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Saturday 28 November 2020

Fast and Furious, not.

 We were heading for Retford for a rendezvous with our daughter so we took a couple of days to get there with stops at Drakeholes and in the country. We had a couple of walks in the nice weather too.

Gringley Lock is quite scenic and is between Misterton and Clayworth

We stopped at Clayworth to drop off our rubbish and top up with water. There was a boat there that was heading in the opposite direction and just finishing with the water. They had not much nice to say about the Chesterfield Canal so it was a good job we had been before and knew the truth. There is a sharp bling bend under the b ridge that will catch some out. In 1919 there was a breach in the embankment of the canal to the west of Clayworth and a large length of the canal went dry, including Clayworth. It was doubly difficult for the residents of Clayworth as the canal was their main source of water. This may have been so until at least 1925!

Clayborough church watches over the canal as we pass by on yet another beautiful day.

We met up with No.1 daughter and decided to head out of town. We ended up at the Middle Forest Lock where we had a never to be forgotten evening, swimming in the canal and admiring the sunset.

As we moored up late we were pretty confident that there would be little, or no, traffic through the lock after us, so we hung up on the end of the lock landing. There was little movement of boats during out visit, despite the West Stockwith lock keeper saying that it had been busier than usual after the lock down had finished.

At the Forest Top Lock, or Charlie's Lock we again stopped to top up with water. We hardly ever pass  an unoccupied tap without topping up, as you never know what is around the corner.  After that there are some beautiful long tree shaded straights where the trees make you are in an old tithe barn or cathedral. ( The Great Ranby Robbery occurred just a little ahead of the boat in this picture).

We were soon at Ranby (this photo was taken n the way back). There are some fine bends to navigate with plenty of weed to catch you out if you wander off line.

The Great North Road used to pass by Ranby but Retford activated to bring it to their town so that they could profit from the trade it would bring. In later years it would have been a poison chalice as the traffic through the middle of Retford must have been horrendous before they built the M1 and Ranby could once again have the 'benefit'. The motorway crosses the canal not far away from the town.

In the middle of the 1850's Clayworth and Misterton were well known as the home of a set of villains that made honest folk's lives a trial. In 1853 two boatmen were found guilty at Retford Assizes of stealing 120 stones of potatoes from three piles in a field near Misterton. Some have of them had been riddled clean of mud. They had been seen moored in a field near the clamp and the owner, a William Corringham of Misterton had quickly alerted the police when the theft had been discovered. Geoffrey Ellis was a well know villiain and had been to prison several times previously. His accomplice, William Coulston, stated that he hadn't been on the boat at the time as he had gone home to visit his sick wife and child. They were both found guilty. Ellis got transportation for 7 years and Coulston got 3 months imprisonment with hard labour. 

Then there was the Great Ranby Robbery! In February 1854 several men from Clayworth were committed for a robbery of 7 qts. of malt worth £24, from a maltings near Ranby, 150 yards from the canal. The Maltings were found just before Ranby as heading to Retford and at the end of the long straight in the picture above. They were John Taylor, 25,  boatman and his crew John Hindley, John Otter, 25 Labourer, and Thomas Knight 27 Labourer, Martin Herring, 23 Labourer and his brother William 21, also a labourer.  As John Hindley had just done what his master bade he was released without charge. There was a large crowd outside the courtroom as over the last couple of years many people had been robbed by these men. In fact William Wilkinson, who had been robbed, had lost 80 qts. of malt in 1853 alone!
The men had been seen conferring on Clayworth bridge the day before the robbery. John Taylor with the 17 year old Hindley had taken their boat to Bartram's Lock and moored up in the lock. They had put their horse in to the stables of Bartram at the Lock. I am not entirely sure which lock this is. The one before Ranby is Forest Top Lock, now known as Charlies, and there is a house next to the lock, The one on the otherside of Ranby is Osberton Lock. The idea was that if they put their horse into the stables nobody would think it their boat would be involved. By the same logic they may well be thinking that if they have thought that if they moored before and had to go past the scene afterwards nobody would believe they had done the deed . As Forest Top lock is closer, and away from the big house at Osberton I think I favour that as the place. About midnight Knight, Otter and three other Clayworth men knocked up Taylor at the boat and they then man hauled the boat, with young Hindley steering,  to the cutting close by the Maltings. Once moored up Hindley went to bed and the others broke in and took 14 bags of malt and stowed it in the boat having removed a few of the hatch boards earlier. They then pulled the boat back to the lock with Taylor steering. The others then left having told Taylor to set off before daylight.
After being informed of the robbery a police inspector set off along the towpath and soon over took Taylor's boat. When asked what his cargo was he replied 'nothing'. When he went into the boat he found 11 bags of malt. Taylor then admitted that he had negotiated with a man, whose name he didn't know, and who he wouldn't recognise again to take the malt that was delivered in a cart to Chesterfield for 7s. Taylor and Hindley were arrested. When returning to the Maltings it was found that the malt was the same as the heap it had been stolen from. At the trial John Hindley gave evidence of what happened over night so it was pretty open and shut. The two Herrings went missing for a couple of days and in then end the police gained entry of their house through a window and found them in a cellar. They had made attempts to disguise themselves by shaving off their whiskers. In the light of the evidence John Taylor admitted his part was as Hindley had stated but the others all denied anything to do with the robbery. An outstanding conviction was also proved against John Otter and he was given 2 years imprisonment as was John Taylor. The others were given eighteen months. The local newspapers were full of the fact that a major gang had been broken up and life would become better. There do seem to be less crimes reported following these convictions. I'm glad they didn't use the term criminal masterminds as in both these cases a canal boat was used as the getaway vehicle! It is true what they say, life was slower in the old days!!

