Navigable rivers

Starting in 1424 with the River Lea, Parliament passed Acts to place rivers such as the Thames and the Yorkshire Ouse in the care of corporations or other bodies charged with maintaining their navigation.

First major wave

The first major wave of transport Acts were concerned with making rivers navigable and improving harbours. Thirty-nine river navigation Acts and 28 harbour Acts were passed between 1662 and 1750.

Schemes authorised in the 18th century included docks, notably in London, starting with the West India Dock in 1799, and tunnels, including Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel in 1824 (now part of the East London Line).

Private Acts

Waterways legislation usually took the form of Private Acts.

From the 1860s simpler methods were devised, mainly through "provisional orders" which could be made by Ministers. Although even these required confirmation by an Act and could give rise to an opposed bill committee, where people objected to such a plan.

Related information

Learn more about Private Acts and Bills

Current parliamentary business on the topic of water

External link

The Canal and River Trust was set up in 2012.  It replaced British Waterways and cares for over 2,200 miles of Britain's historic canals and waterways.