In December 1768, a group of landowners from this area asked the civil engineer John Grundy, Jr. to investigate the possibility of draining some 10 square miles (26 Hectares) of land on the west bank of the River Trent, stretching from Laneham to West Burton. He was accompanied by Samuel Goodhand, his clerk, on the initial site visit, and proposed a solution that included the digging of a large catchwater drain, which would intercept the many streams flowing into the area at its western edge, and discharge into the Trent at West Burton. In order to prevent high water levels in the river flooding the land, he proposed a 7-mile (11 km) flood bank, which would run from Laneham to West Burton. Finally, rainwater would be collected by a Mother Drain and numerous side drains, which would discharge into the Trent through an outfall sluice at Sturton Cow Pasture.
The landowners approved the plans and asked Grundy to produce detailed proposals, and to supervise the obtaining of an Act of Parliament to authorise the work. Assisted by the surveyor George Kelk and a colleague called David Buffery, who checked the levels, he spent six weeks producing his plans, which he presented in February 1769. He estimated that 5,900 acres (2,400 ha) would be improved by the scheme, which would cost £2,700 for the catchwater drain, £6,800 for the bank along the river from Laneham to West Burton, £2,400 for the Mother Drain, with an additional £1,200 for the side drains, and £900 for the sluice at Sturton, making a total of £14,000. He spent most of March and April in London, to ensure the bill passed through Parliament, and received £329 for his work up to this point. A detailed plan of the area at a scale of 1:21,120 was published.
The Act appointed Drainage Commissioners, who met for the first time on 29 May 1769. Grundy became the engineer for the scheme, Buffery was the surveyor of works, and Kelk was the land surveyor. Grundy’s plans for Sturton Sluice show a 12-foot (3.7 m) waterway. Brickwork and masonry were erected by local contractors, while the major excavations were handled by Dyson and Pinkerton. Grundy changed the plans somewhat, as he decided that a drainage mill would be needed at Sturton. This had a 15-foot (4.6 m) scoop wheel, and was completed in April 1770 by Henry Bennett from Spalding, at a cost of £458. The works were finished on time in May 1772, with the final cost amounting to around £15,000. Grundy visited the works at least seven times to ensure that his specifications were being met. The only known details of the scheme are preserved in Grundy’s Report Books, which he spent the last few years of his life preparing. Running to 12 volumes and 4,000 pages, they were lost, but were re-discovered in the library at the University of Leeds in 1988. The Laneham Drainage scheme is covered in volumes 10 and 11.
The drainage mill which pumped water from the Mother Drain into the Trent was replaced by a 43 hp (32 kW) steam-powered beam engine in 1847. It had a larger scoop wheel, which was 26.5 feet (8.1 m) in diameter and 2.25 feet (0.69 m) wide. It was scrapped some time before 1937, and has been replaced by an Allen-Gwynnes 24-inch (61 cm) electric pump. With the passing of the 1930 Land Drainage Act, most land drainage authorities were superseded by Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), and the original scheme now forms the central section of the Laneham IDB, who are responsible for 78.5 miles (126.3 km) of drains and ditches, which help to prevent flooding of 22.9 square miles (59 km2) of low-lying land. They maintain 10 pumping stations, which include those at the end of the catchwater drain and the Mother Drain.
In 1847 the Mill driven scoop wheel at Sturton was replaced by a steam driven beam engine of 43 HP driving a scoop wheel of 26ft 6 inches diameter with curved iron floats 2 ft 3 inch wide, it drained 9,000 acres of land. This replaced the original mill pump that was built in 1770 by Henry Bennett of Spalding. This was described as the “Great Water Engine” and was 15 ft. in Diameter. It cost £458 to construct and ran from April 1770 until replaced in 1847 by the steam engine. The steam engine ran until about 1955 when it was replaced by the current automated electrically powered pump.