The River Tone
Flowing on the north west edge of Stoke, the Tone has always been an important part of village life. In the 14th Century Stathmoor and Athelney had fisheries owned by Wells Cathedral. Navigation is known from the early 16th Century and by the end of the 17th a group of Conservators were given control of the river. Over the centuries the course of the river has been altered and straightened - one previous course of part of the river remains as Crooked Drove, north of Hook Bridge.
The local roads were badly drained and unsurfaced, so the boatmen were important people, even though they tended to live on the fringe of the community. Some were employed by large firms, such as Stuckey & Bagehot, but others had their own boats and often had cottages on the river bank, as in Curload and Athelney. The boats carried about 25 tons of cargo and made use of the tide to travel up and down the river on the stretch through Stoke from Burrowbridge to the half-lock at New Bridge. One of the last known cargoes was the bricks to build the Willey Road houses in the 1920s. Read more . . .
One of the local owners with his boat cleaned for a Sunday outing and maybe a bit of duck shooting. Note the front and rear steering sculls
The River Parrett
Also important was the Parrett, connecting Bridgwater with Taunton and Langport. At the confluence of the Tone, Burrowbridge became an important meeting place for boatmen, frequenting the King Alfred pub and the now closed King William, a little further upstream. The new stone bridge was opened in 1826, the original design in cast iron having been deemed too expensive. In 1836 the Parrett Navigation Act was passed which enabled the 'Company of Proprietors' to improve the navigation to Langport and beyond. By 1839 the Stanmoor to Langport stretch was fully operational. Another village pub, originally called The George, was situated near the bank of the Parrett. It became known as the Black Smock. The Parrett, in common with the other Bristol Channel rivers, has its own 'Bore'. Read more . . .
Both of Stoke's rivers have always been prone to flooding. In 1819 James Dugdale referred to nearly 30,000 acres being regularly under water. There was a particularly severe flood in 1860 and this co-incided with the Land Drainage Act of 1861. Apart from improving the river banks the drainage boards were able to start using pumps to drain the moors, enabling a longer growing season. The steam powered boilers used about four tons of coal a day. This was brought up river and unloaded in wicker baskets.
The worst flooding in recent times was in December 1929, when the Tone burst the bank that protects Stanmoor and Athelney. No human lives were lost, but the last of the resulting evacuees did not return home until the following March. Read more . . .
Rebuilding the Banks in 1930