River Stour Facts

The River Stour is an East Anglian river forming most of the boundary between the counties of Suffolk and Essex. It is 76 km long (47 miles), and it flows through parts of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, before reaching the North Sea at Harwich in Essex.

The River Stour at Dedham
The River Stour at Dedham

Facts About the River Stour

  • The River Stour’s source is located at Wratting Common, West Wickham in Cambridgeshire.
  • It flows through several towns and villages, including Haverhill, Sudbury, Dedham, Manningtree, and Harwich.
  • The eastern stretches of the River Stour are known as the Dedham Vale. About 11.5 miles in length, the Dedham Vale has been officially categorised as an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty.
  • Several famous artists have been inspired by the River Stour. The river and the Stour river valley has features in works of art by Cedric Morris, John Nash, Alfred Munnings, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable.
  • The River Stour Trust has restored locks at Stratford St Mary, Dedham, Flatford and Great Cornard.
  • From the early part of the 18th century until the 1930s, Stour Lighters (barges) operated on the River Stour. Pulled by a horse, these boats transported a wide array of goods and cargo, including oil, soap, iron, coal, flour, straw, nails, sugar, paper, apples, bricks, malt and animal hides.
  • According to the Inland Waterways Association, approximately 25 miles of the River Stour is navigable. Powered craft are only permitted to use the Stour between Sudbury and Henny.
  • Located in East Bergholt, Suffolk, Flatford Mill is a watermill on the River Stour. It was built in 1733 and it was once owned by the artist John Constable’s father. Flatford Mill is the title of one of Constable’s most famous paintings, and it is the subject of several other notable Constable works.
Flatford Mill by John Constable
Flatford Mill by John Constable
  • Several other rivers in the UK are called the Stour. For example, there is a Stour in Dorset, and one in Kent.
  • The River Stour is home to many species of fish, including roach, dace, chub, pike and perch.
  • Artefacts indicate that the land surrounding the Stour was populated from around 5000 years ago.
  • The River Stour’s main tributaries are the River Glem, Chad Brook, the River Brett, and the River Box.
  • The last 12 miles of the River Stour are tidal.
  • There is no consensus as to how the name Stour should be pronounced. People from West Suffolk say it so that it rhymes with ‘tower’, whereas those from East Suffolk make it rhyme with ‘tour’.
  • The Anglo-Saxons used the River Stour to power numerous watermills along its course. According to the Domesday Book (1068), most settlements along the banks of the Stour had at least one working mill.
  • In 2019, due to low rainfall and blockages, parts of the River Stour ran dry. Water from boreholes had to be pumped into the river channel to improve the river’s water levels.
  • The village of Bures is divided by the River Stour. Bures Hamlet is in the county of Essex, and Bures St Mary is in Suffolk.
  • The Stour Estuary is popular among birdwatchers. It is home to wading birds, ducks and geese.

Visit our Rivers resources page, or learn more about the longest rivers in the UK.