Sunday, 27 November 2016

The chicken and the egg

November has in many ways lived unto its reputation as a gloomy month. It has rained; the dykes are full and we have had frosts and fog. But last week we fetched some new chickens from a local farm where 12, 000 birds were offered for re-homing at £1 each.

They are settling in nicely although as yet they have not learned to perch and are a few feathers short. And they are laying well - so much so that I have been able to resume putting surplus eggs out for sale in the front porch.

Below are two pictures I have taken this morning

Which came first?

A bit featherless but happy eating outside

I have now finished my WEA local history classes for this year and we all went for a very pleasant meal after the last one. We may be tutor and students but we are also all good friends.

Now we are looking forward to Christmas events. The first is a concert in Saltmarshe Hall on 9th December. The hall, built in 1825, must have seen many a Christmas concert and party in its time. The hall has been decorated in a traditional style and guests will be able to relax with mulled wine and mince pies while listening to seasonal music.

Tickets are available from 07743448123 or e mail

Simon Hamer, pioneer of Goole

I was recently contacted by an Australian descendant of Simon Hamer who lived in Goole in the early days of the town.
She knew something of her ancestor but was interested in knowing more about his Yorkshire roots. So I  thought I would put together what I  already knew with what more I could find and have been surprised at what I have been able to discover.

 Simon  Hamer, who died aged 69 in 1844 in Goole was one of the men who shaped the town as we now know it.
I am not certain of his origins but he had a brother Thomas. Thomas Hamer appears on the 1851 census at Great Grimsby and is described as the uncle of Ann Maria, Simon's daughter.
Thomas [born in 1773]  says in 1851 he was born at Harfit  in Yorkshire. I cannot find such a place but there is a record of a baptism in 1773 at Harthill near the Chesterfield Canal of a Thomas Amour whose father was called Simon.

I am beginning to think that Thomas and Simon’s father was also called Simon.  There is a record of  a Simon Hamer [quite an unusual name] working on the Cotswold canal  in 1784
There is a lock on the canal called the Griffin Mill Lock which has a wharf above it to unload coal for the mill.   It  was being worked on in 1784 and it is recorded in the records that labourer Simon Hamer received £39 17s 7 ½ d for ‘day work and walling at Mr Griffin’. 
I have also found a tantalising reference in an academic paper to a  ‘Simon Hamer, who absconded from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal owing money but  returned to work on other canals ...’ but as yet have not been able to follow this up. 

The Leeds Liverpool canal was built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
However by 1800 both Thomas and Simon were in Yorkshire. Thomas married Elizabeth Wilkinson of Barmston in 1800. Simon married Dinah Robinson in 1802 at Hutton Buscel near Scarborough.
There had been a lot of drainage work taking place on Barmston Drain and Thomas continued his career in this area in the Holderness and Driffield areas connected with the River Hull.
Simon meanwhile may have been working on the Derwent improvements near Scarborough.

Simon and Dinah had four children. Their son Michael was born in 1803 but not baptised until 1808 at Hutton Buscel. Their son Thomas was baptised at Hackness in 1804 and their daughter Mary Ann in 1806.  Youngest son Simon was born in 1807 but not baptised until 1811. It is Simon jnr who may have eventually settled in Australia. I will write of him in a later post.

Then in 1810 Dinah Hamer aged 27 of Seamer died and was buried at Hutton Buscel  on  June 28th.
Simon remarried, to Margaret Metcalf, early in 1811. Their son,  Metcalf Hamer was baptised at Seamer on the same day as four year old Simon.
Simon and Margaret had a further 10 children although not all survived. Their eldest children were baptised at Seamer - John was the last to be baptised there in 1820.  On the baptism records Simon is shown as a labourer, sometimes at Ayton Forge.

Both Simon and his brother Thomas appear to have been involved not only with drainage and canal projects but also with brickmaking.
In 1819  Thomas Hamer, brick maker of Brompton,  late of Driffield was in a debtor’s prison in  far away Essex while Baines’ trade directory of 1822  shows Simon Hamer  as a brick tile and pot maker in Brompton.  Brompton is near Scarborough.