Monday 23 November 2020

Ferry Interesting.

 Once through the road/railway bridge we were soon under the motorway bridge and with the tide flooding we were only needing to go slowly as we were aiming to arrive at West Stockwith to enter the lock for the Chesterfield Canal at high water.

We were soon passing the old windmill at West Butterwick that was built in 1824 and disused in 1940's

Next was Owston Ferry. There were 10 ferries between Gainsborough and the mouth of the Trent at Trent Falls, After Gainsborough came Walkerith, Stockwith, Wildsworth, Owston Ferry, Susworth, Butterwick, Burringham, Keadby, Flixborough and Burton Stather. By the early 1800's steam packets were running regularly between Hull and Gainsborough stopping at each ferry point to pick up passengers and cargo. In 1833 the steam packet 'Dart' left Hull for Gainsborough towing a loaded boat as far as Trent Falls. It arrived at Gainsborough and stopped 30 mins before heading back. It stopped at all ten ferry points inward and outward. It completed the round trip of 104 miles in just under 8 hours. That is an average of 13 knots, including the stops. It seems that mainly the ferry, or a boat, would meet the ferry mid stream and do the transfer there, and I would think this run would have the benefit of the flood to Gainsborough and the ebb back to Hull.

Despite going slowly we were still a bit early as despite it being just about high water there is still a bit of flood, even when the water starts ebbing. It was easy to get round and we just waited a little while with a rope out until we could just poke our nose in the lock. This is the bridge over the River Idle at West Stockwith that was navigable to Bawtry at onetime.

This is a pretty similar view from the East Stockwith ferry landing in the early 1900's. The church and bridge make it quite easy to place. 
In 1899 a young whale was captured at the mouth of the River Idle, by the bridge. It was about 14 ft long. It was said that a 2 ton whale had been caught a few years previously at Owston Ferry, and that a a large shark had been caught at Stockwith a round the same time. In 1851 several dolphins were shot and speared at Stockwith, the largest of them measured 12 ft long. The reason the locals gave was that they were decimating the salmon in the river! In 1846 a 12 stone sturgeon was caught off the village too. In the 1990's I have seen porpoises in the Ouse and Trent so things aren't quite as bleak as they were once seemed, and seals are frequent visitors and are now not worthy of mention it seems.

This looks like the East Stockwith side with the house on the left of the photograph being the Ferry Boat Inn.
In 1771 the Bill for the building of the Chesterfield Canal was passed and the canal opened in 1777. East and West Stockwith were a crossing point before that, but became more important on the opening of the canal. In 1796 the ferryman was William Morton and he was also landlord of the Ferry Boat In in East Stockwith. It seems that the lease of each were tied together. I think that they were owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, (Prince of Wales) until an auction in 1854. In sources there are names of ferrymen and I think sometimes it is men employed by the holder of the lease. In  1802 the ferryman William Morton fell off his vessel and was drowned. In 1823 Thomas Thew was the landlord of the Ferry Boat Inn and we learn there were two craft a 52' x 20' one that catered for transporting cattle and sheep across, and 20' x 11' for horses and people.By 1828 William Holberry was looking after the ferry. 

This looks like the same or similar ferry and would be likely to be the horse boat 20' x 11'. The Ferry Boat In is the house with the roses growing up by the windows. You can clearly see the wire that was used to winch the ferry across the river in this photo.
In 1839 John Maw dies. He seems to be the landlord of the Ferry Boat. At the subsequent auction the property includes a warehouse, counting house, wharf with 3 cranes and 2 acres of land attached to the wharf, along with the pub. The actual ferryman was a Mr. Hudson. In 1841 John Maw, 20 and son, seems to be the publican and sets about making improvements to the ferry. In 1846 new access are made from the bank to make it safer to get carts etc on and off the craft and the following year ordered a new cattle ferry from ship builders at Walkerith. The last boat builder in Stockwith, Thomas Bomforth had become bankrupt. Despite this he seems  to have been subject to malicious damage to his boats and also casting adrift, before the new ferry was delivered in December 1848. The following year the pub was up for auction once again, owned by a Mr. Dennis of East Stockwith but still tenanted by John Maw. He seemed to add to his earnings by being the surveyor of the Highways in East Stockwith too.  By 1851 another John Maw was looking after the pub as well as being a plumber and glazier. The ferry and pub were auctioned once again in 1854 but by the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince of Wales) so maybe previously it had been the lease that was auctioned!? It seems that John Maw's wife's brother Thomas Flowers bought the pub at the auction, but John and Sarah were still running it. There seems to be a gap with a Philip Parkinson being the licencee.

