The battle of the River Hiz at North Herts Museum

Watercolour by Samuel Lucas Snr of The Portmill at Hitchin.

Watercolour by Samuel Lucas Snr of The Portmill at Hitchin. - Credit: North Herts Museum

North Herts Museum shares the history of the Portmill in Hitchin, on the banks of the River Hiz.

We recently received the donation of this nice watercolour by Samuel Lucas Snr of The Portmill at Hitchin.

The people on the right looking at the river are (in the black) Joseph Sharples the local banker, who is talking to William Bodger the miller of the Portmill (in white).

We have documents in our museum that show William Bodger fought a long legal battle in the first half of the 1800s about the River Hiz.

The Vestry Council had tried since the 1810s to get Mr Bodger to clean the river of its accumulated filth and mud and sewage.

Their position was that It was causing a nuisance all the way back up the river to Bridge Street and that the Ransom family, the previous owners of the mill, had cleaned the river. Also that because Mr Bodger had rebuilt the water wheel of the mill it was causing further blockage.

Mr Bodger argued back that when he bought the mill from the Ransom family, it was dilapidated and the river was not cleaned. In 1839 Mr Bodger was indicted and we see letters from Hawkins & Co of Hitchin (the Solicitors) asking him still to clean the river.

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His final reply is that he intended to clean the river but had been unwell and that he was feeling better and would see to it after the harvest.

You can see some further information (including its more recent history within the solicitors office of Hawkins & Co of Portmill Lane) on the link to the painting on our database. The Portmill Hitchin; Samuel Lucas senior; 2021.51 on eHive.