The Goole connection

In 1821 the contracts were signed for the construction of a new canal from Knottingley to Goole for the Aire and Calder Navigation Company. The main contractor was Mark Faviell who had already built several bridges in North Yorkshire.
His associates were Abraham Pratt who would do the masonry work and Simon Hamer who would be responsible for the earthworks.
Simon and his family moved to the Goole area.

 In 1823 Simon appears in the land tax records for Cowick, occupying a property owned by Widow Fletcher.  He was probably living there as his son Francis who was born - and died - in 1823  was baptised at  nearby Snaith. He is last listed there in 1827 when he presumably moved to the new town of Goole.
In 1826 Whites directory [directories are normally a year behind events] entry for Snaith lists Simon Hamer as contractor and brickmaker.

The new canal was opened in July 1826 and by then 30 houses were built in the new town and 70 were under construction.
Simon was an entrepreneur. In 1827 there is an advertisement for a stagecoach route running from Leeds to Hull. He was one of the proprietors.

Coach route from Leeds to Goole in 1827

Simon was probably a Methodist.  His younger children were baptised in chapel rather than church. He was the first subscriber to Goole's Methodist chapel built in 1829 on North Street, the site of the present chapel. He subscribed the magnificent sum of £50 and also built the chapel.

Goole North Street Methodist chapel

In 1829 Pigot’s trade directory shows him living in  Adam Street next to the Lowther Hotel [then the Banks Arms].

Also in 1829  we find that he was the owner  of a schooner which he named Hamer. The Goole shipping register lists it as being built in Goole in 1826 by George Thwaites who was also the master.

There is evidence that Simon Hamer continued to work with Abraham Pratt.  In 1830 they were joint  contractors for the erection of a bridge over the Trent at Dunham. Tbe bridge was to be of four iron arches, with the abutments.

Then they won a major contract for 18 miles of the Leeds Selby railway which was opened 1834.  Railways were then very new and this was probably their first venture into railway contracting. The contract was worth £83,000.

Next in 1834  they won a contract to build part of The Whitby and Pickering line. The  newspaper report  refers to ‘Hamer and Pratt’, who had just finished work on the Leeds and Selby railway’.

Times were changing and railways were taking over from steam boats. In 1836 the  partnership was dissolved between  Simon Hamer, Abraham Pratt, James Bromley and Robert Pearson. They had been partners in a steam boat called Eclipse, trading between Goole and Hull and two other vessels called Liberal and George the Fourth trading between Goole and Leeds.

Simon’s partner in contracting, Abraham Pratt died in 1838.

I think Simon then spent more time in Goole. There is a suggestion that he built George and Ouse Streets and the Sydney Hotel in the late 1830s and early 1840s. He and his family were living in George Street in 1841.

Simon died in 1844 and was buried at Hook on 22nd March aged 69.  His business was wound up by his wife and daughter.

Few people in Goole today have heard of Simon Hamer. But I hope to spread the word that he was a man who seems to have risen from quite lowly beginnings to become a pioneer canal and rail contractor who also contributed a lot to the early town of Goole.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Howden civic society

In 1979 historian Dr David Neave wrote a book entitled Howden Explored.  In it he wrote about the town as it was with its many Georgian buildings and suggested a town trail. On the back inside cover he suggested that Howden was ready for a civic society and interested people should get in touch. A society was formed and is still flourishing.

A couple of weeks ago they held their annual awards evening and I was touched and honoured to be presented with a silver salver [ I can only keep it for a year!!] and a certificate. I am fascinated by local history even though at university my tutors laughed at my interest and when I was a teacher the subject was only deemed suitable for pupils who did not have the ability to sit exams. But today local history is an accepted and popular topic of study, as is family history and I believe  they complement each other.

Howden has a long  and very interesting history ranging from its connections with the Bishop of Durham to its horse fair and the twentieth century construction of the R100 airship. I have written two books about the town [one with Ken Powls] and have been teaching a local history class for adults for over 30 years. But I have never run out of material and still find new aspects of the town to study and new photos keep appearing.

