Picture of George Head

George Head

places mentioned

Selby and Goole

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THE completion of the Leeds and Selby Railroad in 1834 has confirmed, beyond all manner of doubt, the probability of a continuation of the line entirely across the country, from sea to sea; even at the present moment it may be considered as forming, combined with that from Liverpool to Manchester, both together leading in the same direction, the longest in the kingdom; and a railroad from Selby to Hull having been also determined on, which latter, there is every reason to believe, will, ere a long period, be taken in hand, it follows, I think, as a matter of course, that energies sufficient to complete the diameter of the country over the intermediate space from Leeds to Manchester will not be wanting.

The Leeds and Selby Railroad was begun and finished by the steady perseverance of a few individuals in the face of serious opposition and difficulties: whether it be that the inhabitants of Leeds possess other ample means of employing both time and capital in their manufactures; or that the overpowering canal interest in that part of the country was united to frustrate the scheme, it certainly did not receive upon the whole the encouragement that might have been expected; and even to the very last, abundant were the exclamations and prophecies against the final issue of the speculation. The proprietors, notwithstanding, continued to make headway against every obstacle, liberally relieved their contractor from a considerable additional expense incurred by filling up sun dry shafts of abandoned coal pits, unexpectedly encountered on the line; and completed the whole work in the most substantial manner, notwithstanding almost every yard of the rails is laid either upon an artificial raised causeway, higher or lower as the case may be, or along an excavation.

Abundant open space for the buildings of the establishment has been enclosed, at the station of departure from Leeds, where, besides the necessary offices and appurtenances, a complete set of staiths, both for lime and coal, have been erected. These are built on the plan of the old coal staiths at Leeds, of which mention is made in another place; that is to say, with a raised platform for the carriages at the top, from which the coal is shot into a compartment below. In this compartment sufficient space has been provided, so that a cart may either be backed and receive its cargo as it falls, or several wagon loads may be shot on the ground, and afterward shovelled away at leisure. This set of staiths contains a double row of spouts, twenty-four on each side. Already, in consequence of the undertaking, new shafts for coal pits have been sunk on the line from Leeds to Selby, in prospect of the advantages to be obtained by the facilities of land carriage.

The tunnel, with which the work commences at Leeds, is admirably executed; eight hundred yards long, of ample dimensions, sufficient to allow the locomotive engines to drag the trains of carriages after them in ordinary course both ways completely through, in at one end and out at the other, and well bricked and whitewashed above and on both sides. It is partially lighted by windows nt the top of three shafts, which latter have been left open, at unequal distances. However, in passing through it, it must be confessed that, although no inconvenience is experienced by the smoke, a considerable part of the transit is performed in utter darkness.

Several arches, or viaducts, are thrown across the railroad on the way. One of these, Garforth Bridge, is in a slanting direction, according to the mode now frequently adopted in modern practice, whereby another road crossing the line, not at right angles, is continued straight forward. Of these works, the most oblique is that of Rainhill Bridge, over the Liverpool Railroad, one of its abutments being, I believe, upward of forty feet out of the square, that is to say, it is thrown that distance forward in front of the other. Common as these arches are, they are beautiful specimens of architecture; and although, when seen in the perspective, the eye traces the figure with no observable deviation, yet when the spectator views from underneath the symmetrical beauty of the curved lines above him, he becomes impressed with a feeling as if he were within the concavity of a stupendous shell.

It happened to be very shortly after the railway was opened that I made a journey from Leeds to Selby, having been conveyed from the centre of the town to the station in an omnibus, one of the most prepossessing carriages of that description I remember to have met with. It was a well-finished vehicle, fitted up within-side with glazed pink lining, neatly plaited in festoons, a large looking-glass at the end for the benefit of ladies; and, what was better than all—it was carefully driven.

About a dozen carriages started in our train, and were dragged by the locomotive engine through the tunnel at the rate of twelve miles an hour, afterward ascending the inclined plane, a rise of one foot in one hundred and eighty, with equal velocity. Three or four stoppages were made on the way to take up and set down short fares; nevertheless we performed the whole distance, nineteen miles seven furlongs, in one hour and four minutes.

The sensation created by our transit, at this early stage of affairs, was particularly striking. Had the double-tailed comet passed that way, the country people would hardly have been more interested by the spectacle; the men at work in the fields and quarries stood like statues, their pickaxes in their hands, in attitudes of fixed attention, and immoveable as if turned by the wand of a magician into blocks of stone; and women in troops, in their best gowns and bonnets, fled from the villages, and congregated at the corner of every intersecting lane. Neither was the brute creation less animated on the occasion: on the Liverpool and Manchester line, the cattle, accustomed to such phenomena of sight and sound, become apathetic, and hardly lift their noses from the pasture, quietly minding their own business, in spite of roaring, whizzing, and smoking; here, on the contrary, every horse was on the alert, viewing the huge moving body as it approached with a mixture of fear and surprise, stamping, pointing forward his ears, snorting, and evincing a degree of curiosity so intense that it appeared as if to the instinctive faculty were added reason and the desire of knowledge: even the cows, as they cocked and twisted their tails, spit out mouthfuls of unchewed grass, and tried to gallop.