I think this photo of a keel is looking over to West Stockwith close to high water.
By 1861 John was still a plumber living in East Stockwith but no longer ran the pub. His eldest son was a mariner and his youngest John Whittaker was 6. In 1868 am inquest jury at the hearing of another death by drowning in the Trent at Burton Stather recommended that a lifebelt was maintained at every ferry point and wharf on the Trent to 'stop the great loss of life that is constantly occuring.' I have no way of knowing if this was taken up, but the death by drowning seems to be similar to the death in motor car accidents before seat belts. In 1876 Mr Andrews, the ferryman since 1867 was lucky to survive a ducking in the Trent himself. It seems he used his ferry to take a load of potatoes down to Gainsborough. On the way back he hitched a ride with a passing packet. The speed of the tow and the roughness of the water caused them to overturn and as it was dark he was lucky to be dragged out. In 1877 the licencee of the pub was Mr. James Whitton. The ferry was owned by a Mr. Hewitt in 1882 and the ferryman was William Pearson. It seems the charges at low water and at times of little flow were 1d for there and back journeys, but at high water and when the tide was running fast 1d for a one way trip. He was also fined 10s for not cleaning the vessel after carrying cattle across, twice! In 1881 the Trent was frozen but they were able to cut a passage for the small ferry to cross. There were a couple accidents recorded when a horse and cart were at the top of the ferry access when the horse was startled and dashed down the bank. The lady aboard leapt off bu the boy and small girl went with it. The girls was dragged out of the water bu the horse and trap and boy were lost. Another time two wagons loaded with potatoes drawn by two horses were wanting to cross. The first wagon was aboard the ferry and the second was starting to descend the bank to come alongside it. The rear wheels were not chained. Something made the horse bolt down the ban, on to the ferry and straight into the river. The men jumped but the horse, cart and potatoes were never seen again. The horses were valued at £40 each. Another horse and trap were lost when the horse bolted when leaving the ferry.

Again I think this is looking to the West Stockwith side at the ferry point just to the west of the mouth of the River Idle.
In 1881 John Whittaker Maw was a fireman at the Morris' Vitriol and Chemical works that were on the north bank between West Stockwith and Misterton. The ferry was very important as many of the workers lived on the south bank and aptly the ferryman was a Fred Waterland. By 1891 he restored the family as landlords of the Ferryboat Inn with his wife Rosa. By 1896 he was charged with attempted suicide as he had jumped into the Trent and it took great effort by his brother Thomas to recover him. He was bound over for £50 for a year. In 1898 he was checking the large cattle ferry and securing it in place with chains in preparation for the aegir when he fell in and was drowned. However after he died his wife seems to have remarried and William E. Brook and took over the licence in 1899. He also adopted their four daughters. A few month after his death the cattle ferry was making a crossing with 13 cows and 8 passengers when in mid stream it started to sink. Luckily the small ferry was alongside and the passengers transferred to that. The cattle had to swim for it, but all made the bank safely. However in the 1901 census we can see that Thomas Maw was the ferryman at East Stockwith. 
Rosa Maw/Brookes seems to have been unlucky as in 1902 her second husband William Brookes took his own life. Rosa told the inquest that he had been with drink for several weeks and had threatened to harm himself several times. They had words and when she went out into the yard at five in the evening she saw him with a bottle of poison which he said he had taken. She didn't believe him and he took to his bed. A while later she went up to check n him and realised it was true. She gave him salt water and he was very sick. She dashed to fetch the doctor but when he arrived he was dead, two and half hours after taking the dose.By the 1911 census the Maws had returned to the Chemical works and the trade of publican/ferryman had gone out of the family.
In 1921 for the first time in 25 hears all trade on the Trent ceased due to it being badly aced up. It was unsafe for wooden vessels to be even on the Trent and a keel on the landing at East Stockwith has damaged and was submerged at high tides. It seems that this lead to the closure of the ferry as the locals were appealing to everybody they could think of to have it reinstated. It was a long way round for workers at the Chemical factory to travel. Previously they could have a weekly ticket for 2s. The Parish Council even looked into running a ferry themselves. They could do so, but would be unable to charge a toll for doing so. The ferry was still owned by Hewitt Bros Co. Ltd. It seem the with the increase in motorised vehicles following the end of WWI the large ferry was never resurrected but the passenger ferry returned until finally closed in 1952/53 and a centuries old way of life was lost , not only here but all along the Trent.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Dangers to Navigation

 After our few days on the visitor moorings at Keadby on the canal it was time to head out on to the Trent. Several boats went out earlier than us as they needed the first of flood to get them to Torksey. We were only heading to West Stockwith for the Chesterfield Canal so we could leave an hour or so later.

You can clearly see the two sets of gates here. The taller ones for when the river is higher than the canal and shorter ones for when river levels are below that of the canal. We both remembered past times we have left this lock. The first a ship was bearing down on us to swing for the berth by Keadby Bridge and another time we turned left instead of right to head down the Trent to the Humber, Hull and the River Hull to Beverley.

This time it was turn right in good weather with no ships and headed the short distance to the Keadby Bridge, or more properly the King George V bridge.