Here is my certificate

I am proud to join the other names inscribed on the salver of  those people who have worked to promote the town of Howden. It is a lovely place.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

St Michael's church, Eastrington

The village of Eastrington in East Yorkshire was where I was brought up and went to school. My mother's family, the Nurses, have lived there since the seventeenth century.

So I am enjoying teaching in my local history classes about the village. I have written a book about the village history [copies still available via my website or  from Eastrington shop!!] and although I have not lived there for many years I still feel a connection when I visit.

One of the places I  particularly feel connected with is the church. The Nurse family graves, dating back to George Wise Nurse, my four times great grandfather are on the right of the main path leading to the church porch and inside is a plaque to my great grandfather, Robert Thomas Nurse who was churchwarden for many years and his wife Hannah.

Some of the chairs  near the altar were made by my ancestors and given to the church and my mother, Joan Watson often played the organ. I always feel a sense of peace as I sit in a pew and remember when I went to Sunday school or to harvest and carol services as a child.

Eastrington is a fascinating church to decipher architecturally. Parts of the church date back to Norman times and the strange faces looking down into the Portington chapel were once outside when  the chancel was the original Norman chapel.

As a child I was fascinated by the tomb of 'Judge Portington' whose feet rest on a dog which we all stroked. Other notable features are the oak pillars holding up the interior walls, brought from nearby Spalding Moor as newly hewn trees, the Ousethorpe or Athorp chapel and the interesting font cover.

A few days ago I took my new camera into the church and  tried to shoot some video of the interior. I need a lot more practice but I hope that at least you might get some impression of what a lovely old building and place of worship Eastrington church is.


Monday, 19 September 2016

Puffballs, classes and a concert

I suppose the weather today, Monday, is what we might expect for mid September- cool and drizzly. But with temperatures last week up in the early 30s  and high humidity I think everyone forgot that it was autumn.

It was lovely to be outside in the garden and while walking Molly one morning I found a puffball in the grass. We had often seen and eaten them some years ago but had not had any for quite a time. We ate it in slices, fried in butter, for tea. Not everyone around the table was enthusiastic but I am hoping to find another one and try a recipe I found where you fry slices dipped in egg and cheese.

September too sees the beginning of the new term for my WEA local history classes in Howden and Goole. Lovely to meet old friends and get to know new students.

Last week was very busy as we hosted a small concert here. The building which became a temporary concert  hall was built as a barn in the eighteenth century, became the estate joiner's shop in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is now home to the original files of the Goole Times and Howdenshire Gazette. But on Friday before 25 invited guests we were treated to  Songs of Travel by Vaughan Williams and An die Ferne Geliebte by Beethoven sung by professional tenor Steven Goulden as well as bee related poems and piano solos. Everyone enjoyed it and we hope to do more concerts here.

But back to history now - I am teaching about Eastrington and Snaith so need to do some research.

Eastrington village green

Monday, 5 September 2016

Sunflowers, family history and Rufus Sewell

Although the weather is pleasantly warm it still feels autumnal. Our apple trees have varied as to how much fruit has set. The Bramley, Russet and James Grieve are looking good but the Cox and Lord Lambourne are not as good. I think some of the trees around them need cutting back.

Which brings me to our tree expert. He is returning in a few days to cut down some ash saplings which are mis-shapen and also to remove a dead branch from the oak tree. This we hope will open up the canopy a bit and will provide a new home for our bees. They are away at the moment enjoying the balsam crop but will be returning soon.

One of our successes this year has been our sunflowers. Grown to provide  food for the bees they have reached great heights.

Above, with Molly for scale is one of our groups of sunflowers.

This is a close up of one of the flowers above, showing that bees [not ours this time] like  it

I have been looking at a varied range of topics historically. One query which I answered may be of interest to others researching their ancestors in the 1841 census. The query was about someone who was a sailor who lived at Stone Bridge in Snaith. What did it look like? A quick search of the census showed that the sailor was living on the dock side in Goole - part of the  vast parish of Snaith.