Although the railway establishment at Selby is not so large as at Leeds, the buildings are commodious and well arranged, consisting of the booking office, and immediately contiguous a spacious shed, the latter for the purpose of receiving under shelter the arriving and departing trains.

As at the time in question a part of the railroad in the vicinity of the booking office was yet unfinished, I had an opportunity of observing the mode by which the workmen employed in laying down the sleepers conducted the operation. Each of these sleepers being a heavy block of stone, having a small cradle of iron, or chair, as it is called, riveted on the top for the purpose of supporting the rails, must necessarily be placed with very great exactness in the same straight line and level, at the same time on a firm and perfect bed; yet the work was altogether performed by ordinary labourers, by the help of the following very simple contrivance. A strong upright piece of timber, about six feet high, rested on the ground. Across the top of this, a scaffold pole about fifteen feet long rested on a pivot, so that the latter could traverse horizontally in every direction, being at the same time in equilibrio: that is to say, it was so balanced that with the stone sleeper suspended at one end by a short chain, the length of the pole was unequally divided, so as to give the man at the opposite extremity full purchase and power over the stone. Thus, one man, holding the stone in the air, by pressing the long end of the lever, his comrade adjusted the earth below it; it was then lowered by the former, and either pounded itself into its place by a motion given to the pole, or was again raised and its bed readjusted. Finally, the accuracy of its position was ascertained by a common mason's level.

A vessel which lay in the Ouse river, not removed more than a few yards from the shed and booking office, was taking in a cargo of stone. It was now low water, and the river saturated with earthy particles, in as great abundance as the stream of the Nile. I could not help admiring the dexterity with which block after block of stone was lifted from the ground, and swung on board, by an ordinary crane, as well as the celerity and ease with which the men adjusted and disengaged the tackle, placing the stone gently on board the vessel. With no other appliance than a common chain, they contrived to catch a grip at the sides, just as I should take a tea canister in my hand, and lift it from a table. The chain had a hook at the end, and a ring in place of a link, some feet from the hook. The hook was run through the ring, so as to make a noose of the chain. The noose was then thrown round the stone horizontally, as it lay on the ground; drawn tight, the end passed vertically over the top of the stone, and the hook fastened to a link, opposite the point of juncture. As the men heaved at the crane, the noose jammed, and up went the stone in the air; so soon as the latter was lowered into the vessel, the noose was slackened, and in a moment quitted its hold.

The church at Selby is a fine model of ancient architecture, of larger dimensions than is apparently conformable to the extent of the town; the style nearly that of Rochester Cathedral. Within the building, those who delight to pace among the venerable tombs of abbots and knights templars have ample opportunity of being gratified; these noble relics being frequent and in fine preservation. Unfortunately, a very few minutes were allotted me for inspection, and, insufficient as they were, I should have missed the opportunity altogether, had not the door of the church been previously opened to introduce another party.

The person in charge of the keys, who acted as verger on the occasion, was a strange-looking being; such as, in ordinary life, one seldom meets with, though I could not then and there express with propriety the extreme curiosity I felt to know his history.

This extraordinary personage was in size a dwarf; he looked both boyish and old; his head being peculiarly formed, and large in proportion to his body; his face smooth and wrinkled, without the slightest vestige of a beard; his countenance also bearing a very peculiar character, and his cracked shrill voice resembling the voice of a woman. Indeed he afforded a very striking contrast, in point of general appearance, with the portly deep-mouthed brethren of his profession.

Having passed the night at the George Inn at Selby, together with several passengers who had arrived from Leeds by the railway, I was somewhat surprised in the morning at the extraordinary anxiety of the landlord to hurry us all away; insomuch, that I was put to considerable inconvenience, having my luggage summoned unexpectedly full half an hour before the appointed hour, the landlord asserting, in opposition to the watches of the whole party, that his was the correct time. The time of departure of the packet boat was eight o'clock, matters being arranged so as to wait for the arrival of the early railway train from Leeds. As the distance from the inn to the vessel is not trifling, and the conveyance of all the luggage undertaken by the landlord, many, being totally unprepared, were hustled grumbling away.

It is not always that people in this world understand when they are well treated, and though in this case our host had unquestionably "welcomed the coming, sped the going guest," it remained for a few hours' consideration and experience to show that his motives were directed to our prosperity.

The navigation of the Ouse and Humber, owing to shoals and shifting sands, is as bad as can well be, at all times. This morning the tide was fast ebbing, and though starting one minute sooner might possibly have operated in our favour, yet, in point of fact, the chances were, after all, about ten to one that we stuck in the mud. Notwithstanding such a state of things, and although it is impossible to make the voyage down unless with sufficient water, and at the top of a tide, the proprietors of the packet boat start every morning unflinchingly at eight o'clock, being the time of arrival of the railway train— this in spite of wind and tide, and in defiance of all rational objections.

