Saturday 16 December 2023

An eye witness account of the launch of the R100

 Ninety four years ago today on a still winter's day, like today,  the airship R100 was launched from Howden. Strictly speaking it was North Howden where it had been built in a giant hangar. 

Ernest Butler was then a young reporter on the Goole Times and seventy years later years later he wrote this account of that morning.

I was only a trainee reporter, with little more than a year’s experience in journalism, when I was present at the launch of the R100 airship from North Howden.

From Goole I travelled in the Goole Times van - there were no company cars in those days - with the van driven by one Charlie Ayre, and with the then chief reporter, Stuart Gunnill, squeezed in with me to oversee what I did and wrote.

I remember we - the Press, and there seemed to be hundreds of reporters and photographers swarming around - had to present ourselves at some ungodly hour in the pitch darkness of a December morning, and I remember, after we had crossed over Boothferry Bridge - that itself was a novelty because the bridge itself had been opened only a few months    earlier in 1929 - that the roads leading to Spaldington were literally alive with people -   people walking, people running, people on bicycles, people on motorcycles, people in cars. Cars in those days were few and far between but on that December morning in 1929 it seemed that every car in the country was heading for the airfield. I remember seeing people camped out on the grass verges and even dancing to the music of portable gramophones. I think we had to be in the cordoned off press enclosure outside the hangar by 6.30 am. It wasn’t cold, I remember, just dark and a little eerie.

And then, eventually, the huge hangar doors were slowly opened, the sky began to lighten with the approach of dawn and slowly, just before 8.00, out of the hangar the great airship slowly emerged, hauled by seemingly hundreds of pygmies beneath her, each of them holding her steady by ropes. They were soldiers and they marched steadily in step out of the hangar and onto the airfield with the great mass of the R100 a few feet above them. It was, to me, and I think to everybody who saw it, an awesome sight. In fact I remember being rather frightened to watch this huge gleaming monster passing slowly and silently a few yards above where I was standing, with lights shining from the gondolas beneath the mass of her body. And then I remember faintly hearing a word of command, the soldiers released their hold on the ropes, the airship rose slowly up, the propellers began to revolve and hundreds of gallons of water ballast were released, soaking the soldiers underneath. The R100 rose higher and higher, turned slowly to dip seemingly in farewell salute over Howden, and in a few more moments she was lost to view.

70 years on, and it is still - almost all of it - a vivid memory. The launch of the R100 was my first real story; and when I turned in my copy, the great god Gunnill (and to me he was a god in those days) read it through, made some corrections, grunted ‘Good. Now go home and get some sleep.’ So I did. And the following Friday, when I presented my weekly expenses claim form to the cashier for payment, there was the item ‘Breakfast - 1s 6d’. Gunnill had told me to enter it - in those days we received 2s 6d for lunch expenses, and 1s 6d for tea or supper. So 1s 6d for breakfast was fair enough, even though I didn’t have any breakfast. Gunnill thought I deserved it, for I’d been on Goole Times duty from 4.30am to 9am out in God’s cold air, and then from 9am to 11am writing the story.

Many local people worked on the airship and were out of work after it departed for Cardington. It could not return to Howden as there was no mast there for it. And despite a successful flight to Canada it was dismantled after the crash of the government built R101. Much has been written about the R100 since that day and of course anyone interested in its story can walk the airship trail in Howden, enabling the visitor to realise exactly how vast it was.

R100 at Howden having been walked out of its hangar. There was a

 9 foot clearance on each side and 5 feet on top.  It came out stern first

 R100 in flight. If you look carefully you can see how small the figures are on the ground.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Smith family of Goole Grange

It is the second of December and it has snowed and is now foggy!! Not sure whether we are heading for a white Christmas. But I shall go outside when I have written this and gather some sticks to light the woodburner. It is cheaper than burning the oil.

The last fortnight has been busy. A week ago I went to an event in Howden Minster which  celebrated in words and music the 650th anniversary of the Anglo Portuguese alliance. Pianists Amy Butler and Graziana Presicce played a specially commissioned piece; David Blackmore appeared in military costume  and told us about the Portuguese role in the Napoleonic war and tenor Steven Goulden sang some evocative the songs of the period. We ate delicious Portuguese inspired canapes and a good time was had by a capacity audience. 

 I also recently took a visitor from New York around the local area so that she could see where her ancestors lived before they emigrated to Canada in 1829. The Bishop family had lived in Laxton  since at least 1675 but remained well below the radar as far as family history went. This is true for so many families - they were hard-working farm labourers, committed no crimes, owned no property and when they were buried could not afford gravestones.

I had spent a lot of time researching them for my visitor and could only take her to the churches where the Bishops had married - ie Howden and Eastrington,  to Balkholme where they had lived prior to emigrating and to Laxton churchyard where most were buried. She spent the night at Saltmarshe Hall - which was strangely appropriate given that her ancestors probably worked for the Saltmarshe family whose home it was before it was recently made into a wedding venue and hotel.

