle Level be called on to complete their work. This failed by 9 votes to 22.
Overall Ibberson and John Collett moved that the Town River be arched over, the cost to be carried over a space of three years. Again an amendment was moved by Henry Saunders and Henry Groomes that the Town River be scoured out to a suffient depth to carry off the Town water. This too failed, this time by 6 to 21.
Lastly, the meeting agreed that the most convenient place for a landing place was at the North end of the Town next the Bill Bridge.
These minutes were signed by Edward Fellowes and 13 others.
October 2nd 1851.
William Staffurth was in the chair & Edward Fellowes was present. There was a unanimous vote to agree to the indemnity required by the Middle Level. The meeting was adjourned to October 3rd when it was agreed to sign the indemnity at once because the Middle Level had refused to start work for another week. The meeting also agreed to send the indemnity to Edward Fellowes and that if he refused to sign, then the indemnity would be nullified.
October 6th 1851.
William Staffurth agaln was in the chair. The agreement from Mr G.Day, the clerk to the Middle Level was read and it was resolved that the following be appointed to obtain further signatures. William Staffurth, Overall Ibberson, Ibberson Saunders, Isaac Palmer & William Flowers.
11th October 1851.
It was reported that the indemnity had been signed and forwarded to Edward Fellowes, but that he had not returned it. The meeting was adjourned to the
October 5th 1851
William Staffurth was in the chair.
The indemnity having been signed by Edward Fellowes, it was agreed to send it to Mr Day and that the Surveyor of Highways be authorised to receive the £1,500.
29th April 1852.
Samuel Staffurth was chairman. The specifications for covering the river were adopted on a proposition by Overall Ibberson and seconded by John Serjeant. It was proposed by Joseph Mead and seconded by Isaac Bateman junr; that the adoption of the tenders be left in the hands of the Surveyors of the Highways who declared that their intention was to accept the tender of Messers Booth & Lunn for the sum of £2000.00
7 July 1st 1852.
Overall Ibberson in the chair. A Rate of lOd in the pound was proposed by John Serjeant, and seconded by James Newton. Proposed by Thomas Phillips and seconded by Hicks Ridlington that the Surveyor of Highways be empowered to borrow at interest the amount of the rate that had been laid until such rate could be collected.
August 1st 1852.
A Meeting was held at the Bill Bridge to inspect the works connected with the culvert, and to consider constructing a basin for navigation purpose. Edward Fellowes was in the chair, and Mr Allen, architect of St.lves produced the plans for the work to be undertaken. John Marriott Bridgefoot proposed and Hicks Ridlington seconded that these plans be adopted.
Overall Ibberson proposed and William Flowers seconded that the Surveyor of Highways ”do forthwith carry out these plans.”
October 7th 1853
Mr Walker wrote to Edward Fellowes regarding Mr Allens’ plan for an additional 2 culverts, one on either side of the original. This Mr Walker had calculated would give an area of only 11% less than the original arch on the High Bridge. This plan would also have the advantage that the sewerage and drains could run into the laterals and thus leave the water in the central culvert ’clean for culinary use’. By preventing future flooding this work would add to the value of properties nearby. Two other plans were also considered, one to enlarge the existing single drain, or to add just one lateral culvert. The latter was cheaper but not as satisfactory for sewerage.
October 13th 1853.
Edward Fellowes was in the chair to decide how to enlarge the newly built culvert. John Serjeant proposed and George Infield seconded that a rate of lOd in the pound be raised to undertake the work. Samuel Staffurth proposed and George Infield seconded that Mr Walkers’ plan to secure the Public from danger opposite the breaches in the culvert be adopted. Edward Fellowes was thanked for the great trouble that he had taken.
Mr walker again wrote to Edward Fellowes on the 15th and 18th confirming his advice to build 2 culverts, one either side of the present one.
November 4th 1853.
Edward Fellowes was in the chair. John Serjeant proposed and George Infield seconded that Mr Walkers’ plans for two additional culverts be adopted provided that they be increased in size from 5’ 6” to 6’.
December 1st 1853.
Edward Fellowes in the chair. Proposed by Isaac Bateman and seconded by Stephen Palmer that Messers Coker and Oakes tender of £2,095.5.0d be accepted. John Serjeant and Stephen Palmer proposed that the Surveyors of Highways be empowered to borrow the money at interest until the rates could be collected. Saunders Newton and Charles Henry Stamp proposed that the Surveyors of Highways be requested to give directions for the work to start as soon as the weather permitted and the contract was signed.