Punctually at eight o'clock the Leeds train arrived, with a numerous cargo; when all the passengers and luggage were put on board the steamer intended to carry us to Hull. Doubts were soon expressed by those partially acquainted with the river as to whether the ebb were not too far advanced; but before we had been a couple of hours on the way, indications appeared sufficient to set speculation at rest, for the water became as thick as a puddle, so that it actually retarded the rate of the steamer; and two men, one on each side, each with a checkered pole in his hands, continually announced the soundings. We were tantalized for some time by hearing "six foot, five foot, five and a half foot, five foot," and so on, till at last came "four and a half foot," and then she stuck. As it turned out in the sequel, this not happening to be the spot whereon the captain had made up his mind to repose, he was active and anxious to get the vessel afloat, and in this object received able support from all his passengers, who, about forty in number, condescendingly acted in concert under his directions, and shuffled across from one side to another so as to keep her going, and prevent her from lying quietly down on the mud. Whenever, in a coarse gruff voice, he gave the emphatic word of command "Rowl her," the crowd, like sheep at the bark of a dog, trotted across the deck, treading on one another's heels, and suffering much personal inconvenience. At the same time they hauled upon a rope, previously sent on shore, and made fast to a purchase, till the vessel was disengaged from her soft bed, and again afloat in a channel nearer the shore. We proceeded now about two miles farther, when the men with the checkered sounding poles were at work again for a few minutes, and then came an end of all uncertainty, for we touched the ground again, and in a few seconds were laid up in right earnest.

The captain now was so well prepared for the catastrophe, that not an oar was plied, or the least exertion of any sort made; but here she remained for three hours, during which time an opportunity was afforded to those inclined to reflection to determine the cause why this packet boat might not, by starting some time later, have allowed the people to pass their time at Selby instead of upon this mud bank. On asking eagerly for information on this point, it was hinted that the liquors on board were excellent; but this is mere hearsay. Some of the passengers, after remonstrance, were put on shore in a boat, and walked about three miles to the new town and port of Goole, where we re-embarked at two o'clock, arriving at Hull at six o'clock in the evening.

Such accidents, it is said, on the spot, are of rare occurrence, taking place only at neap tides. At all events, a similar fate to the above related betided the passengers who arrived the two subsequent days at Hull; and an iron passage boat recently placed on the station, notwithstanding her lighter draught of water, meets frequently with like disasters. The railroad from Selby to Hull, as it will occupy a line of a little more than twenty miles, and be performed in one fifth of the time required for the passage by water, becomes a very earnest object of anticipation to those who travel in this direction. Notwithstanding the vast expanse of the Humber below its confluence with the Trent, steamers of small size, as has already been observed, are unable to make the passage unless at the latter part of a tide; shifting sand banks, sometimes here, sometimes there, thousands of acres, perhaps at first accidentally overflowed, are continually rolling backward and forward beneath the surface—land which at this moment might possibly be under the plough, but for some casual circumstance connected with the early history of the river. There are numberless instances, no doubt, where a single man with a spade may have been enabled to alter the direction of a stream for ever; and the Dutch River, whereby the course of the Don was thrown, by a cut of seven miles, into a new channel, is an instance of what, on a large scale, may be effected. The successful drainage, too, of the fens in Lincolnshire, whereby entire new parishes have been reclaimed and rescued from the deep, leads an individual who performs a voyage on the Humber to the conclusion, that science may still devise the means, by drainage and embankment, to effect material alterations and improvements in the navigation.


A CHEAP line of travelling during the last two years, in consequence of the competition among the proprietors of the Hull steam vessels, has extended from London, by Goole, Doncaster, and Sheffield, to Manchester; from which latter town an outside passenger may perform a journey through the places aforesaid, by land and by water, for about fifteen shillings. The traveller, leaving Manchester, is conveyed in the regular stage coach as far as Sheffield, from whence tide coaches daily depart to Thorne, on the banks of the river Don. Hither a steamer daily arrives and returns, tide permitting, to and from Hull; but as the navigation of the river Don is precarious, it frequently happens that, on slack tides, the Hull steamer can come no higher than Goole, which latter town is situated on the Ouse, immediately at the mouth of the Don; in which case the passengers are carried from Thorne to Goole, in a vessel towed by horses, and of lighter draught than the steamer. Thus the communication, though slow, may be called sure.

When, in the latter part of the summer, I fell into this line of peregrination at Sheffield, I found it impossible to inform myself beforehand of the above particulars: upon inquiry, every one of the passengers certainly possessed a general notion where he was going, yet not one in a score exactly knew how he was to be conveyed.

