. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• History
• The Godalming

• The Wey

. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• Lock
• Barges
• Life on the

• The Horse-
drawn IONA

. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• Watermills
• Flour & Bread
• Fulling & Cloth
• Chilworth

• Charcoal

• Brewing
• Papermaking
• Ice Houses
. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• Habitats
• Trees & Plants
• Insects
• Birds
• Fish
• Countryside

. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• More About

• More About

• More About

• More About

• More About

. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• Legends
• The Big Names
. . . . . . . .
• Introduction

• Boat Art
• Inn Art
• River Graffiti
. . . . . . . .
• Basingstoke

• Wey & Arun

• The Thames
. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .
We welcome
your comments

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

Wey Navigation
Town Lock to the Thames

This stretch fittingly completes the Navigation's journey, from its original cut in the estate of Sir Richard Weston by Guildford. and on to those of the Portmore family of Weybridge who were shareholders of the Navigation for over 100 years.



“Alton has manufactures of corded stuffs, figured baragons, ribbed druggets, serges, &c. and round the town are plantations of hops. It is seated on the Wey.” Brookes 1815

The two Navigations had shareholders, but these never actually owned the waterway. Both were held by Trustees appointed by two separate Acts of Parliament, and it was the responsibility of the Trustees to ensure that the finances of the canals were effectively managed. All maintenance costs, such as ensuring that the locks and weirs were well maintained, and any financial liabilities were settled first, before any profits were paid out to the shareholders.

“There used to be some funny people on the river. A very long time ago I remember an old boy at Farncombe, lived in that boathouse. He used to live on top of the boathouse where he built a platform and had his bed and everything up there. He was a miserable old so and so.” Captain White's River Life Nancy Larcomber

click image to enlarge

"The 14 locks on the length of river were traversed in four days. They are centers for social activity, places to commune with the locals and other travelers, and of course an ingenious way of coping with the different depths of the river so you don't find yourself plunging into deep rapids. They have been around for a few centuries and inspired painters like Constable, whose exhibition of landscapes we later saw at the Tate Britain, to put their special convivial quality on canvas. " Gloria Deutsch, JPost.com 5th October 2006

“So far I've lost in the water...

  • three windlasses (dropped in locks);
  • four mooring pins (now I only buy the sort with eye holes);
  • one boathook (while trying to moor in strong wind);
  • one set of keys (always keep a spare set);
  • one watering can;
  • one mobile phone;
  • one photo frame (fell out of the side hatch);
  • one shoe;
  • a £250 camera;
  • and I nearly went in myself once.

I also once drove off leaving the boat pole behind on the towpath." Blogger: NB Bristol Fashion July 2006

"The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises–the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

"For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

"Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

"In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death." H G Wells. War of The Worlds 1898

"We have been hoping to detour down the Wey navigation and the Basingstoke canal whilst doing the Thames but they all need separate licences. The short visitor licence on the Wey won't give enough time to branch off it up the Basingstoke, or even to get straight down the Wey and back without putting in quite long days. I wish they'd get their act together and do a decent joint 10 day licence at a reasonable cost. " NB Herbie Blog 17th April 2007

"The run back to Thames Lock was uneventful, and even though the weather was overcast, the River Wey and surrounding countryside was still looking fabulous. We arrived at Thames Lock for 1.45pm and waited for the lock keeper to arrive, he was on his dinner break. Keith in the meantime walked down to see if he could see how fast the weir was running out onto the River Thames, because when we came up last Thursday it was running very fast and gave us a roller coaster of a ride to get onto the river. Unfortunately he could not get far enough down on the towpath to see, so it would a suck it and see moment.

"The lock keeper arrived, just as the rain began to fall again, this time it was the drizzly stuff, you know the drizzle that gets you wetter than proper rain. We manoeuvred Hadar into the lock, tying up allowing the lock keeper to work the paddles for us, Keith on the stern and me on the bow. We then left the lock, said goodbye to the lock keeper and carried on towards the weir and Shepperton lock.

"As we approached the weir, Fire and Rescue were carrying out manoeuvres and there was a fireman actually swimming across the navigation and through the weir. I thought they may be useful if we do not make this crossing successfully. The weir itself looked very mean and unforgiving, causing a very strong flow across the navigation. But not being faint hearted we went for it with me still on the bow, holding on for dear life to the fireman’s hose over the sheeting. Keith wound Hadar up and ploughed through the water. The sheer force of the water was pushing us over to the bank and some concrete steps were looming fast. Tiller over full Keith managed to get Hadar under control and we slide around the bend and back onto the Thames.

On approaching Shepperton Lock, the lock keeper opened the gates and let us in along with two other boats which had come from Hampton Court. Once again we tied up in the lock and turned the engine off, whilst the lock keeper opened the paddles and let the water in. Once out of the lock it was clear there was a strong flow on the Thames and it would be hard going, especially with the wind and rain, soon after though we found a mooring place past Pharaohs Island and decided to stop for the day it was now 2.50pm.

