History of Goole

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goole 1853 smallerA Short History of Goole

The word Goole is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'open sewer', or 'outlet to a river'.

Goole did not exist until the early 1800's. Until then there were small farming villages nearby at Hook, Airmyn, Howden and a few houses where Old Goole is now situated.

The history of Goole begins when a Dutch Engineer Vermuyden diverted the river Don by 10 miles to make it flow into the River Ouse rather than the River Aire. This was done at the request of the King who liked to go hunting on Hatfield Chase near Doncaster and was fed up with the land always flooding. This allowed the land around Goole to become more habitable.

goole around 1880 drawn from a balloonIn 1826, the Aire & Calder navigation company built a canal from Leeds to Goole. This was the start of Goole as we know it and a large town built up exporting coal from the West Riding of Yorkshire to the Continent. Various shipping lines set up in the town, each one having their own fleet of ships, ensigns and offices in the town. The railway came a few decades later with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway using the port as its outlet to the North Sea and boom time came.

Other Goole engineers invented radical ways to improve the efficiency of the docks. The most famous of these were the coal hoists. These allowed small barges (Tom Puddings) carrying coal from the Yorkshire coalfields to be lifted from the water and their contents loaded directly into waiting ships.

At its peak Goole was a rival to Hull. There were passenger ferry services to Europe and the world and local steam packet services to Hull and York. For a town of 10,000 people there were three cinemas, two theatres and a ridiculous number of pubs serving both the locals and visiting sailors. Various municipal parks were built and the town expanded to the surrounding countryside. Rail links were built to Selby, Hull and Doncaster. Shipyards were built across the river in Old Goole and at Hook. Goole landmarks such as the 'Salt and Pepperpot' water towers, the cranes, windmills, the Grammar School and chimneys were built. Despite its prosperity, Goole was still quite isolated and surrounded by beautiful flat countryside. It became known as 'the Port in Green Fields'.


This was the ‘Heyday of the Railways’ in Goole. In the early days, Goole did not want a railway as this would have meant competition to the canal. However, to stop railway traffic going to Hull, the Company Directors decided not to oppose a railway to Goole, but to plan it so it helped the town. Railway freight always played an important part of the development of Goole. As well as the coal traffic, general goods were loaded onto ships and the L&YR took over the Goole Steam Shipping Company in 1905 to aid this growth. Up to 20 years ago most goods were loose and handled in the open air by a large number of men. Today everything is stored in containers or on pallets

The original L&YR station was built alongside Railway Dock and had two 100ft platforms adjacent to St John's Street. In 1881-82, the docks were expanded and the L&YR station closed down with all passenger trains using the NER station in Boothferry Road. They also built a large Goods Office across from Stanhope Dock. When the Selby to Goole Line opened, a spur was built between Rawcliffe Bridge Junction and Oakhill Junction for all passenger traffic. The line between Rawcliffe Bridge Junction and West Junction was always very busy with freight traffic to the docks. The branch lines led to a high-level coal drop and other parts of the docks.

The town was bombed during the Zeppelin raids of World War I, (a mass grave for the victims when a theatre was hit still exists in the cemetery), but was only bombed once in Second World war by a lost plane trying to find Leeds. Goole's merchant sailors played a great role in keeping supply lines to Scandinavia open (Norway still provide the town's Christmas tree every year), and sections of the Mulberry Harbour used in the D-Day landings were constructed in Goole and floated down to France.



    GOOLE, a sea-port and market-town, and the head of a union, in the parish of Snaith, Lower division of the wapentake of Osgoldcross, W. riding of York, 4 miles (S.) from Howden, 25 (W.) from Hull, and 175 (N. N. W.) from London; containing 2850 inhabitants.

    This place, which is situated on the river Ouse, near its confluence with the Dutch river, which communicates with the Don, has within the last thirty years risen from an inconsiderable and undistinguished hamlet into a town of commercial importance. The town and port owe their origin to the construction of the Knottingley and Goole canal, for which the Aire and Calder Navigation Company obtained an act of parliament in 1820. This canal, which communicates with the river Aire at Ferry-Bridge, and thereby completes the most important line of inland navigation in the kingdom, was opened to the public on the 20th of July, 1826; and in the year following, by commission from the court of exchequer, the town was constituted a port for foreign trade. On the 6th of April, 1828, a brig laden with merchandise cleared out of the dock for Hamburg, in the presence of a vast concourse of people, assembled from various parts to celebrate the event; and on the same day, a market for corn and provisions of all kinds, to be continued weekly, was opened in a commodious market-place. In the course of this year, the company obtained another act for further improvement in the navigation, and for the construction of additional docks for the accommodation of large steam-ships, then recently introduced; these works were commenced in 1835, and completed in 1838.

    The harbour is situated near the confluence of the Dutch river with the Ouse, over the former of which is an ancient wooden bridge of three arches, connecting the town with Old Goole. It has an entrance basin 250 feet long and 200 wide, communicating with the Ouse, here 500 feet wide, by two locks, one of which will admit vessels of more than 300 tons' burthen; and, by gates, with a ship-dock 600 feet long and 200 wide, having an average depth of 18 feet, and with a dock for barges 900 feet in length and 150 in width, having a mean depth of 8 feet. These docks communicate with each other by means of gates and swivel-bridges; and the barge-dock has a communication also with the Goole and Knottingley canal, over which is a handsome stone bridge of one arch. The new works consist of a spacious wet-dock and a large dry-dock, the former communicating with the ship-dock, which has been lengthened for the purpose, and opening into the Ouse by a lock 210 feet long and 58 wide; and towards the river a stone frontage has been erected, connecting the entrance into the lock with the entrance harbour.