I arrived at Doncaster early in the evening, to await the arrival of the tide coaches to Thorne the next morning. As I sauntered round the town, I had more than one opportunity of hearing the chimes of the old church clock, the machinery of which has now been going these fifty years. Either I was over fastidious, or my taste not formed to the style, or the music struck up suddenly as I was thinking of something else; but somehow or other, with all respect to old customs, I could not reconcile the melodies to the edifice—one, the "Miller of Mansfield," another, the "Pretty Girl," or the "Pretty Maid," or some such name, and the rest (except a psalm tune or two for particular occasions) of a like description; besides, the bell ropes were crazy, or the ironwork rusty—something caused the hammer now and then to hang drowsily on a note, and then, as if to make up for loss of time, hurry furiously over a dozen together.

It was before seven o'clock in the morning, after passing the night at Doncaster, that I found myself among a crowd of persons anxiously waiting the arrival of the tide coaches, which had departed from Sheffield at five o'clock, in order to reach Thorne at half past eight, in time for the Hull steamer. The distance is not more than thirty miles, and three hours and a half sufficient time for the journey: nevertheless, from one cause of delay or another, it is not performed without much furious driving. On the present occasion, the opposition on the road was extraordinary; persons of all conditions, in short, everybody was interested one way or other: so that the crowd, before alluded to, consisted not merely of travellers and bundle bearers attracted to the spot by their own particular objects, but also of the idle riffraff of the town of Doncaster, to see what might be very properly called—a race of coaches. Such was the animation evinced by the multitude, that for aught I know bets might have been laid on the advent of the rival vehicles, which now came furiously galloping up the street.

Having arrived thus far from Sheffield by a well-regulated conveyance, I certainly felt disinclined to quit a quiet channel for this unexpected bubbling of the waters, and was actually beginning seriously to weigh in my mind the risk of the experiment against its advantages; but once in the current, reflection comes too late. Some of the helpers had already shouldered out of the way the smoking cattle; others held a finger and thumb each on the corner of the fresh steeds' cloths; so that I had but barely time to take my seat inside, before somebody, the Lord knows who, said "All's right," the door was violently banged into its place, and away we went. The boys ran hallooing after us as we rattled over the stones, and threw up their hats—the old men and women took off their spectacles—every mouth was distended with a smile—the dogs hung their under jaws and wagged their tails in silence, and every cobbler turned out of his stall to see our fleet of coaches. Like a pack of fox hounds, carrying a breast-high scent across a country, we bore with us the sympathies of the young and the old, the halt and the blind, and imposed, for the time being, a stop to all domestic and other occupation. Two vehicles had departed a few seconds before us, but these we soon overtook; and there we lay, favourites of fortune, inasmuch as no accident occurred, yardarm and yardarm as it were, for the rest of the journey.

The usual place of embarkation is Thorne Quay, a small village about a mile beyond the town of Thorne; but the tide, on our arrival there, was so low, that the coaches proceeded a mile farther down the river Don, to a place called "Hangman's Hill," celebrated for the summary vengeance taken in former days, on the part of Cornelius Van Muden, on certain caitiffs who maliciously damaged his dikes. At Hangman's Hill, we found in readiness for the voyage to Goole, a flat-bottomed punt, in shape like a Sunderland keel, but furnished with a good cabin under a raised bulkhead, sufficient effectively to protect the passengers from the weather. We were towed the whole way, by a couple of horses, to Goole, where the Hull steamer lay at the quay ready to proceed on her way.

The last seven miles of the voyage were performed through the "Dutch River," a singular and magnificent work of art; a straight cut, whereby the ancient circuitous course of the river Don was effectually changed, in the reign of Charles II., by the aforesaid Van Muden. At the present day, its deep shelving banks, its ample breadth, and the ebbing and flowing of the tide within its channel, give it all the appearances of a natural river. I paced one of the oldfashioned wooden bridges, with a drawbridge in the centre, thrown across it at Goole, and found the length to be eighty-three yards.

No part of England more resembles Holland than the theatre of the above operation: therefore no man could have been better qualified to undertake it than a Dutchman; but poor Van Muden affords, by his fate, one additional melancholy instance of those benefactors of mankind, who have fallen victims to the inveteracy with which improvement in its early stage is always resisted. Unable to stem the torrent of opposition raised by interested persons against him—in spite of his able plans, their vigorous execution, and the liberal appropriation of the whole of his private means to support them—notwithstanding the thousands of acres of land reclaimed by drainage, and that he may fairly be said, at least, to have added one to the navigable rivers of the country—in return for all these benefits, poor Van Muden first fell into discredit, then into debt, and ultimately perished in jail. To this day, besides his dikes and embankments, small Dutch-looking edifices, little windmills, and people bearing Dutch names, perpetuate the memory of those Hollanders who, at the period alluded to, took occasion to settle in the neighbourhood, in consequence of the royal grant, which entitled the projector to a proportion (I believe one third) of all the land he might be able to reclaim. While the original lofty banks of the Dutch River, its dams, and sluices are in high perfection, the bed of the old river has received gradual accumulations of alluvial soil and vegetation, so as now to be filled up and scarcely discernible.