.I am writing here however about a Goole family that I have known about for a long time and who played a large part in the history of the town in the nineteenth century.

William Smith of Turnham Hall [near Hemingbrough] married Ann Clark of Woodhall in 1790 and they had at least two sons. Samuel was born in 1791 at Turnham and their son William was born in 1800 at Airmyn.

But at that time Airmyn included a much wider area than today, in particular the farms known as New Potter Grange and Goole Grange.

Samuel married Betsy Chantry at Snaith in 1811- both were then minors. They eventually had eight children, one of whom,  Sarah, married Joseph Spilman, a young miller. They lived at the Goole mill, the tower of which is preserved in Morrisons' supermarket.

William married Betsy's sister Harriet in 1823. They too had eight children and confusingly some of these cousins had the same names!

So in 1860s for example there were two George Smiths in the news. One, the son of Samuel and Betsy of Goole Grange was charged with murdering his servant but was found not guilty. He was subsequently charged with breach of promise a few months later after promising to marry his housekeeper.

His cousin George was a witness in the case and was then running the mill as Joseph Spilman had died.

William Smith, son of William and Harriet was born at Potter Grange in 1825. He farmed for a time at Goole Grange, part of the Airmyn estate but is believed to have been the builder of New Potter Grange in 1881. He was living there in 1891 and died there in 1904. His son, another William, was born in 1861 and played a large part in the life of Goole. He took on the Goole Grange farm after his father.

 Goole Grange from the 1919 sale catalogue

He bought the farm in 1919 when the Airmyn estate was sold but retired and passed it to his son Leslie. He built himself a new house - Vernon House nearby. Another branch of the family was at New Potter Grange. Goole Grange was eventually sold to the Jacklin family.

His funeral took place in Old Goole and these are extracts from the The Goole Times report. 

The funeral of the late Mr. William Smith, J.P., chairman of the Goole Board of Guardians, and one of the town’s foremost public men, was the occasion of a wonderfully spontaneous tribute on Saturday afternoon, great numbers attending a service held in the Wesley Chapel, Old Goole, with which the deceased gentlemen had been associated since boyhood, and also at the interment which took place in the Armyn churchyard, which is the resting-place of the forebears of the present family…

Old Goole, indeed, was in mourning and blinds were drawn all along the route of the cortege. Four ministers took part in the obsequies, the Rev. D. Williams, of Worksop, a relative of the deceased, the Rev. W. H. Lowther, superintendent Wesleyan minister at Goole, the Rev. Bramwell Evens, a former minister at Goole and personal friend of the deceased, and the Rev. G. A. East, a second minister in the Goole Circuit. 

The accommodation of the little Wesley chapel was taxed to the utmost. Every available seat was occupied and many public mourners stood throughout the service, which was of particularly impressive nature…  

The psalm “The Lord is our refuge” was read by the Rev. D. Williams, and a further scriptural passage from the burial service by Rev. G. A. East. Three hymns were sung, Whittier’s beautiful “Who Fathoms the External Thought,” “Immortal Love for Ever Full,” and “Peace Perfect Peace,” and as the plain oak coffin, covered with floral tributes, was borne from the church, the organist, Mrs. Wilson, played the Mendelssohn’s “O rest in the Lord

The Rev. W. H. Lowther,  said everybody esteemed and respected Mr. William Smith, and those who knew his public work admired his gracious influences. His passing had left a gap which they could not fill. In all his public offices, as magistrate, as chairman of the Goole Board of Guardians and in other capacities, Mr. Smith showed ability of a high order. One of his greatest thoughts was to perform the best possible service he could on behalf of his fellow men. His devotion to the church he loved was beyond praise. He gave generously at all times, but more than that he worked and prayed. Everything he did was done in the most beautiful manner, graciously and unobtrusively, self-effacing.

The Rev. Bramwell Evens said he would speak of the late gentleman as a personal friend of fifteen years standing. Mr. Lowther had said that Mr. Smith was a Christian gentleman but he would be content with stating simply that he was a gentleman, for no man could be a gentleman who was not a Christian. He had never heard of Mr. Smith speak ill of a single soul and if he heard people speaking ill of others he would decline to listen to them. His motives were of the highest. 

Old Goole Coop and Wesleyan chapel


As a note Rev Bramwell Evens  later became well-known as a BBC radio broadcaster as Romany. His series was called Out with Romany and he always mentioned his dog Raq, a Cocker Spaniel. His mother was a Romany and his father a member of the Salvation Army.

Additional information

Since sharing this blog onto the Goole facebook page I have a bit more information to add. Someone commented on the name of Vernon House and as I am in touch with Sue, a descendant of William Smith, I asked her if she knew why it was so named.

