Alice, Drought

Alice’s visit to ICE and the National Archives

20th – 23rd June 2017 Alice was away, on a research trip to the National Archives and Institution of Civil Engineers Archives in London.

Trust me to chose the hottest week of the year so far to spend in London! Fortunately, the National Archives have fantastic climate control, and were lovely and cool (I would definitely recommend a trip on a hot day!), but stepping outside it was (comparatively) unbelievably hot.

The aim of the trip was to supplement the information concerning the early canals in Staffordshire and their water supply which I have found at the Staffordshire Record Office with the information in reports and canal company minute books held in London.

I spent one day at the Institution of Civil Engineers archive, in Westminster. Here I looked at various reports, mostly by John Rennie the Elder, concerning the reservoir at Rudyard near Leek. His reports consider every aspect of the proposed reservoir, including the impact of floods and droughts on the reservoir, and the impact of the reservoir on the experience of floods and droughts downstream.

I spend two and a half days at the National Archives at Kew, there were a number of documents that I looked at in the National Archives, from canal company minutes and petitions against the canal companies to an agreement for the work carried out at Trentham by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The petitions were particularly interesting, although untangling the ‘truth’ from the complex web of complaints, alleged motives and apparent misdirection will be far from straightforward!

Most of this research will feed into an exploration of the development of water supplies and reservoirs in the 18th Century, and the shortages of water which resulted in this development. The early canal network seems to have been very prone to shortages of water, resulting mostly from normal seasonal reduction in water levels, but also from droughts, because they did not have a sufficient reserve of water. Reservoir building, therefore, was an important stage in creating reliable infrastructure and involved a shift in how people thought about water.

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