From this picture you can see that the navigable arches are to the right, eastern side, where the deeper water on the outside of  the bend are. However the opening is in the middle leaving only one arch to the right really usable at other than high water.
The first bridge was a rail only bridge that was built by the South Yorkshire Railway, that also owned the River Dun Navigation from Keadby to Sheffield at the time. Iron ore had been discovered in North Lincolnshire in 1855. The bed was 25' thick and only 2 to 3 feet below the surface. It was 35 to 45% iron ore and also contained enough lime to also provide the flux. From the east bank of the proposed bridge the Trent, Ancholme and Grimsby Railway would run through this district, with a branch to aTrent Wharf , to Barnetby where it would join the line to Grimsby. There was massive opposition to the idea of building a bridge as a great impediment to navigation and to a block on trade to the port of Gainsborough and above on the Trent and other navigations off it. However it obtained Parliamentary approval in 1861. Work had started by May 1862 with the sinking of iron cylinders to form the foundation of the piers. Men then descend down to ensure the pumps were sucking water and sand. the iron work just kept sinking as no rock bottom was found. Even at this stage there were problems for shipping as at least once the cylinders were dislodged by vessels colliding with them and dislodging them and the vessels sinking. It is said that after this happened one time they just continued driving piles through the wreck! The bridge was finally opened in May 1864. It was tested by running 6 engines weighing 160 tons over it. In the picture above you can see at least 16 wagons in the train crossing. It was said that no ship with a foreign Master would now navigate to Gainsborough due to the difficulties of transiting the bridge.

In 1878 evidence was given in opposition to another railway bridge being built between Keadby and Gainsborough at Wildsworth which is between Owston Ferry and West Stockwith. In the end the Bill did not clear Parliament as they realised that they had just passed the Keadby Bridge on the nod, with no real enquiry being made into the construction and effects of the bridge. In the course of the enquiry some interesting figures were given. In 1877 153 coastwise vessels and 3073 river vessels passed the site of the proposed new bridge. In total there was 175,849 tons. The Trent Commissioner gave figures for  Gainsborough as 191, 459 tons and 92,907 tons passing Wildsworth. Opposition also stated that as the river was more shallow and still running fast at the new bridge it would be even a worse situation than Keadby.

The piling around the eastern arches was extended after many many incidents sinkings and deaths right from the start of construction. The plan was for the openings to be 68' wide but as built were even smaller at 60'. The bridge was at a shallow spot of the river so many vessels had to wait here for sufficient water. With a tide running vessels swung head to tide and dropped their anchors to kedge back through the opening. The holding ground here was notoriously poor so if the anchor didn't hold, or the bow got across the current the boat was liable to get dashed on the piers. Steam powered vessels had to come head to tide about a mile from the bridge and allow all un-powered vessels to pass first before proceeding. Even greater problems were presented  to tugs towing strings of barges or keels as with the narrow openings it must have been extremely difficult to judge getting the tug trough the 'hole' never mind the tows strung out behind them. And often they didn't with subsequent loss of vessels and lives. Similar to narrow boat skippers many keel and sloop master had to have their wives and families as crew aboard, so many women and children were lost. The next major river bridge in the area, the Ouse bridge near Goole benefited from this experience and was built with 120' gap.

It wasn't the loss of boats and lives that prompted the decision to build a new bridge but the increasing costs of maintenance of the old bridge. Permissions were sort in 1909 and by June 1912 always in place and the contracts were awarded. The construction was given to Sir William Arrol and Co of Glasgow and they would be using a design of the Scherzer  Rolling Lift Bridge Co. of Chicago.The Railway Company at first would not entertain having a road bridge alongside. To be fair to them they were expected to pay for it. Once the local councils realised the the road vehicle needed a more direct and speedy route they all chipped in to have the road incorporated in the design. The bridge was started later in 1912  by sinking 4 caissons into the river and sinking them 50 below water level using compressed air. Each was 90' deep and 20' diameter.  The opening span was a much more accommodating 120 ft. The coming of  WWI delayed its completion and it was not opened until May 1916.

The bridge had been tested in January 1916 using 4 locos weighing 130 tons each as well as two traction engines and their 40 ton tenders, 730 tons in all. It had cost a total of £150,000. (£13 million today). The new bridge is 200 feet from the old one that was to be demolished but due to the war was retained in case of emergency. It was maintained at least until mid 1920 but must have gone in the 1920's and certainly wasn't there by WWII. On the day of the opening the first train was driven by a Mr. Duke of Mexborough and on the footplate with him was Joshua Slowan of Barnetby. He had been an engine driver for 55 years and was not 76, and it was he who had been the driver over the old bridge when it opened.

Accidents continued to occur but not with the same frequency, which I'm sure was due to the wider opening for vessels in the bridge, but later for the reduction in numbers of vessels accessing the up river wharves. Ships got bigger, and road transport increased. By 1953 moves were being made to have the bridge remain closed to reduce maintenance costs and delays to road traffic. Figures were given that in 1953 the bridge was lifted 25 times and caused 7 hours and 40 minutes of delays, but 2 hours of these were for defects with the bridge. In 1954 it was lifted 38 times and 12 hours 47 minutes of delays. The loss of navigation was strongly contested by interested parties but inevitably was left shut since 1956. Navigation continued and sea going vessels were still berthing at Beckingham, just by Gainsborough in early 1990's it was the fact the ships just got too big to pass under the fixed bridge, and turn in the upper Trent, along with road transport that finally stopped the trade. How knows it may return one day.

