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Kid-Weirs:The English Evidence


In 1803, Abraham Ogden wrote that he was going to "Brush Pile" the channel of Wood Creek as was done in England. It is not clear whether he had seen these systems applied in England, or had merely heard them described.

Schematics of brushweir in EnglandCertainly anyone who had traveled to England in that period, with an interest in the methods used to improve river navigation, would have encountered the concept. This construction was called a "kid-weir" in England, and is mentioned in records dating back as far as the year 1316. Generally it is not unlike that described by Ogden for Wood Creek; bundles of twigs laid on the river bottom, saplings woven across, and sharpened stakes driven through this mat into the river bed, securing the whole in place.

The diagram at the left, based on several sites excavated by British archeologists, illustrates the structure of an English kid-weir. Note the use of pins stuck through holes in the tops of the long stakes to hold the brush mats in place.

Because of the great time depth of this technique in England, many more opportunities for archeological preservation of these structures occur, and the following pictures illustrate some of these. Until we find remains of Ogden's brushpiling at Lock #4 in Wood Creek, we have to satisfy ourselves with these images from across the Atlantic.


An excavated brushweir site in England

The photograph at right is of kid-weir excavated at Holme Pierrepont. A radiocarbon date of AD 1445-1675 was obtained for the brush. The upper portion of the structure had rotted away, but the still intact lower portion, buried some 170cms below the surface and 84cms below the water table, reveals a pattern we might well expect for Ogden's brushpiled section of Wood Creek.

One can see the woven bundles of brush and the long split oak stakes driven into the mat from above. Recalling Ogden's statement:

I would then cover this bottom so deep with long slim Brush about one foot thick after which I would have Piles such as I could handily drive with a Commander say about six inches through and four or five feet long... These Piles I would drive over the whole bed of the Creek so covered with Brush at about three or four feet distance each way.


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