From the 13th cent. the commissioners of sewers in the fenlands of eastern England were responsible for undertaking works designed to prevent inundation. With James I's declaration in 1621 that he was unwilling to allow waterlogged lands to lie waste, a firmer base was created for action, and this arrived in the form of the Dutch entrepreneur Sir Cornelius Vermuyden who in 1626 began draining the fens of Hatfield Chase and the Isle of Axholme. Work resumed after the Restoration, but it was the second half of the 18th cent. before much enthusiasm could be generated. In the 1830s and 1840s the introduction of steam pumps ensured that the risk of flooding had virtually disappeared. See Bedford level.
Subjects: British History.