Monday 16 November 2020

Something Fishy.

 On leaving Sheffield we had a bit of a dash to get to Keadby due to a birthday, meeting visitors and tide times. It can be that some will think the Stainforth and Keadby Canal somewhat boring with it being wide and more or less straight, quite windswept with several bridges to sort. The railway line stays close for a long distance and we always try to pass the time by getting the drivers to wave and toot the whistle, which frequently they do!

Winkwell bridge is the easiest of the six bridges to operate and it just to the east of Thorne.

Looking for some historical subject to blog about on this part of the canal that is seemingly along way from civilisation I was thinking it would be all about more drownings, machinations of the railway companies and the canal or the building of bridges that may inhibit the passage of keels and sloops. Instead I cam a cross one about fishing.

Moore's Bridge requires the barriers to be closed.

Fishing or angling would have been a way of finding more food for most. In 1653 Isaac Walton wrote 'The Compleat Angler' in 1653 and continued to up date it for 25 years. In 1789 it seems that gentlemen anglers were becoming concerned as to where they could be allowed to fish and the Thames Angling Preservation Society was started up in 1789 to preserve their rights. By 1810 there were several 'how to angle' books and people advertising the manufacture and retail of equipment. The first angling club in the region of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal I could find was the Lincoln Angling Club with 40 members. The in 1857 there is a fishing match on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

Maude's Bridge was next and this was really the easiest to work, as some children from this cruiser did it for us!

On 22nd June 1857 a fishing match was organised by Mr. Jonathon Wreakes of the Crown Inn, Scotland Road, Sheffield. The match had been held the week before between Maude's and Ling! Bridges, but there had been accusations of baiting the winning peg. This was investigated and found to be false. The prize giving was the week after at his pub where the first prize of a silver cup worth £8 and 11 other prizes were awarded and a good night of speeches etc was had by all.

The canal is wide as it was for the vessels that navigate the Humber estuary used it. You can see it is on a grander scale than the narrow canals. There is plenty of weed about here.

John Wreakes was born in 1818 to Jonathon and Ann Wreakes. He was a grinder and his son was also in the trade. He specialised in scissor grinding and had risen to be the Treasurer of the Union in 1846. At the end of that year he was convicted of intimidating a widow of 5 months, Mary Shackley who was trying to continue her husband's trade of scissor manufacturer. She rented steam power in a 'factory' of Hull where she employed men to do various stages of the business. She maintained that Wreakes had sort to get rid of her two grinders as they had left the union. There were long reports in the newspapers and that was the time of the Sheffield Outrages when there was much union activity against the owners, including bombings, and many similar intimidation trials. John was found guilty and sentenced to three months hard labour in Wakefield Prison. He immediately called for an appeal. There does seem to be a lot of political interfering with this. He was given bail at £10 and was fully acquitted once the appeal did get heard in April 1847.

After Maude's comes Medge Hall and Godnow Bridges. Then there is this Vazon Bridge that was very hard to open as it is a push to open. This time it had been 'fixed' and was very easy.

John Wreakes was still in the scissor grinding trade in the 1851 Census but in the 1861 his the publican of the Crown Inn on Scotland Street. The success of the fishing match means that John organises the same the following year. This time there are 34 prizes and 102 competitors, 64 from Sheffield but many from around Yorkshire and Nottingham. There were a 1000 spectators 400 of whom arrived on a special train from Sheffield to Crowle Station next to the canal. Each fishing peg was 29 yards apart. It the prize giving meal the following week another competition was announced. This was a match between two top anglers on from Radford, Nottingham and a Leeds angler. There was to be a days fishing in each's home waters and the aggregate bag would be the winner. The fishing would start at 06:00 and finish at 17:00. The first match was at Shardlow and the local angler Mr. Bailey won bu a good margin. The following Monday the match was on the Stainforth and Keadby canal and he won this by an even larger margin. His prize was topped up to £100 that would be worth around £13,000 today! He also benefited from selling the equipment he manufactured and his 'How to Angle' book too.

Vazon Railway Bridge is next, and last, and is always interesting to watch.

The annual competition seemed to get larger with 231 competitors, 60 prizes and 2000 spectators in 1859. In 1860 there were 80 prizes and competitors spread 1.5 to 2 miles on each side of the canal and it became styled the All England Angling Match. 1862 there were 171 prizes and in 1863 182 prizes with the first prize being £20 plus a silver mounted rod. 1864 there were 500 competitors for 181 prizes, first being £25, and John Wreake chartered a special train which 900 took the opportunity to use. Fishing competitions were now taking pace regularly on the canal and on other waters but all seemed to be orgainsed along similar lines to the way Wreake ran the 'All England Match'. There were other matches on the Stainforth and Keadby in February and July. The match in July had also grown in size and was also promoted by a pub in Sheffield. In 1865 there were 494 competitors and 700 arrived on the excursion train. I'm not sure that this was sustainable as in those days the fish were taken away to be weighed and not kept in a keep net, weighed and returned to the water as is the practise these days.