One would at first be inclined to wonder how it came to pass that the operation of "warping," to which the embankments of this river first led the way, should have remained so long unapplied, and, in point of fact, unknown altogether; and in attempting to account for the circumstance, it is natural to attribute it to the torpid state of people's faculties, contrasted with the vivid rage for improvement existing during the last half century. Yet it is fair to conclude that the owners of lands on a level so low, that it became their first object and care to protect them, at a great expense, from inundation, to whom the ability of managing sluices, so as to turn the stream from their fields, had been as a science from their infancy, were slow to adopt a process whereby the whole of their former proceedings were to be reversed, and their understandings, with all their early prejudices, turned directly topsyturvy. Moreover, the warping system is not conformable to general practice, but entirely arises out of local causes, that is to say, the peculiar muddiness of the water.

The lands in question are those contiguous to the Trent and Ouse, which two rivers, flowing through a wide extent of low, flat soil, become charged and saturated to the highest degree with earthy matter, of which alluvial substance, by the system alluded to, a considerable deposite is procured, artificial means having been taken to overflow the ground for that purpose. On passing through these rivers. the turbid state of the water is very remarkable, sufficient, one would imagine, to suffocate the fishes, as wave after wave rolls after the stern of the vessel, half mud, half water, and increased in volume by the powerful reaction against the shallow bottom. One might expect that from below the confluence of the Trent and Ouse, the Humber would carry down its stream into the sea the mud received within its channel, and bring back at the flood tide a quantity of clear water; but for many miles on either side of the mouth of the latter, the eastern coast, composed of earthy cliffs, is continually crumbling away; so that as much soil as is carried down is continually brought back again in exchange.

It was about fifty or sixty years ago, when warping was first here introduced. The process is performed by subjecting the lands to be warped to the ingress and egress of the tide, until, by a gradual accumulation of strata, one, two, three, or four feet of mould, as may be required, are deposited over a barren waste, and what was before a heathery moor, is converted to a state of exuberant fertility.

Having arrived at Goole, and being extremely anxious to see some of the lands in question, I made inquiry, not of those persons probably the best able to give information, but of those the most likely, of the few to whom I was limited by time and circumstances, to have it in their power to direct me where I might see the process to the best advantage. It is rather extraordinary, considering that I was not many miles removed from the principal scene of operations, that I found no person possessed of local knowledge for the purpose. One directed me to go here, another there, so little do people interest themselves about those things they have an opportunity of seeing every day. At last, from what I could learn, I judged it most expedient to follow the course of the Dutch River from Goole, along the east bank on foot, and thence, after proceeding three miles, to take a straight road six miles long, which leads to Thorne.

Although the greater part of the land close to the river had been reclaimed some years since by warping, I saw little, as I wished to see, under present operation; at the same time the excessive richness of the crops and soil was most extraordinary. I never saw finer wheat, beans, or potatoes; the soft, black, friable earth, in rows along the roots of the latter, might have passed, every particle of it, through a fine hair sieve. I observed also some fields of flax. Leaving the river, the road aforesaid leads nearly to the town of Thorne, and on account of its extending for six miles without turning, is called "Journey me Long Lane;" the line is a dead level, with abundance of greensward preserved on both sides.

During the walk, I observed one field very recently laid open to the tide, which flowed in from the long drains leading from the Dutch River. The water had receded, the mud lay upon it, looking fat as fish oil, and as the small streams bubbled through the cracks and fissures, geese and gulls were apparently filling their bellies very prosperously. Every field hereabout is provided with a bank and double ditch; and as all these ditches communicate with the main drain, nothing more is necessary than to make a breach in the bank of the field to be warped, and let the water through.

The description of wagon in use through this flat tract of country is rather extraordinary. The body is slung high, extremely narrow, and smaller at the bottom than the top, the greater width being about three feet one inch; the carriage is low, and as it is driven, not with shafts, but with a pole, the latter hardly reaches above the horses' knees. A pair are driven abreast, with no other harness than collar, chain traces, and very loose bellybands; the pole chains and swingletrees attached to the wagon. A single rein is fixed to the near horse's cheek, the other horse being made fast to his neighbour's collar by a halter; thus the driver has a pull only at one of his cattle, the single rein being formed so as to end in a thong, like an aid-de-camp's whip, and made fast to the front of the wagon. They contrive with these appendages not only to proceed usually about five miles an hour, but to manage and turn the vehicle, by many degrees quicker than a shaft wagon; the swingletrees meanwhile, it must be confessed, most awfully rattling against the horses' hocks.

