The Ouse Washes Website

an independent research and information project

Salters Lode

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Salters Lode Lock
Old Bedford Sluice
Flood Spillway
Index and links


Salters Lode is a hamlet in the small civil parish of Downham West, in the county of Norfolk, England. According to Kelly's Directory of 1908, the parish was created in 1896 when Downham was divided into two parishes, the urban part called Downham Market and the rural part called Downham West.
It is situated on the west bank of the tidal River Great Ouse at a point where the non-tidal rivers Well Creek and the Old Bedford join it via navigation locks.

This website is not a parish or community site, it is solely about the features and structures affecting drainage, irrigation and navigation.

The photo below shows the end of Well Creek, the mooring point, Salters Lode Lock (leading into the River Great Ouse) with a road bridge over it, and the lock-keepers cottage just to the right.
 by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Aug 2007
This is all part of the Middle Level system, administered by the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) and not actually part of the Ouse Washes. But there is a connection, as you will see later ......

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page last updated
01 August 2013

If visted before, please "refresh" page to see latest version.

Google satellite view.
River Great Ouse on right.
Well Creek bottom left to topright.
Old Bedford River below, looking black

Salters Lode Lock

inner gate of OB lock in 2007 by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Aug 2007
According to Samuel Wells, a sluice was originally built here in 1630, and re-built in 1828, both times by BLC.(Samuel Wells, Vol 1 page 724).
Summers say a new sluice was built here in 1826(The Great Level, p.177)
The differences in dates may indicate start and finish of construction.
When it became a navigable lock, I do not yet know, but assume 1828. The Middle Level Commissioners took control from BLC in ?.
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Control box
control box of OB lock in 2008 by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, July 2008.

Old Bedford Sluice

According to Samuel Wells (Vol 1, p 724), this was originally built in 1630, and re-erected in 1828.  The original sluice (known as Bedford Sluice)  from Erith to re-join the River Great Ouse here. After 1652 when the New Bedford River was dug, the sluice and river had the prefix Old added.

Below is the northern, downstream, end of the Old Bedford River and the inner steel vertical gate of the lock/sluice leading into the River Great Ouse, all owned and managed by the Environment Agency (EA). This gate was fitted in 1995 by the EA's predecessor's, the National Rivers Authority (NRA) replacing timber flap gates.
Strangely, it is the MLC-employed Salter's Lode Lock-keeper who operates Old Bedford Lock.

inner gate of OB lock in 2007 by Eddy Edwards Photo: EE, Aug 2007
On the left can be seen the bridge over Salters Lode Lock and the lock keepers cottage. Comparing this with the photo at top of page shows how close Well Creek and the Old Bedford are. I used to wonder why the two were not joined together to avoid navigators wishing to go from one to the other having to go out into the tidal river. More of that later .....

In winter the lock is primarily used to provide gravity drainage into the tidal river when levels permit

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Outer wooden flap gates
outer gates at OB lock in 2008 by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, July 2008.


I think the the bridge over the lock was probably built in the 1630s (around the time Vermuyden cut the original (Old) Bedford River during his earlier attempts to drain the fens).
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Weir or flood spillway

The Old Bedford/Counter Drain (OB/CD) drains waters from Colne and Somersham in the south and the fen areas west of the washes. Water is normally discharged by gravity via the old Bedford Sluice/Lock into the Great Ouse Tidal River, thence to sea.

If the sluice is tide locked or cannot be operated for other reasons, and the OB/CD level reaches 1.15m AOD at Welches Dam, the pumping station there operates, transferring water into the River Delph (Welney Gate Sluice having been closed first).

If the level of the OB/CD at Salters Lode still rises to 1.65m AOD despite the above operations, water flows over a 3m wide weir into Well Creek, part of the Middle Level system, and eventually to sea via St.Germans.
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Text and photos except where noted © Eddy Edwards, 2010-17

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Index and links

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Related pages on this website
Welches Dam
Related pages on external websites
Well Creek Trust
Middle Level Commissioners