We arrived at the visitor mooring at Keadby and had three visits over a couple of days. The weather was good and it was great to see everybody.

In January 1866 John Wreake died of a heart attack minutes before he was to host a grand dinner at his pub for a local huntsman. There were 1000 at his funeral and Scotland Street was blocked for hours by those wishing to pay respects. It seems that the pub was taken over by a George Elliot. George was a pocket knife blade grinder, showing there was a great degree of specialisation in the business. He was also one of the executors of Wreakes' will. I wonder if he was left the pub as Wreakes had a wife and children too? John's work in promoting angling was continued but never with the same vigour it seems. In his turn George died at the Crown in 1869 and his wife tried to continue but it was a sad reflection of the hey day of the match and in 1870 there were 'only' 97 prizes. The following year the competition did not take place.

During our stay in Keadby Helen had another 21st birthday and we had a barbeque with our daughter to celebrate.

The legacy of that fishing competition was for fishing matches to continue on the Stainforth and Keadby. In a strange quirk of fate the competition that had been held in July for the last few years took over the mantle of the All England Match, and was promoted by the innkeeper at the Rawson's Hall on Tenter Street, in Sheffield. His name was John Shackley was the son of Mary who had accussed John Wreakes of intimidation. Funnily enough during the appeal it was said that in actual fact Wreake had been trying to help the two sons as the two grinders he had been trying to warn Mary Shackley about had been stealing work form the sons!

Whilst looking into this I found another story that illustrates another thought. The story goes that two boys were fishing in the Stainforth and Keadby Canal when one caught a small fish. A seagull flying over saw this and swooped down and swallowed it. However the hook caught in its beak and he had a fish and a bird to his credit. There is nothing overly remarkable about this but it went 'viral', or viral for its day. It ended up in newspapers all over the north of England, Norfolk, Durham, Liverpool, Preston, Hull and Manchester. It seems this is akin to that 'stuff' you get on your phone all the time.

Thursday 12 November 2020

When Canals Ruled the Waves.

 From Rotherham we continued on the Don past the Rotherham United ground where the Don joins with the Rother and the Ickle cut leaves to head up to Sheffield. The first lock is Ickles Lock but at the next one you have to book with C&RT to continue

We were delayed at the next lock Holmes as no Lock Keeper arrived and in any case Land and Marine were moving dredgers and pans about. We actually went through on a return pen from the pan and waited above the lock. By the time we got through the lock keeper was there and off we went.

After Holmes comes Jordans Lock and the impressive weir.  Up to now we are still on the Old River Don Navigation/South Yorkshire Canals

It is not until you reach Halfpenny Bridge and leave the River Don for the last time do you start along the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. The wharf here was the head of navigation before the canal was built with an annoying few miles to go to Sheffield. In lieu of a canal a turnpike road had been completed.

Various schemes had been mooted to bring Sheffield into the canal age the the most ambitious was the Grand Commercial Canal that was first talked of in 1796. It was to link up the Peak Forest Canal with tunnels and locks through to Edale and Hathersage and on to Chesterfield and the Cromford Canal with a branch up to Sheffield. Thomas Telford got involved in 1824 surveying a route but it seems to many people were against it, land owners and other canal companies. What a canal that would have been to cruise today! In 1811 another scheme in 1811 was the NE Junction Canal that was proposed to link the River Don to Chesterfield and Cromford canals. In 1814 a canal from Tinsley to Codnor Park on the Cromford canal was talked about too. All these ideas must have stimulated ideas for a much easier to build, and quicker to complete, plan for the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal as it was put forward as a proposal in 1815 it quickly received backing and passed its first reading of the Bill in February, 2nd reading in May and Royal Assent in June! In October tenders were put out for its digging.

Route of the Grand Commercial Canal. Peak Forest Canal upper left, Sheffield upper right, Chesterfield middle right and Cromford Canal bottom right.

There are three locks near to Tinsley, one on its own then a flight of seven to reach the summit. On 22nd February 1819 for the opening of the canal ten or eleven boats entered the bottom lock at 0805 with the firing of cannons. All were decorated with flags and banners. There were no passengers, They reached the top through 2 bridges and 12 locks (only eleven today) at 0930 and had to wait there for their passengers. They arrived and the armada set off at 1100 prompt to the sound of firing cannon once more. These were answered by  artillery in Attercliffe Cutting which was in turn answered by guns at the Sheffield end of the canal. They passed over Attercliffe Aqueduct at 1130 and it was here they picked up the VIP's Lord Surrey and friends. When they left guns were fired as before. When the procession entered Attercliffe Cutting a 14 gun salute was fired in the cutting that must have been deafening.

The canal from the top of the locks to Sheffield was lined with thousands of people. Must workers had been given the day off to attend the celebrations. Not many too be seen today.

I think there are only two of the original bridges left this is the first Bacon Lane Bridge and the other is Cadman Bridge.  After that one the procession stopped and moored up to raise the masts and rigging and complete the decoration of the boats. This took a while before they set off again to enter the basin. The basin had been excavated on part of the Castle Orchards.

