Friday, April 26, 2013

Parrett Navigation company on eBay

" An Act for improving the navigation of a portion of the River Parrett, 
and for making a navigable canal from the said river to Barrington, 
all in the county of Somerset ... provision is also intended to be made, 
to alter or increase the rates, tolls, or duties, by the said Act authorised to be taken. 
Dated this 15th day of October 1836."

excerpt from The London Gazette
Tuesday November 29, 1836

share certificate of the Parrett Navigation company with wax seal
The Parrett Navigation
share certificate, 1837
double-click image to enlarge

River Parrett
The River Parrett flows through the counties of Dorset and Somerset in South West England. From its source, located near Chedington in Dorset, to its mouth in Bridgwater Bay, the Parrett travels a distance of about 37 mi (60 km). The fall of the river between Langport and Bridgwater, about 10 miles (16 kilometers),  is only 1 foot per mile (0.2 m/km). As a result the river is prone to flooding in winter and during high tides.  More than 1200 years ago, the river formed a boundary between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Dumnonia. Many approaches have been tried since the medieval period to reduce the incidence and effect of floods and to drain the surrounding fields.

down stream part of Parrett river
detail from map of Somerset, ca. 1646, by Janssonius
double-click image to enlarge
original map can be seen

Navigation on the Parrett river
The 1836 Parrett Navigation Act authorised improvements to the River Parrett between Burrow Bridge and Langport, rebuilding of the river bridge at Langport, which had obstructed navigation up-river from there for many years, and construction of a canal to Westport. Canal tolls were charged for use of the canal, and there was a toll for trade passing under the rebuilt bridge.

William Gravatt, who had worked on the Thames  Tunnel with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the engineer for the construction of the Westport canal. Gravatt  also devised the dumpy level, a surveying instrument. 

The Parrett Navigation company raised 10500 Pounds by the issuing of shares. As the cost of the works exceeded the budget, a second Act of Parliament was obtained in 1839, allowing the company to raise another 20000 Pounds but also to increase tolls. However local merchants opposed the bill. A petition against the act was found to be forged. In 1840 the canal was open for first usage. The company was succesfully from the start. The incoming cargoes brought coal and timber. Grain and stone were exported via the canal.

share certificate from the Parrett Navigation company 1839
Parret Navigation
shares certificate, 1839

Railways and floodings lead to the downfall
When the Bristol and Exeter Railway opened further branches (Langport 1853), the receipts of the company dropped steadily. Lacking sufficient funds, it was unable to keep up with necessary repairs. In 1875 parts of Westmoor near Langport were flooded because of an unrepaired culvert under the river. The Langport lock gates were opened to lower the upstream water levels. The company had no option but to stop collecting tolls. In July 1878 the Somersetshire Drainage Act was passed by Parliament. The company became insolvent, and the company's property was given to the Somersetshire Drainage Commissioners. The canal was closed for navigation, left to serve as a drainage channel.

wax seal on stock certificate
wax seal depicting sailing ship
"Parrett Navigation Company"
detail from the share above

Trouvailles on eBay
In our hobby eBay is generally seen as the place where you can find the "common stuff ". As if it is a shame to be active on such an online auction platform. Rubbish, I'd say. True, most of the material is boringly common, but don't you need piles of common, regular, ordinary and steady material, to be able to recognize the uncommon, the unusual, the remarkable, the exceptional "stuff" ?

Both these early and rare certificates were offered on eBay in January 2013. Amazing, isn't it.
  • The 1837 share was bid up by 6 bidders to 245 GBP / 302 EUR. 
  • The 1839 certificate was wanted by 8 bidders and fetched a result of 227 GB / 280 EUR
I am not into collecting navigation or canal scripophily, but, out of curiosity, I contacted the seller with the question if there were more of these early English shares. There were not.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you liked it.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your post Franky. I agree with your comments about ebay. Most of the material is common and not interesting but once in a while you do find that nugget. Some of the rarest pieces I own have come from ebay.