Research papers of H.R. Potter (c.1923-2000), hydrologist; 1891-1980s

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

These papers relate to Potter's work whilst an employee of the Trent River Authority, and his subsequent research. The geographical focus of his work tends to be the Trent Basin or the Authority's Catchment area, but some files relate to other areas of specific relevance, such as the Humber Estuary and the River Churnet at Staffordshire. No personal material is present, although some files of correspondence contain incidental biographical information.

The bulk of the collection consists of files (HRP/F), which usually contain a combination of correspondence, data, rough notes, reports, newspaper cuttings and photographs. The majority cover the 1950s to the 1970s but many were originally River Trent Catchment Board files which were created in the 1930s, and the data collected within them can date back to earlier centuries. Topics represented include the erosion and transport of sediment, the relationship between precipitation, run-off, evaporation and ground water in a series of small experimental catchment areas, the hydrology and geology of various river basins, flooding and rainfall records, and the history of the River Trent. There are also files on specific areas of the Trent River Authority's work, including Flood Protection Schemes, and the development of the network of recording and gauging stations. A small number of files contain his correspondence with particular academics. Manuscript notebooks (HRP/N) contain handwritten notes, and there is also a series of collections of academic articles and technical reports (some by the Trent River Board/Authority) compiled by Potter to assist with his work (HRP/Pr).

A number of files containing his publications including drafts and related correspondence, have been drawn together (HRP/Po), though it is not necessarily comprehensive. It includes reports on the history of the River Leen in Nottingham, the history of the River Trent, the use of historical records to obtain hydrological information, and various papers on sedimentation and experimental catchments. Also present are draft scripts for a BBC local radio series written and delivered by Potter (in conversation with various experts) entitled 'The Smug and Silver Trent'.

There is also a large series of rolled plans (HRP/P) which include architectural drawings and elevations of Wilford Suspension Bridge, dated 1905, a number of maps and plans marked to show areas affected by storms and flooding as far back as 1875, and a small number of packets of folded plans (HRP/Pk) which relate closely to similarly organised material in the records of the Hydrology Section of the Trent River Authority (RH/Pk).

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold Reeve Potter worked as Assistant Engineer for the Hydrology Department/Section of the River Trent Catchment Board/Trent River Board from 1950 to 1955, Senior Hydrology Assistant from 1955 to 1965, and subsequently as Hydrologist for the Water Resources Section of the Trent River Authority from 1965 to 1975 (where he is described in 1967 as focusing on research). During this time he was awarded an MPhil in Geology from the Faculty of Science at Nottingham University in 1973. He left c.1975 shortly after the creation of the Seven Trent Water Authority, going on to carry out historical research on extreme storm events on the chalk lands of England, and on the use of historical records to enhance hydrological data, for the Institute of Hydrology at Wallingford, Berkshire. From November 1977 Potter was Senior Research Fellow at Trent Polytechnic's Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, researching the sediment transport in the streams of south Nottinghamshire and north Leicestershire. He was also a member of the British Standards Sub-Committee on sediment transport until 1983.

Potter's particular passion initially was the history of rivers, leading him to apply for the job at the River Trent Catchment Board, and his papers display his skills in using historical resources and also in communicating his findings to a general public. Research skills were also required for the gathering of meteorological and hydrological data on extreme weather events in order to increase understanding of flood prevention and the management of water resources. His work on building the hydrological gauging network central to the Board/Authority Hydrometric Scheme involved managing administrative and infrastructural matters.

He seems to have had principal responsibility for the Authority's experimental research into the relationship between evaporation, groundwater, rainfall and run-off, based on the monitoring of conditions at a number of standard catchment areas. The Kingston Brook catchment in Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire was revived by Potter for sediment studies by Trent Polytechnic in late 1977 with the co-operation of Severn Trent Water Authority and the Nottingham University School of Agriculture at Sutton Bonington. Potter's designs for sediment sampling equipment developed in connection with this work, were later adopted around the world.

Arrangement

Material has been arranged by type and then by topic, based on file titles. Some unannotated volumes which obviously originate from the papers of the Trent River Authority have been removed and returned to their original context, but in most occasions it has been assumed that Potter had free access to Authority files and resources for reference and for future research development.

Conditions Governing Access

The bulk of the collection is accessible to all registered readers. However, access may be restricted to some files which include material which may have data protection issues, or are less than 30 years old.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

Online: Online catalogue available from the Manuscripts and Special Collections website.

Conditions Governing Use

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Custodial History

There is a large element of crossover with the files of the Hydrology/ Water Resources Section of the Trent River Board/Authority. Potter was clearly provided with copies and originals of non-current files from the Clerk's and Engineer's Departments, along with other resources including plans and reports. He continued work using these files after leaving the then Severn Trent Water Authority in around 1975. The material was transferred from his home to the University in two accessions in 1996 and 1997. This catalogue was produced in 2011-2012 with support from The National Archives Cataloguing Grants Programme.

Related Material

Records of the Trent River Board/Authority and their successors (the Severn Trent Water Authority and privatised Severn Trent Water), are held by Manuscripts and Special Collections (Ref: RE, RG, RT, RC, RH, RST and RWA).

Bibliography

Notes on the River Trent and its tributaries, 1958 [University of Nottingham King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection os.Pamph Em. C36 POT] Report on the history of the River Leen near Nottingham, 1962 [University of Nottingham King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Oversize Not 3.C36 POT] Introduction to the history of the floods and droughts of the Trent Basin, 1964 [University of Nottingham King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection os.Pamph Em. C36 POT] Studies of erosion and transport of sediment in the Trent basin, 1973 [University of Nottingham George Green Library Theses] The use of historic records for the augmentation of hydrological data, 1978 [University of Nottingham King’s Meadow Campus Manuscripts Department Oversize GB658.8.G7.P6]