When they arrived in the basin there were 60,000 people there to great them. The band played Rule Britannia and three rousing cheers were given as well as a 14 gun salute with reply from two guns above the basin on Park Hill. All the guests were disembarked and assembled into a procession to walk up through the town from the warehouse. First came the Civil Officers with staves of office to clear the way, then the canal workmen four abreast. Contractors followed them and then owners and masters of the vessels. The resident Engineer and assistants fitted in here ahead of more civic officers and they were just ahead of the band. They had the Chairman and committee, nobility, Magistrates and religious leaders behind them. The the Master Cutlers of Sheffield, the committee of the River Don Navigation, Flag bearers and the canal committee members 3 abreast. Bringing up the rear four abreast were the other subscribers to the canal, Brothers of the Britannia and Royal Brunswick Masonic Lodges and other clubs and societies. The whole procession was a quarter of a mile in length as they made their way to the Tontine Inn and were cheered all the way. 120 sat down to a meal there. The room was decorated with flags, evergreen and banners with mottos such as 'The Sea and May it Always Bring a Spring Tide of Joy to Sheffield'. 'In the voyage of Life May Content Always be a Cabin Passenger.'  'Safe Arrivals to our Homeward and Outward Bound Fleets', 'Our Naval Affairs Well Managed', and 'All Ships to sea'.

The meal was enjoyed by the Earl of Surrey as the guest of honour. The Duke of Norfolk was due to attend but I suspect the opening was delayed a bit as he was due in Sheffield the week before so didn't make it. Others included Sir George Sitwell, Sir W.C. Bagshaw and others. The Chairman of the dinner was Hugh Parker Esq a Magistrate. It must have been a pretty boozy do as there were twenty toasts! Apparently besides the official dinner at the Tontine there were several others for the lesser mortals, and every pub was busy with people celebrating a day off as much as anything I suspect. However it was remarked that there was no trouble at all through out the day. The following day a dance was held at the Tontine so as include the ladies of quality.

Never has Sheffield seen such an event. Nothing like this was repeated when the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway was opened in 1838 or when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway was opened with Victoria Station right next to the canal basin in 1845.

The first week of being open at least ten vessels arrived in the basin from Mosbrough, Gainsborough, Doncaster and London. They had cargoes including corn, coal, groceries, iron, deals and potatoes. One vessel sailed for Doncaster with Goods.
In 1869, after fifty years the newspapers were not over enthusiastic about the benefits the canal had brought to the city. After one hundred years in 1919 they were bemoaning the fact that nothing had really changed. They were looking forward to the time when 100 ton craft could reach Sheffield and extolling the vitues of a ship canal from the Humber to the City. It took until the 1980's for the idea to come to fruition with the 700 tonne Eurobarge improvemets to the locks and navigation, but only as far as Rotherham. We had hoped to be in Sheffield for the 200 year celebrations but it wasn't to be.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Families Won and Lost.

 As you approach Rotherham you come to a lock at the foot of the Dove and Dearne Canal that is closed. This is Swinton Lock. It has been renamed Waddington Lock and you can still see why the name is synonymous with the area 

The Waddington's Barge 'Resilience' is kept up today as she occasionally gets work taking heavy and large items to factories and power stations along the South Yorkshire and River Trent. Things that would cause too much Chaos by road.

The first in the line of Waddingtons in the are that was involved with the navigations was Peter Waddington, 1820 - 1883. He seems to have started in partnership with a John Callis who had been a foreman with another local boat builder. By 1847 the partnership was severed and Peter seems to have set up on his own. In 1863 Peter, at his own expense paid for a meal for 124 of his workers, tenants and friends to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. After the meal he provided punch to the ladies and cannons were fired by day and fireworks at night. He seems to have done his bit for the people generally as he was elected on to the local Board of Health in 1873.

Waddington's yard is now found occupying the first three locks on the disused Dove and Dearne Canal just above the Swinton Lock.

Joseph, Peter's eldest child seems to have taken over the running of the yard with Peter having died in 1883. In 1887 the largest vessel ever built in Mexborough was launched at Waddington's yard. It was 62' x 16.5' x 9' height and was of 150 tons burden. It was unable to navigate to Mexborough when loaded but was intended for use on the Humber and Trent rivers, and wider sections of the other navigations. Joseph;s eldest sister Emily named her 'Highflier'. In 1889 the papers again said that Waddington's produced the largest vessel from Waddington, but only said that it just managed to scrape under the canal bridge. They were also the first Mexborough boat builders to build a vessel for the Aire and Calder Navigation., a keel of 80 tons. 

Waddington's at Swinton in 2000.

Some time after 1888 Joseph's younger brother Edward seems to have taken over the running of the company, but Joseph is credited with the launch of a keel 'Cedar' but made of English oak in 1893. On his death in 1892 his eldest son Albert Edward took control. The yard was now found at Bull Green in Mexborough and in 1902 he launches his first vessel called the 'Francess'. She had been designed by Joseph though and built of English oak. Her dimensions were 56' long x 6.5' high x 14'6" beam and 100 ton load

Unfortunately the number of hulls at Swinton Lock has greatly diminished since this photograph. After launching his first in 1902, as above, in 1928 there was much made the launching of a 4 ton boat, 22' x 10'  that was to be used as a ferry for the Cadeby Colliery between the mine and Conisborough. It was the first boat launch in Mexborough since 1914!