At Thorne I first got precise information on the subject I required, being not only directed by a gentleman of the town to the immediate neighbourhood of Keadby, on the banks of the Trent, but also provided with a letter to a person able to explain some operations there going forward on a large scale. I accordingly procured a horse of my landlord to ride thither. The whole distance was along the towing path of the Keadby Canal, and I think I never experienced a more disagreeable ride; for the animal was a tall, rough-trotting post horse, blind of the near eye, and unused to the operation of opening a gate, so that as these were numerous, low, and each with a ponderous swing, I was always obliged to dismount and lead him through. On these occasions, the moment I approached his blind side to get up again, he ran sideways, snorted, and at the same time did his best to thwart my purpose by inconvenient actions and attitudes. Having found the person to whom my note was addressed, we both together walked about a mile back the way I had come, to the spot in question. An extent of one hundred and eighty-four acres was here surrounded by an embankment, or sea wall; the whole of which, only a few years before, had been a moor of peat moss; now, it was covered with exuberant patches of rich white clover, and fed seventy horses, thirty-six oxen, and one hundred and sixty sheep: the above stock being apparently more than plentifully supplied with pasture.

The operation of raising the embankment which surrounded the enclosure occupied, as my companion informed me, one hundred and fifty labourers for eight months, or thereabout. The water was then conducted from the large main drain, so as to be allowed ingress and egress over the land for three successive years, during which time the quantity of warp accumulated was different at different parts, and varied from one to four feet. One foot of warp over a bed of peat is considered quite sufficient, though a greater quantity is at times laid on, with reference to the level of the land; it being generally necessary to conduct the water first to the extremity of the enclosed space, and having raised that as much as possible, then to allow it to flow back again. After the plot in question had lain under warp for the three years aforesaid, it was allowed one year to settle, and then it being the latter end of the last summer, it was sown with clover seed. Therefore at the time I saw it, on the 8th of July, 1835, scarcely twelve months had elapsed since the first seeds were thrown upon it. It was proposed to allow the ground to remain as it was, under pasture, for two or three years, and then bring it under the plough. The clover was rank, and in patches, the ground rent in large fissures, bearing the appearance of what in fact it really was, the bed of a river; and the resemblance was more complete, as indigenous water plants, with thick succulent stalks, sprang up here and there in large bunches: these the cattle ate greedily.

This plot of ground, besides two more lots, in all eight hundred acres, was irrigated from one main drain, two miles long and fifty feet wide. I understood that the proprietors of the three lots paid also for the use of a part of another large drain, half a mile in length, at the rate of seven pounds per acre. Five feet of water was the depth laid on, to which the ingress and egress were perfectly uncontrolled. It is not necessary to dam up the water in order to procure a deposite; for as gravity is continually acting on the particles held in solution, notwithstanding the continual motion, a great part finds its way to the bottom. The different strata left by each tide are not unfrequently quite distinguishable; finally, a broad expanse of rich earth, of at least a foot in thickness, and so pure that a pebble in a thousand acres could hardly be found to throw at a sparrow, remains to reward the labours of the husbandman.


It is singular, that in most modern maps the town of Goole, is not laid down. Yet, there it stands on the banks of the Ouse, two hundred yards from the point where the Dutch River, mentioned in the last chapter,

empties itself therein—a striking instance of the rapid advance of British commerce—a small village risen to the dignity and importance of a considerable shipping port; and at the same time the very boys that play at marbles in the streets call to mind the digging of its foundations.

The town of Goole, has been forced into existence by the rich and powerful Aire and Calder Company, who, possessing the inland navigation of these two rivers by the important ducts of Leeds and Wakefield, have here established the means of communicating with the open sea without dependance on the port of Hull; and whatever may be the future success of this new town, considering present advantages and future probabilities—that its commerce, though wrested from Hull, is not only maintained in spite of twenty additional miles of bad navigation, but that that commerce, such as it is, is threatened with the probable completion, at no distant period, of a parallel rival land communication, by the newly projected Selby Railroad; it is very certain that the docks and public edifices have been erected on a scale of magnificence, equal, as far as they go in extent, to Liverpool or any other place.

Ample space has been allotted to the streets; the buildings, including spacious bonding warehouses, are of the finest red brick. Besides the extensive docks already completed, a new one, apparently by far the largest of any, is in a forward state; the cast-iron gates of this dock, and the lock, will, when finished, be, it is said, the largest in England; the breadth of the latter, in the form of an inverted arch, being from coping to coping fifty-eight feet, and the extreme breadth in the widest part of the curve sixty-four feet. At present, the excavation of the dock, though in rapid progress, is not finished. The coffer dam, erected for its temporary protection from the river, is a great work—one thousand three hundred large piles have already been planted, in three rows, of a semi-elliptical form, and parallel to each other , the length of the inner row (as I was informed) four hundred and twenty feet.

I observed the workmen as they were laying the foundation of the dock wall. First a row of piles was driven, and on these, large beams laid longitudinally; the wall was seven feet in breadth at the bottom, tapering to five feet at the top—height twenty-one feet—finished with brick, and the Bramley Fall freestone—rough stone and grouting in the middle.

A curious instrument was occasionally used, for the purpose of raising stones, workmen's tools, or what not, dropped by chance into the water: it was, in fact, neither more nor less than a pair of tweezers, the handles eleven yards long, and the claw one yard; a long chain being fixed at the hinge, the point between the handles and claw. The movements of the instrument after being let down in the water were regulated by hand, till having seized the lost article, all was hauled up together by means of a crane on shore, or crab, as the workmen called it.

