The River Ancholme is a river in Lincolnshire, England, and a tributary of the Humber estuary. It rises south of Bishopbridge (west of Market Rasen) and flows north through the market town of Brigg before flowing into the Humber at South Ferriby. It drains a significant part of northern Lincolnshire between the Trent and the North Sea.
The river has been used by humans since at least 800 BCE, confirmed by the excavation of a planked boat at Brigg, and patents covering improvements to the river are known from 1287 onwards. Major change occurred in 1635, when a new straight channel was constructed from Bishopbridge to Ferriby. The new channel carries most of the water and is known as the New River Ancholme, whereas the Old River Ancholme maintains its natural course, meandering from side to side. The old course is mostly reduced to a drain, except around the town of Brigg where the two rivers create an island in the centre of Brigg known as 'Island Carr'. Further improvements were started by John Rennie (the Elder) in the early 1800s and completed by his son in the 1820s, with the reconstruction of Ferriby Sluice taking place around 1841.
From that time onwards the river was reasonably profitable, and although receipts were reduced when railways arrived in the area, trade picked up in the 1890s, and was boosted by cargoes of sugar beet in the 1930s. All commercial carrying had ceased above Brigg by the 1970s, and stopped altogether in the 1980s. The upper section was almost derelict by then, but was restored and dredged in 2004. The river is an important drainage channel for north Lincolnshire, but is also used for leisure, with boating, rowing, canoeing and fishing taking place. Responsibility for the river changed six times between 1930 and 1996, but it is now managed by the Environment Agency.
The Ancholme Internal Drainage Board maintains twelve pumping stations on the banks of the river, which pump water from the surrounding low-lying land to prevent flooding. The river also supplies large volumes of water to the Scunthorpe Steelworks, and to Anglian Water, who use it to provide a public water supply to the South Humber bank industrial area. In order to maintain this volume of abstraction during the summer months, and other dry periods, water is transferred from Barlings Eau, near the River Witham, by the Trent Witham Ancholme transfer scheme, commissioned in 1974.
Few of the bridges which cross the river form part of a public road, and so they have not been replaced to cope with increased traffic. A number of them are listed structures, while Ferriby Lock is a scheduled ancient monument. The river is also home to two historic boats owned by the Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society.
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