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From small beginnings

Taken from 150 Years of the Port of Goole, British Transport Docks Board, 1976...

By the mid-nineteenth century it was realised that if the port's trade was to develop, regular cargo liner services were required. The number of steamers using the port, although small by present day standards, was slowly increasing and attempts to establish regular sailings were made.

In the 1850's a man named William France became interested in the coastal trade, running small vessels to London with coal and bringing back mixed general cargo. Eventually he connected with the Australian and New Zealand wool trade, and as William France, Fenwick & Co. Ltd. developed a regular coastal service carrying coal to London and wool and general cargo back, the wool being destined for Bradford, principally via the canal system. This trade was to last for a century.

In the early 1870's a local man, John Bennett, established a trade to France. This, as the Bennett Steamship Co. Ltd., and its famous 'Red Cross Line', also lasted a hundred years. In 1880 a man named T. Ward became interested in trade with Holland. His shipping service survives today as T. Ward & Co. (Goole) Ltd.

One of the most promising of the early services had been Cunliffe, Watson & Company, and although this failed in 1864, from its ashes rose the Goole Steam Shipping Company. At first a private venture, financed by local business men, it was acquired by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company in the early 1900's. The company retained its original name, and in its heyday owned twenty-five steamers operating regular weekly and twice weekly services between Goole and the continent.

These pioneers were followed by many smaller shipping companies with one, two or three ships, mainly founded by local men principally in the coal trade.

Coal had now become the major trade at Goole. Fed by Bartholomew's compartment boat system and by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the original coastwise trade now began to feed markets on the continent and in the Baltic States and Goole's reputation as a coal port was established.

Sailing ships still had an important share of the port's trade and the Goole and Hull Steam Towing Co. Ltd., owning a fleet of steam tugs, was founded to tow these vessels along the Ouse and the Humber. The company also serviced the many keels and barges which traded the natural and artificial waterways of Yorkshire, and operated steam packets which traded to London carrying passengers and cargo.

In 1880, W. H. Bartholomew, in addition to his position with the Aire and Calder Navigation was appointed general manager of the Goole Steam Shipping Company. It is from this date that the rise of the GSS. really commenced.

Under Bartholomew's supervision, Aldam Dock was opened to shipping in 1882 and a second compartment boat hoist was erected in Ouse Dock.

In 1884, the Undertakers of the Aire and Calder Navigation secured powers under the Ouse (Lower) Improvement Act to alter the difficult course of the River Ouse and to construct training walls both to facilitate navigation and to straighten and deepen the navigable channel. A series of navigational lighting aids were erected and under Bartholomew's direction the entire scheme was an undoubted success. A jetty at Blacktoft provided safe mooring for the slower ships on passage to and from Goole. Prior to these developments the maximum size of ship able to visit the port had been restricted to about 500 tons. By the early 1900's colliers of over 2,000 tonnes capacity were regular traders.

Modern cargo liners in Goole's West Dock During the 1880's Railway Dock had also been extended and the 'New Extension Dock', now Stanhope Dock, was opened in 1891.

The period from 1890 to 1914 was one of great prosperity for the port of Goole. Larger ships were using the facilities and both the Aire and Calder Navigation and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway constructed more coaling appliances. The supply of coal must have seemed inexhaustible. In addition sugar, grain, and dyewood or logwood were amongst the traffics handled. The Goole Steam Shipping Company increased its fleet and in 1904 the company was sold to the L. & N. Railway Company. Bartholomew relinquished his managership of Goole Steam Shipping and returned to his parent company, the Aire and Calder Navigation, where he was by now engineer and general manager.

His last important work was the construction of West Dock, Goole's biggest dock, opened in December 1911, for eight years later, after 66 years service, Bartholomew died. He had seen the trade of the port grow to some 3,000,000 tons in 1913, of which nearly 2,775,000 tons was coal. Over 1,500,000 tons of this had been carried and shipped from his unique compartment boats. His memorial today is not in the name of a dock or in some other connection with the port, but in the Bartholomew Hospital, the building of which he largely financed from his personal pocket.

Visitor Comments

Posted by Jeana Pena at 21/02/2008 23:44
Hello: I'm looking for information on the vessell FRISIA, owned by the Goole & Hull Steamship Co. Supposedly my grandfather GISLENSUS VAN EGGHEN, was was the engineer, died when the ship exploded in Gravesend, in or about Sept., 1910. Thank you.

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