As I was sitting in the parlour at an inn, in the evening, which room looked into the stable yard, I was disturbed by a very disagreeable noise, like that of a parcel of country fellows singing: now and then it appeared as if it were a quarrel, speedily about to be terminated by blows; and it continued so long and incessant, that it put a stop to my occupation altogether, and obliged me to listen: it proceeded from a building on the opposite side, which, on inquiry, I found to be occupied by a congregation of primitive Methodists, or Ranters, and these orgies were merely their mode of expressing devotion.

Reading or writing was quite out of the question, so, as I wished to obtain a little idea of what was going forward, I walked across the yard, and was proceeding to the passage, which led, by some stairs, to their apartment, when I found it previously occupied by young men and women in pairs, whose attitudes and conduct! could not clearly define, as it was almost dark, but whose meditations, at all events, I did not feel inclined to disturb. Therefore I retreated back into the stable yard, and contented myself by standing under the window of the room to listen.

It was quite beyond the power of human lungs, I am sure, to pour forth more discordant tones than were uttered on the present occasion: they roared and stamped in chorus, and howled, in a manner that could be compared, if to anything human, to nothing better than the music at a dance of Hottentots. One fellow, especially, when wrought to a tip-top pitch, and in a state as it were of exhaustion, vented ejaculations at regular intervals, by panting forth monotonously, over and over again, the expression, "Praise the Lord ;" the words came out of his throat all in a lump, as it were, in a fretful, frantic burst, so that the sound was more like the sudden, short bark of a huge dog than the voice of a man. Without derogating from the dignity of religion under any of her forms, it may be observed, that the deep emotions of the heart are best expressed in moderated tones, or silence; and that to give loose to such unbridled gusts of passion as were here exhibited is quite incompatible with the decencies of civilization.

The Knottingley Canal, cut some years since by the Aire and Calder Company, (the Marquis of Carabas of these parts,) begins at Goole, and falls into the river Aire a short distance below Ferrybridge; it runs parallel and quite close to the Dutch River for the whole of the length of the latter, although one would have imagined that this, from its ample dimensions, and being provided with a towing path as well as the canal, would answer the purpose of both. However, the navigation of the river is certainly at times impeded by shallows, to which the canal is not subject; besides, the latter belongs exclusively to the company.

The town of Goole, is actually built upon the canal, the basin being close to the docks; Dutch River is, however, as has been observed, not above two hundred yards from the other.

During the last summer this canal was the theatre of a severe competition between the rival powers of steam and cattle—a boat rapidly towed by horses, and a small steamer; and although fortune has since decided in favour of the latter, it was not for lack of energy on the part of the horse proprietor. His boat was, to use a common expression, better turned out, and in every respect more fancifully equipped, than any other of these quickly towed craft, of which the one from Glasgow to Paisly in Scotland may be said to have been the first established. This latter I saw at its work only a few weeks ago, when it was evident that though they had reduced their pace to a reasonable rate, eight or nine miles an hour, and the boys ride decidedly better, and give their horses a fairer chance than those I have happened to see in the service of any of our English boats, yet, even with all these advantages, these animals were subjected to too violent exertion.

The Knottingley proprietor has failed, not from a want of desire to please the public, but from requiring too much of his cattle—in order to judge of the effect, it is quite sufficient to see the state of the horse at the close of his labour; moreover, according to theory, the dead, heavy pull must be, without the nicest management on the part of the rider, really heartbreaking; precisely as if one were to gallop a horse, without feeling or consideration, at the top of his speed, through a stiff fallow: yet with some of these boats, the fellows appointed to ride, frequently welter weights, crack their whips as happily as a ten-stone postillion, without taking the slightest pains to control and regulate the powers of their horses.

It was the middle of last summer, when the contest between the rival boats was at its height, that I made a trip from Goole, to Knottingley, in the one aforesaid. We started at ten o'clock in the morning, so soon as the steamers from Hull had arrived, which bring hither passengers every day for both lines, the one to Selby and the other to Knottingley. The vessel might almost have been mistaken in point of appearance for a triumphal barge, so gaudily, or rather whimsically, was she decorated and painted, exhibiting, among other embellishments, a gigantic portrait of Queen Adelaide on her quarter; it was, in fact, a floating house, with seven windows on each side; and affording to those passengers who preferred an airy seat, a flat roof for the purpose, as well as comfortable benches thereon, firmly screwed down, to sit upon: those who occupied the cabin enjoyed the usual accommodation of a steamboat.

Though built purposely for speed and light draught, this vessel was firm, and steady in the water; she was indeed two boats linked together, with a double keel, and open channel between both: a moveable cast-iron cutwater fixed ahead, when lifted up was completely out of the way, but when down formed a very acute angle, and brought as it were the two boats into one; it prevented the stream from filling the hollow channel, and obstructing the progress.

