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A port is born

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

Guide front cover The Port of Goole has its origins in the 17th Century - although it would have been difficult to find anyone then who would have predicted its development. Indeed it would have been difficult to find anyone who had even heard of Goole.

The story of the port starts in effect in 1698 when a body of men from Leeds and Wakefield were authorised by an act of Parliament to make navigable the rivers Aire and Calder in the County of York. This group styled itself 'The Undertakers of the Aire and Calder Navigation'.

In the same century a Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden, was commissioned by the King to drain the area of Hatfield Chase a few miles west of Goole. His efforts were not entirely successful and to rectify matters he was compelled to make a cut to the Yorkshire Ouse, to form what is known as the Dutch River.

The development of the two Yorkshire rivers progressed steadily and in 1774 the Undertakers were granted further powers to link the River Aire to the River Ouse at Selby by a canal. Forty years later merchants were complaining that the Selby canal was inadequate and that an outlet nearer the sea was necessary from where bigger ships could trade.

The pressure mounted and in 1820 the Undertakers obtained powers to construct another canal from Knottingley to Goole, together with docks to accommodate ships.

At that time Goole consisted of only a few scattered dwellings and was virtually virgin land, but the project proceeded steadily and on the 20th July, 1826 the port of Goole was officially opened. The docks consisted of Ship Dock, Barge Dock and a harbour with two locks - Ship Lock and Barge Lock - giving access to the River Ouse.

The buildings on the dock estate included a large multi-storied warehouse with a covered water inlet where canal craft could load or discharge under cover, and a multi-storied warehouse of 'special security' which became known as Bond Warehouse.

The early trade of the port was principally estuarial with a little coastwise traffic and it was quickly realised that foreign trade was both desirable and inevitable.

On the 6th April, 1828 with the support of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Customs, the brig 'Stapler' cleared for Hamburg. A few weeks later Goole was appointed a port in the United Kingdom and by August the warehouse of 'special security' was approved as a bonded warehouse.

The port prospered steadily if slowly. It was important for the Undertakers that it should generate traffic for the canal which was their main business and for which they received payment of canal tolls. This was not too difficult as the canal was at first virtually the only means of transport for both goods and people.

In 1838 the first extensions to the port, Ouse Dock and Ouse lock, were opened. The lock was 58 feet wide - this width, unusual for its day - being especially to accommodate paddle steamers. The lock was later lengthened to its present day length, and No. 1 dry dock was constructed at the north east of Ouse Dock.

Trade had been won from Selby and Thorne and the Undertakers of the Aire and Calder Navigation had provided a paddle driven tug, the 'Britannia', to tow sailing ships between Goole and the Humber Estuary and vice versa. These ships consisted principally of brigs, schooner and sloops, Humber keels and those curious Yorkshire vessels, the Billy-boys.

Many of the estuarial craft unshipped their masts and sails at Goole and proceeded horse-drawn up the canal, often through to Leeds, there to exchange cargoes and return to Goole to refit for their voyage.

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