Clare sluice – an important piece of engineering or an inconvenience?

I have been made aware, from previous Clare Town Council meetings and a recent on site meeting with the owner, of issues with the Clare Sluice.

It seems, whilst the sluice itself is working fine, water is working itself through the bank causing sink holes and weakening the buttresses. This is undermining the structure of the sluice itself and is likely to lead to a catastrophic failure resulting in the river level dropping significantly.

Sluice gates keeping the river at a good level

The sluice keeps the Stour and Chiltern stream full as they pass Clare. This supports wild life and has a calming effect especially for visitors to Clare Country Park. A full river is a happy river, if you ask the fish.

The Clare River group are a great help and manage the gates ie lifting and clearing them as necessary and have been for six years.

It seems the Environment Agency want the sluice to disintegrate – one less issue to worry about. They have declared they want the river to go back to the 12th century but they do maintain similar structures where they have a duty to maintain them. The Environment Agency use the river as a conduit for the commercial operation of filling Abberton and Hanningfield reservoirs but do not pay any damages to the river as a result of this operation. For many years they paid for the maintenance of the sluice but in recent years have decided not to.

A sink hole just in front of the buttress wall.

The sluice gates are not part of the domestic house flood defence mechanism. The water meadows are the relief mechanism. They need to be lifted in times of flood to minimise flooding to the golf course, Priory grounds and Country Park.

A buttress cracking

So what can be done? I’m no building expert but I suspect a couple of tons of cement in the sink holes and some metal plates providing protection upstream might slow down the problem and buy time for a solution. I’m guessing a few thousand verses £100k if it all collapses or a babbling brook running through Clare.


  1. Hi Nick
    I understand that clare sluice (or as the locals know it)The floodgates is privately owned.As I remember it when the responsibility was handed back to the owner it was in pretty poor condition .It would be interesting to see if they could help with the maintenance as they use it to transport water as you have pointed out.


    • Hi Andy, I spent some time with the owner. He already spends a fair bit of time and I suspect money. It is odd for a public good to be owned privately like this


  2. The sluice gates where originally built to provide a source of energy to power the water mill. Now they are of amenity value to keep a head of water for the country park and residential gardens up stream. Their design while having some historical value is of high maintenance and requires constant management to regulate flow and to keep clear of blocking with rubbish.
    The environment agency receives income from drainage rates charged on agricultural land. However this money is not spent on the upper stour but goes into the agency pot to be spent on funding work at the last flooding disaster in the country.
    What is required is an internal drainage board managed by a board of river owners to ring fence this money to be spent on the management of the upperstour which is in a complete state of neglect


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