This double boat, very properly denominated "The Twin Boat," was lashed to the side of the quay, so that we had nothing to do but step on board. The fare from Goole, to Knottingley, within one mile of Ferrybridge, a distance of eighteen miles, was two shillings.

Before the towing path commences, a space of a few hundred yards intervenes, through which the boat was worked through locks, and among numerous craft, by pushing and hauling, from one to the other, by boat hooks. We were occasionally somewhat inconveniently jammed together, though it was amusing to observe how steadily, yet how differently, every navigator made his way, according to the laws of river etiquette and mutual accommodation. On one occasion, our steersman fixed his point on the plank at which three men were eating their breakfast, and though the pole was streaming with water, neither of the three men seemed surprised or offended. Again, we ran bump upon a lighter, where the steersman's wife presided at the tiller. An altercation ensued, but the lady held on, in spite of remonstrance, though the privileges of her sex were disregarded in the midst of terms of art and nautical phrases.

Extraordinary preparations appeared in view the moment we were clear of the town, and had arrived at the towing path. Four horses, each nearly thorough bred, were standing ready, with traces to their collars; and immediately being hooked on, cantered away, without perceptible motion, or any noise to interrupt meditation; no sound other than the soft liquid bubbling of the water underneath the boat. The four horses were driven by three postillions, each a small boy, under six stone, and dressed in a light-blue jacket with red collar, and a white hat. The two foremost and the hindmost horses were ridden; the other carried no rider. The draught of each horse was, by a separate rope, attached to the tow rope, by which one principal objection to the mode, namely, that of drawing in an oblique line, was somewhat palliated; but, nevertheless, as they drew by ordinary traces, their hind legs were continually dragged from the proper point of resistance, to their great discomfort and increase of labour. We had two sets of cattle on the journey, each set performing nine miles, in about an hour and ten minutes. I proposed to the proprietor to make trial of the lasso, which seems, of all the services to which that contrivance can possibly be applied, most particularly suited to this, as tending to correct the obliquity of the draught, and at the same time afford the animal a firmer footing. It is singular that the lasso should never have been thought of on some one or other of our canal towing paths; the Knottingley owner said he would try it—whether he did or not I have not been informed.

The canal boats from the Humber, instead of using this canal, proceed usually to Ferrybridge, via Selby, between which latter places there is also water communication. Lighters of upward of forty tons burden, and sixty register, make their passage the whole distance from Hull to Manchester, by the way of Wakefield, Cooper Bridge, and Rochdale.

When at Goole, in the present summer, the establishment of "The Twin Boat" had come to an end; advertisements then proclaimed that the communication was regularly sustained by the above canal, between Goole, and Leeds by steam, and also that great alterations and improvements had been effected on a part of the line. I determined to go to Leeds accordingly.

The vessel was one of the lowest class of steamers, about equal, perhaps, to those which ply at all hours of the day between Shields and Newcastle; however, the proceedings of the voyage were as follows. We left Goole, at twenty-five minutes before twelve o'clock; one of our paddles broke in two places before we got out of the dock, and notwithstanding it was quite evident the vessel was unfit to proceed, on we went, the skipper having directed another steamer to follow in our wake. We encountered sundry delays in consequence of the crazy paddle, and were four hours and a half performing the distance to Knottingley, instead of completing it, as on the previous voyage, within two. The other boat, in due course, overtook us, when we were shifted on board of her, and were obliged to take our own lame vessel in tow, till we arrived at Castleford: there we left the latter behind. Altogether we were ten hours on our way to Leeds.

Castleford occupies the point where the Aire and Calder converge, the latter river proceeding to Wakefield, and the former to Leeds, from which place it is distant nine miles: here the river dues, both for Leeds and Wakefield, are collected; and here the lightermen, bound either way, leave their skiffs till their return; of these small craft may be seen from fifty to a hundred in a row, made fast at the bank of the river.

The principal improvements, before alluded to, on this line of water communication, which have been recently completed by the Aire and Calder Company, are between Castleford and Leeds. Although the navigation is impeded by several locks, the workmanship exhibited in these, and in the canal throughout, renders this approach to Leeds worthy of a large metropolis. In some places the channel of the river Aire has been improved and rendered serviceable, in others it has been altogether abandoned, and new cuts substituted; the depth of the water being seven or eight feet throughout. The long vistas of water, wide and straight, bounded by graceful elliptical bridges in the distance, the lockhouses, ornamental buildings, the solid masonry at the sides, whether by slanting planes of paving stone or low perpendicular walls, altogether form a perfect specimen of modern art and excellent taste.

One cast-iron bridge at the entrance of the suburbs, though some time since erected, should not be forgotten; a suspension platform supported under a segment arch. The arch, in span one hundred and forty feet, height forty feet, consists of two ribs, each rib of five castings, each casting twelve tons; so that the weight of the whole supporting iron arch is one hundred and twenty tons.

George Head, A Home Tour through the Manufacturing Districts of England in the Summer of 1835 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1836) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2009.

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