It was the Albert Edward's brother who took over the business due to Albert's ill health. That was Ernest Victor, and it was he who started to branch out from the boat building into carrying and property etc.  Ernest's son Victor started helping out with the business when he was 15 and when his father died in 1965 he was in sole charge. He later became known as 'The Canal King' as he built the business up with around 70 vessels and 80 employees as well as property, warehousing etc. He was an activist for freight to be carried on the canals and lobbied very hard for it. He died in 1999 but I'm sure he would have been pleased that in September this year sea dredged aggregates are been moved from Hull to Knostrop Wharf, Leeds, in 500 tonne loads. The saving of pollution from using inland quarries and river/canal transport that saves 18 lorries per lift. They are hoping to shift 200,000 tonnes a year, that is 8 barges a week! Maybe Victor's sons Steven and Tony will be involved. Swinton Lock was renamed Waddington Lock after Victor.

This is a great look at Yorkshire TV programme fro 1985 all about Victor Waddington titled 'The Modest Millionaire'

After passing Swinton and Mexbrough we came to Rotherham Lock. There have been several changes in the river/canal layout here but at the moment there is lots of work going on on the land between the canal and the river, known as Forge Island. Luckily for many I'm sure, there are plenty of workers a round. The gates are a right bugger to shift and a helping hand will be a must for many.

In the past there was a road that ran along Forge Island by the canal called Forge Lane. It is here in 1841 that a great tragedy occurred. It was at the yard of George Wilton Chambers and Son, boat builders and mine owners. On Monday 5th July a boat launch was to take place. It was a 70 ton vessel that was designed to sail the canals, rivers and coasts of the UK, and so had raised bulwarks. The vessel was to be called the 'John and William'. The waterway is very narrow so the boat had to enter the water sideways, or at least at an acute angle. It was also common for all the neighbourhood to come along and enjoy the spectacle, and even ride down the slip onboard. On this day there were over 100 people aboard the new vessel, mainly children, when John Callis, (yes the man who was a partner with Peter Waddington until 1847), set the launch operation going. As the boat moved and started down the slip everybody aboard moved to the one side to see the big splash. This spelled disaster as  once in the water it capsized. The bulwarks that were designed to stop waves washing aboard and to prevent seamen being washed overboard now acted as prison bars as people were trapped between them and the deck. In the end there were 64 deaths recorded, all from the local area too. There were only about 6 or 8 adults, the rest being children. Can so many have been lost on a UK canal disaster anywhere else? I had never heard of it until coming across it to write this piece.

There were lots of stories about people being saved and how some who would have been aboard decided against it at last moment, but also of a canal man being aboard with his two children and all been lost. From then on only required employees were allowed on launched vessels. There re memorials at Rotherham and Masborough.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Not such a pit these days.

 After a night at Sprotbrough Lock we continued up stream on the River Don. We were looking out for the castle on the hill at Conisbrough but also for the old Conisbrough Lock. 

Almost beneath the walls of the castle there was a natural bend in the river from the north to south bank. At some time between 1854 and 1886 a lock was built here. In this photo you can see the 'bullnose' of the lock entrance. The natural river flowed off to the left of the picture.

I think the remains of the bend in the river are now used as a fishing lake. You can clearly see the recesses in the lock walls for the gates.

And even better in a close up. The lock was removed when the navigation was upgraded to the 700 tonne Eurobarge size in 1983. The river now runs through where the lock once was, but wider.

To me this looks like roughly the same orientation as the first photo with the old river running to the left of the photo.

The old photo of the lock still looks quite bucolic and rural, as it does today, but in the past the truth was far different.
In 1889 a new comapny was formed to raise the money to sink another colliery in the area to exploit the Barnsley see, that ran under the area. It was thought that it would be found around 400 yards below the surface. It took four years to dig down to the seam, found at 450 yards, but then massive tonnages of coal were produced and exported via the river as well as railway. In the above picture you can clearly see the river running past the mine. The lock would be to the right of the picture.

The mine continued producing coal until 1986. By 1987 there was little to show for it as everything had been bulldozed. In 1999 the Earth Centre Opened as an environmental attraction that was supposed to be both education and entertainment around environmental and sustainable issues. It cost £42 million. It closed in 2004!! Obviously ahead of its time. Did anyone go? Let me know what type of thing was found there.

It looked a little different in its heyday. On 9th July 1912 there was an explosion underground and 35 men were killed. Six hours later the site was struck by a second explosion and this time the 53 men lost their lives as many managers and rescuers where there trying to locate the first casualties. There was a third explosion the next day and that section of the seam was blocked off. 

Just a little further up river towards Mexborough Lock the first colliery by the river was Denaby Main Colliery. This opened in 1863 and coal was struck four years later. Denaby hadn't got a wharf by the river, and their coal was exhausted by 1967. However in 1956 it had been joined underground with Cadeby pit and all Denaby's production came up their shafts. Denaby's head gear was maintained as emergency access and maintenance access for the two pits.

The wonder of nature is that in just 35 years the land can have recovered to the state it is now in. The young of the area will have never known anything else. In this time of global warming worries it could be thought of as heartening that nature can restore the land so maybe we can too.