Background information on the River Stour
The River Stour is the second longest river in Kent and is the major watercourse in the east of the county. The Stour has two main tributaries; the Great Stour and the East Stour.
The Great Stour’s source is 75m above sea level near the village of Lenham, north-west of Ashford, whereas the East Stour rises close to Postling, south-east of Ashford. Minor tributaries contribute to these streams before the Great Stour joins the East Stour in Ashford. The Great Stour then flows through Wye and the chalk North Downs to the cathedral city of Canterbury. Through Canterbury the river splits into two main channels creating several islands before continuing on its course.
At Plucks Gutter the Great Stour is joined by the Little Stour; a tributary that originates as the River Nailbourne from its source at Lyminge and from Littlebourne it is known as the Little Stour. From this confluence onwards the river is referred to as the River Stour and continues to flow through the east of the county before flowing out to sea at Pegwell Bay.
Pronunciation of ‘Stour’
There is a perennial dispute as to how the name of the river should be pronounced. Some people pronounce it to rhyme with ‘tour’ and others to rhyme it with ‘our’. Some believe that the name derives from Dwr, the Celtic word for watercourse – hence the Roman place-names Durovernum (astride this river) and Durobrivae (beside the Medway). Was the first syllable of those place names pronounced by the Romans like ‘furrow’, or was their pronunciation more akin to the Portuguese pronunciation of the place name ‘Douro’? Ancient documents in the Chilham Castle archive refer to a farm at Chilham adjoining the watercourse known nowadays East Stour Farm. In the ancient documents it is identified as ‘Estur Farm’ – no doubt there about the ancient pronunciation.