" So not a long day but an exciting one, the weir coming out off the River Wey is certainly not for anyone to tackle if they do not know what they are doing. Thankfully Keith has had many years of boating experience on and off of the Thames. It would normally be fine but due to all the rain we have had lately it is running really fast, with copious amounts of water being thrown out of it by the minute." Blogger: Hadar 3rd June 2008

"The Thames lock at the bottom of the Wey is shallow, so there is a third lock gate further around the corner that allows the level in the final section to also be raised a foot or two so traffic can enter and leave the lock proper. The downside is it's a lot of water so it is slower.

"Due to the complexity this is the only manned Wey lock. There were folks with long boat hooks at each end of the lock to hook the loop of our lines up to the top of the lock. As the gates shut behind us the lock keeper transferred the rear line to a large metal pin right by the gate hinge and told me to sit back against the gate. In my experience this is unusual, but I put the tiller hard over (otherwise the rudder blade sticks out, and sitting 18 tons on a small steel plate bends things and makes steering a magical mystery tour) and let her sit on the massive stern rope fender. Interestingly in this lock we also have engines off.

"Then they cracked the gate sluices. You may recall my earlier comments about the crudeness of the design in these locks. The water struck out from the gate as expected and I was happy to be well back. I am used to the way the water flows in canal locks and that can pluck even a vessel our size and throw her ‘through’ oak gates, but this was different. I had expected to be pushed back but the tumbling water seemed to set up a rolling current that pulled us forward; and really pulled. No way could I have held that on the engine. Even on the line I had to take a turn on the stern cleats rather than John Wayne it.

"This turned out to be a useful piece of knowledge for the next few locks we had to do on our own. I'm always fascinated by the various bollards, hooks and rope grooves on locks. 80% of them are where you would expect them to be but the others intrigue me. Lack of knowledge frustrates me. Is that out of place bollard just history from horse drawn days, or is it for an old working boat method that I should try? Now at least I know what one of them is for!" Blogger: Passenger Action 1st July 2008

"Woodpigeons may well have become the commonest birds in England (I have two pairs visiting my small garden), but by far the most regular visitors to my bird feeders are green parakeets; a dozen or so live in the trees on the opposite bank of the Wey navigation [near Addlestone]. This shrieking infestation has driven out most smaller species and I am considering giving up feeding these grey squirrels of the avian world." Robin Short www.timesonline.co.uk 3rd October 2008


Powerful Family Estates

The larger bridge (GR: TQ067648) downstream of the old town wharf pool (GR: TQ068647) that carries the busy A317 to Addlestone and Chertsey was not built until after the last war, its completion having been delayed by the hostilities since 1939. The waterway from here down to Thames lock is the original course of the River Wey that has been excavated to make it navigable. Even as recently as 1860 this stretch would have been quite rural, but following the sale of the lands of Ham Court Manor in that year, houses were built along the bank. Today the rows of gardens backing onto the river are evidence of the huge building boom experienced in the town since.

A small brick building (GR: TQ067648) next to the towpath by the bridge houses an ultrasonic gauging station that measures water flow and levels, relaying these automatically by transmitter to the water authority.

Weybridge along the Wey 1904
Weybridge along the River Wey 1904
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

The land on the eastern bank by Weybridge was the site of Portmore Park (GR: TQ075654) that was created in the 1670s by the 6th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Howard (1628 - 1684). The duke’s widow sold it in 1688 to King James II who gave it to his mistress Catherine Sedley, the Countess of Dorchester. James spent his last night in England at the house after he was forced to abdicate in the same year to William and Mary. The countess went on to marry David Colyear (1656 – 1730), a soldier of some distinction serving William III. The king rewarded him by conferring the honour of Baron in 1699 and then an Earl in 1703, the first Earl of Portmore.

Colyear bought a large number of shares in the Wey Navigation in 1723 for £3,000, and he and his descendants, along with George Langton and his descendants from Lincolnshire, controlled the canal for over 100 years. The management of the canal however had so seriously deteriorated by 1793, after subsequent control by the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Portmore, that the Chief Justices and Barons had to appoint two additional trustees to bring balance to the undertaking. Such were the ways in those days that the new appointees were directly related to the Portmore family.

weybridge Portmore Gateway 1903
Portmore Gateway 1903
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

It was also the third Earl that allowed the house to fall into ruin, and all that remains of the grand house and gardens of Portmore Park now are the imposing gates at the end of Portmore Road. The gates had been commissioned by the first Earl and were designed along with the house by the celebrated architect William Talman (1650 – 1719) in 1700.