Another query was about the family of a William Whitaker who seems to have had Eastrington, Yokefleet and Whitgift connections. Although not yet fully sorted out this family should not be too difficult to untangle as  William's father was called Watson Whitaker and this unusual Christian name, originating apparently in Whitgift carries through succeeding generations.

 I have also been looking at a little of my own Nurse family history. Nurse is quite an unusual surname in this area and I have often been asked if our Eastrington Nurses were connected to those locally at Rawcliffe Bridge. And the answer is yes - Henry Nurse, the ancestor of the West Riding branch, was born at Eastrington in 1857 and was the brother of my great grandfather Robert Thomas Nurse. My  gt grandfather never left the village but Henry had lived in Hull and Ulverston before settling in  Rawcliffe Bridge, probably working in the paper mill there.

And finally did you know that Rufus Sewell, presently starring in Victoria as Lord Melbourne is a direct descendant of George Sewell of Beverley who was transported to Australia in 1813 after taking part with the step children of local criminal Snowden Dunhill of Spaldington in a robbery at Booth near Howden?

Friday, 19 August 2016

Local history exhibition

I am writing this sitting in the Junction at Goole. Our exhibition is now drawing to a close and after talking to visitors every day for a fortnight we are dismantling it tomorrow,  Saturday. We must have had hundreds of people who have come to look not only at old pictures of hospitals which was our theme this year but at wartime memorabilia and old pictures of Goole, Howden and the surrounding area.

Pippa Stainton has her beautifully restored pictures framed on the walls and is pleased to have sold several. Gilbert Tawn and I have been kept busy printing out copies of the photos on the display boards - many to people who recognise their younger selves at school, at Hook Gala or as trainee nurses for example.

I have been surprised at how far afield our visitors have come from - the Midlands, the North and London as well as from Goole of course, Howden, Barmby, Thorne, South Cave and many other local villages.

We have helped with family history, military records and found pictures of obscure parts of Goole. In all it has been a very rewarding couple of weeks - but I cannot deny I shall be pleased to spend a bit more time walking Molly and tidying up the garden next week.

This view of Goole railway bridge in winter has been popular

This view of Goole market place in the snow has also been very popular and we have sold several prints of it.
Get in touch if you would like a print of either picture!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Goole local history exhibition and bee news

Here we are at the end of July and over half the year has gone. We have picked our rasps and blackcurrants and the next fruit will be apples. Although the figs may ripen if we have a sunny August and our tomatoes are cropping well.

Some of the bees are soon moving to their second home where they have access to the Himalayan Balsam [ aka Impatiens glandulifera or Policeman's helmet] flowers on the banks of the Ouse. Bees love gathering nectar from the flowers and as the plant flowers on until the first frosts it is  also loved by beekeepers.

We are particularly keen to give our bees access to it as we have split our colonies and now have four hives of bees which need to build up their numbers before winter. Over the last few weeks we have been selling some of our set honey by putting it out on a table in the front porch. It seems popular and is good for anyone local with allergies as local honey can help them build up an immunity apparently.

I have been buying a few postcards recently - mostly of local places such as Airmyn, East Cowick and Bubwith but one I could not resist was of a hamlet called Brigham not far from Driffield. My father's family are from the area and it is a lovely picture of the canal with a little bridge over it.

Nest week I hope to see some of you who read my blog. Our annual local history exhibition will be at Junction in Goole from next Tuesday 9th August. There will be displays of old pictures connected with local hospitals, framed local prints which have been restored and coloured for sale and material connected to the Somme and the First World War.

We are there for almost two weeks so come and have a look and say hello.

One of our bees visiting a perpetual sweet pea flower in the garden

Checking the bees, with smoker at the ready

Rawcliffe Hall,  once home of the Creyke family and later a hospital  was demolished in 1994

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Robert Wright of Goole and Boston Massachusetts

I was contacted this week by an American lady whose ancestors had left Goole to make a new life in USA in the 1850s.