    The quays are commodious, and there are extensive ranges of warehouses for bonding merchandise of every description, one of which is approved as a warehouse of special security; yards for timber, iron, slate, and other articles; and a timber-pond capacious enough for floating 3000 loads. A patent-slip for repairing vessels was formed in 1830; and every requisite accommodation has been provided for facilitating the general business of the port. Between the docks and the entrance harbour are the custom-house and excise-office, forming a handsome structure, of which part is also appropriated as merchants' counting-houses, and offices for the Aire and Calder Company; and between the entrance harbour and the river Ouse, coal-sheds have been erected for the supply of steamers frequenting the port.

    In the construction of the various works and buildings connected with the navigation, the company have expended more than 1,000,000, at this place, and on their line of navigation to Leeds and Wakefield, since the year 1820. An act was passed in 1845, authorizing the construction of a railway to Snaith, Pontefract, and Wakefield, 27 miles long; and in 1846, another act was obtained empowering the railway company to construct a station, a jetty, coal-staiths, and other conveniences at Goole. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of coal, lime, the woollen and cotton manufactures of Barnsley, Wakefield, Leeds, and Manchester, and the iron and cutlery wares of Birmingham and Sheffield; and in the importation of corn, timber, wool, and other goods. The amount of duties paid at the custom-house, in a recent year, was 61,599; the number of vessels of above 50 tons' burthen registered as belonging to the port, was 163, and their aggregate tonnage 14,640, exclusive of small craft for the inland trade, and six steam-vessels employed in carrying passengers and merchandise to Hull, and towing vessels into and out of the harbour.

    The town, which is situated to the north of the docks, consists of several spacious and regularly formed streets, containing numerous well-built houses; and, from the uniformity of its style, has a very pleasing aspect as seen from the river. A subscription library was established in 1836; and rooms have been erected by a proprietary, in which assemblies and concerts take place, and public meetings are held. The market is on Wednesday, and is numerously attended.

    The powers of the county debt-court of Goole, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Goole. The township comprises by computation 4280 acres, of which upwards of 3500 are in cultivation, more than 500 peat-moss, and the remainder water; the soil has been greatly improved by warping: formerly the staple produce was the celebrated Yorkshire kidney-potatoes, so much esteemed in the London market, but these may be said to be now almost entirely superseded by the Scotch red-potato.

    The old village of Goole extends southward along the banks of the Ouse, and consists of houses irregularly built. A temporary place was fitted up for divine worship by the Aire and Calder Company in 1830, accommodating about 300 persons; and a handsome church, for which the company gave the site, besides supplying the stone, and other materials to a great extent, has been since completed: it is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, and contains 1000 sittings. The first stone was laid on the 28th of June, 1843, by T. H. S. Sotheron, Esq., who subscribed 500 towards the building. The living is in the gift of Trustees. There are places of worship for Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Independents; and a free school with an endowment in land producing 21 per annum. The poor law union of Goole comprises 18 parishes or places, 16 being in Yorkshire, and 2 in the county of Lincoln; and contains a population of 12,535.

    From: 'Goodneston - Gosforth', A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), pp. 315-319. www.british-history.ac.uk



    Goole was formerly a township of the parish of Snaith, but is now a town and port, and an ecclesiastical parish in the lower division of Osgoldeross, rural deanery of Pontefract, and diocese of Ripon. The town and port of Goole have increased very rapidly. Owing chiefly to the enterprise of the Aire and Calder Navigation trustees, the insignificant village of half a century ago has grown into a port with bonding warehouses, trading with Holland, France, Germany, and Russia; exporting coal, woollen cloth, iron and cutlery, and importing corn, wool, and timber. This large trade has called forth the enterprise of several shipping and packet companies.

    The harbour consists of a basin 250 feet long and 200 feet wide, situate near the confluence of the artificial channel called the Dutch River with the Ouse. Two large docks communicate with the Ouse by locks, and capacious warehouses and a timber-pond adjoin. The heavy lock-gates are opened by hydraulic power, and a hoist here moved by the same power is capable of lifting at once a weight of seventy-five tons.

    The sum expended on the works connected with the navigation of Goole has exceeded 1,000,000. There is railway communication with Leeds, Wakefield, Hull, and Doncaster.

    The town of Goole, consisting of wide, regular, and level streets, is neat, clean, and well paved. Among the chief public buildings may be named the modern church in the perpendicular style (St. John), for which the Aire and Calder Navigation Company gave the site and great part of the building materials; the court house; and the Goole Union house. The Wesleyans and the several bodies of the Methodists, the Independents, and the Roman Catholics, have places of worship here.

    The whole district, of which Goole forms a part, includes the land bounded on the west by a line from Thorne to Snaith, and on the east by the river Trent. This may be regarded as fertile soil won from the water, and forms a striking contrast with the sea-coast of Holderness, where for unnumbered centuries the sea has been wearing away the rich soil. Old Goole extends southward along the Ouse and is separated from the new town by the Dutch River, which is here crossed by a wooden bridge.

    Goole Registrar's District (512), a seaport town and extensive agricultural district, covers an area of 43,443 acres. In 1801 it contained a population of 6700 persons, in 1861 of 15,153, and in 1871 of 17,270. Registrars' Sub-districts.-Goole is divided into three sub-districts:-

                      Area     Population  Population
                     in Acres. in 1861.    in 1871.
    1. Swinefleet,    19,237    4,042      4,320
    2. Goole,         10,546    6,994      8,754
    3. Snaith,        13,660    4,117      4,196




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