Thames Lock

“The lock-keeper at Weybridge we found most civil and obliging, and he readily lent us the magic wand which passed us from one end of this part of the canal to the other. Although possessed of this formidable weapon, let me counsel those who are not adepts at its use to beware how they trifle with it, lest perchance they either inflict woeful wounds on their hands, or worse than all, fall headlong into the lock. The hatches of many of these locks are placed, goodness knows why, in the very centre of the gates, and in order to open and shut them, it is necessary to sit astride the gates, place the point of the crowbar in the niches of the hatch, and by violent jerks raise it inch by inch until the flood gates are opened. These hatches are always very stiff and difficult to raise and lower, and as it is necessary to get a good leverage, the crowbar must be worked from the extreme end of the handle, and if, whilst the wrench is made, the point should slip out of the niche into which it is placed, away goes the unfortunate being into the water.” J.B.Dashwood 1868

The Wey Navigation joins the Thames just upstream of Thames Lock (GR: TQ073656) - rise of 8ft 6in (2.59m), also referred to in documents as Ham Haw, with its lock-keepers cottage and small visitors’ centre housed in the old stables. The lock, which opened in 1653 was originally constructed of timber in common with other Wey Navigation locks but was rebuilt in 1863, one of the earliest uses of concrete along the river. The Victorian builders knew their craft for when the lock was drained for renovation in 1996 it was discovered that 130 years later very little attention was required. The Lock is just a tenth of a mile (0.16 km) from the Thames.  

A major system of three weirs have been constructed to try and minimise the chances of flooding, at one time a major problem here. The large weir alongside the mill site was added during the 1930s Improvement Scheme. Older weirs built at the end of the 18th century at Coulson’s Bay and the large Bulldogs Weir, rebuilt in 1857, now provide effective water controls. The weirs are controlled by National Trust staff based at the lock.

Butler’s Boat Yard was built in the 1880s just up from Bulldogs Weir, and it was here that the ladies and gentlemen of Weybridge punted and skiffed up and down the river in their Victorian finery. The boathouse has since been converted to a private residence.

The 1765 lock cottage was rebuilt in 1975 with the National Trust successfully preserving the building’s original appearance. As the entry and exit point for the Wey Navigation the lock keeper here was instrumental in collecting and recording the transit fees paid by the barge owners for using the navigation. The ledgers date back to 1739.

A mill has stood on the island created by the overflow stream here since at least 1693, attracted to the location by the new manmade head of water that had been created in building the Navigation. Ham Haw Mill (GR: TQ073656), later referred to simply as Ham Mill, originally made paper, but was converted in 1720 for working local iron. In 1817 it had fallen into disuse until being revived 25 years later for crushing oil seed, at which time the mill was expanded and a second waterwheel added. The oils from various types of seeds produced here were used in the manufacture of paint and linoleum as well as providing an ingredient for foodstuffs. The solid residue of the seed kernels and flesh were compressed into oil-cake for animal feed. A series of fires so common with mills, and the last of which in 1963 was started by the highly combustible oil-cake, lead to its demolition. A residential development was constructed here in 1989.

Clearly visible downstream from the pound lock is a single gate lock that was added when Sunbury Lock on the Thames was rebuilt in the 19th century. This resulted in the level of the Thames being lowered at this point and this additional gate can be closed whenever an extra depth of water is needed to allow boats using the main lock to cross the bottom cill.

The closest pubs to Thames Lock are the Old Crown which is housed in a 17thC grade II listed building, and The Minnow. Both pubs are in Thames Street.

The Confluence with the River Thames

The waterway passes behind the Old Crown public house and out to the Thames near D’Oyly Island where it joins the Desborough Cut which was dug to shave off over a mile of the River Thames, and created Desborough Island in the process.


From the bank at Weybridge the confluence with the Wey is barely visible appearing as an almost insignificant backwater only noticeable because of a sign pointing it out for waterborne users. The Tudor palace at Oatlands stood near here before it was dismantled by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War standing as it did on Crown Land. The Harmsworth Wharf, once an extensive facility including a railway siding and crane for the loading and unloading of barges, used to stand on a spur of land here which had been an island until the present course of the waterway was dredged out in the 18th century, and the old channel was filled in with the waste. A.J. Harmsworth operated barges from here to link up with the Basingstoke Canal which he bought in 1923.

Weybridge wey Navigation
Weybridge Wey Navigation c1955
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

The Thames was originally tidal up to Walton-on-Thames. The construction of a series of locks including Teddington to provide more effective water control for navigation changed that and resulted in the loss of the ancient willow beds and the associated basket-making industry that had been sited here for over 1,000 years.

The native yellow water lily can often be seen in abundance along the Wey Navigation here as this deep water loving plant has ample depth to flourish close to the bank and away from the destructive effect of boats and their propellers.





© Wey River 2005 - 2012

Supported and created by volunteers from Wey River Freelance Community Visit our nice sponsors Getting to know the river Introducing the two Navigations Transport along the Wey Navigations Industry along the Wey Valley Wildlife in the Wey Valley Places of interest in the Wey Valley The people of the valley who made names of themselves The art of the valley Climb out of the river