George Wright was a river pilot, originally from Selby but working in Goole from the 1830s. He and his wife Martha, nee Shipstone had a large family who as young adults in the 1850s  left Goole to  make new lives in Boston Massachusetts. Finally George and Martha themselves went to join them.
The first of the family to emigrate  was William "Edwin" Wright [born 1825] who along with his wife, Maria, and son, George William, arrived in Boston on the Rio Grande in April 1851.

Later the same year Edwin's brothers George [b 1823] and Henry [b 1829] with their families joined them. They left from Liverpool and arrived in Boston in October 1851 travelling aboard the ship Old England.

Two years later sister Martha Ann  and brother Samuel  and Samuel's wife Frances arrived in Boston aboard the Levi Woodbury in September 1853.

Finally the parents, George and Martha and their two youngest children, Robert and Rosanna arrived in Boston on  9th September 1854 aboard the  Guiding Star.

George snr died of a stroke in 1860 and Martha died in 1879.

However sons Robert and Samuel returned to England. Samuel and Frances lived in Leeds while Robert came back to Goole. There in 1863 he married Mary Jane Brown - although he had not been back for long as in the Goole and Marshland Gazette announcement he was described as being of Boston Massachusetts.

By 1871 Robert and Mary were living with a young family in Aire Street and Robert was dealing in china. They were still there in 1881 and 1891  but by now Robert was dealing in shoes.Robert died in October 1899.  His obituary refers to his part in the American Civil War.

'The death took place on  Sunday of one of the eldest inhabitants of Goole,  Mr Robert Wright, Asbury House. Mr Wright, who had occupied a premier position in public Iife, was 65 years of age, but during tho last few years had suffered from illnesses, which caused him to give up many of his public positions. For six years he  was vice chairman of the School Board, and also chairman. The deceased resided for some time in Boston US.A. and was among those who responded to Abraham Lincoln's famous call for 300.000 volunteers st the time of the American Civil War.  He leaves a widow and six children'. 

By 1901 Mary was still running the business  and by 1911 the family were living at number 159, Boothferry Road, which was then called Asbury House, not far from Goole's new secondary school. Members of the family continued to live there for several years. The family gravestone is in Goole cemetery.

It is an interesting story. Why did the family feel the need to emigrate? Did they keep in touch?

And it is a lesson not to rely on censuses as they simply showed Robert as being born and dying in Goole. Nothing about his sojourn in USA and his involvement in the Civil War there.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Howden show

I am writing this morning in the hope that later today the weather may improve from an annoying drizzle to bright sunshine so that I can cut the grass. That's what the weather man said - but he is not always right!

On Sunday we went to Howden show. I must admit I remember when the show was held on a Saturday in early August and ended with fireworks spelling out the motto 'Success to Howden show', after cycle races held in the gloaming. The commentator used a match to help him see the programme and the cyclists were invisible on the far side of the ring.

But Sunday's event was just as enjoyable, held in The Ashes on a fine day and with lots of people visiting and participating. Below was the scene in the 'community tent' where several  local groups were invited to entertain the show crowds.

Local professional musicians Steven Goulden and Amy Butler aka The Saltmarshe Duo [] in action. Looking on is Howden poet and performer Mike Smith who organised the community tent events.

I have recently too been to an interesting talk given by local historian Gilbert Tawn to the Marshland Local History group. He spoke about the history of the Empson family who lived in Goole Hall. Ousefleet Hall and Yokefleet Hall. They are a complicated family to untangle as on at least two occasions the male line died out and descendants of the female line changed their names in order to inherit.

One of the highlights of the evening was when the large audience was invited to join in with a song written for a First World War Land Girls party in Ousefleet Hall.  The house was used to billet girls who worked harvesting flax and potatoes and the words reflected this. As Gilbert said it must have been over 100 years since the song was last sung.

The impressive Ousefleet Hall built in late Victorian times and demolished possibly in the 1950s.

My raised bed is doing well and we are eating new potatoes and curly kale - although next year I  will maybe devote another bed just to potatoes as the straggly tops have fallen onto some of the other crops. The bees too are doing well - but we have given them some extra food as the weather has not been very good for them and now the rape has finished they have less to feed on.

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