William Smith's wife Emily Florence Hart [known as Flossie!] was born and brought up at Vernon House in Newland near Hull.

William Smith

Sunday 5 November 2023

Banking in Howden

Recently on facebook there was a discussion about the banking history of Howden. Some years ago I wrote an article about the banks which was published in the sadly missed publication Howdenshire Living. Rather than put a long post on facebook I am reproducing the article, with a few amendments, here.

Early history

Until the eighteenth century most people in England transacted all their business using coins and did not trust bank notes. In fact, until the 1750s there were only five private banks outside London. However, Howden had its own private bank by 1792 - the only others then in East Yorkshire were in Beverley and Hull, which shows how prosperous and important the town was at the time. 

The Howden bank was originally run by John Barker, father and son. Both died in the early 1800s and soon afterwards Thomas Coates came to Howden from York to run the bank. Thomas lived at the bank office on Highbridge; this original office is now a pet shop and stands next door to the more recent bank premises.

Thomas Coates went into partnership with John Scholfield (a  junior member of the Scholfield family of Sandhall), Barnard Clarkson snr of Holme on Spalding Moor, his son (Barnard jnr) and John Clough of Selby. The partnership also ran a bank in Selby.

But in January 1822 for reasons unknown Thomas Coates ceased to be a partner and in May that year it was reported that sadly 'Mr. Coates, lately of the Howden Bank, cut his throat in a dreadful  manner and that he survived only a few minutes'. The running of the Howden bank then passed into the hands of John Clough's son Thomas.

Barnard Clarkson snr died in 1826 but his son and grandson continued their involvement in the two banks. The Clarkson story featured in the Howden Town play Reap the Whirlwind when Barnard jnr was the nemesis of local rogue Snowden Dunhill. 

Collapse of the Howden bank

But in the 1830s disaster struck. Barnard jnr overstretched himself by buying the Kirkham Abbey estate. His son, who was responsible for the running of the Selby bank, died suddenly of a fever at the same time. In 1831 both the Howden and Selby banks crashed and John Scholfield, John Clough and Barnard Clarkson were declared literally bankrupt. This was disastrous for the many local farmers and tradespeople who had money in the Howden bank. They lost everything.

The Howden bank was immediately taken over by the York City and County bank who bought the existing bank premises. Thomas Clough was appointed manager, suggesting that he was not held responsible for the bank's problems.

A Howden bank note

And what of Barnard Clarkson? Two of his sons had already emigrated with a Methodist group of settlers to Swan River near Perth in Australia. After the collapse of the family's fortunes Barnard's wife Elizabeth died in 1832. Her epitaph at Chapel Haddlesey reads: ‘Thro the vicissitudes of fortune, Her faith faltered not’. After her death Barnard joined the rest of his family in Australia, where he died destitute in 1836.

Meanwhile, back in Howden Thomas Clough continued to run the bank. Next door, in the premises which later became the bank, lived a family called Wetherell.

The Wetherell family

James Wetherell and his brother John were at various times woollen drapers, chicory growers, millers and tanners. In the 1830s they built, in partnership with their neighbour Thomas Clough, a new tanyard in Howden near Mill Yard. Tanning was a large industry in the town with over 40 men employed as tanners, curriers and shoemakers. 

John and James married sisters Jane and Ann Wikeley, whose father Thomas was a surgeon and apothecary in Howden. The family were well connected - another sister was the wife of Thomas Guy, vicar of Howden. But life in Victorian days could be like snakes and ladders and the Wetherells were about to go down the snake. Thomas Clough withdrew from the tannery business and in mid December 1851 the Wetherell brothers had to call in the administrators. They must have had a miserable Christmas.

Within the month the contents of the Wetherells' house, where both families lived, was for sale. It was described as having two drawing rooms, two sitting rooms, ten lodging rooms, a hall and two kitchens. The furniture was opulent and included 'a Finger Organ', 'a Piano-forte', '400 Vols of Books' and a 'Four-Wheel Carriage and Harness'. James and John, then in their 50s, left Howden for Australia to try to recoup their fortunes. James died in 1852 at Bendigo, a gold rush town, and John died in 1854 in Melbourne.

The Wetherells were an interesting family. James' eldest son, also James, was a merchant in Brazil. He was acting as British vice consul at Paraiba in 1858 when he died in a fall. When his possessions were returned to his family it was found they included notes he had made about the natural history and people of Brazil. They were published posthumously as Stray Thoughts from Bahia and the book now is popular with those studying the history of Brazil.

New premises

Back in Market Place the York City and County bank moved their premises - and the Clough family their home - to the now empty building next door. This remained as a bank until HSBC closed their Howden branch in 2016. Thomas Clough died in 1871, having played a full part in the life of the town: in particular, it was largely due to his work that Howden vicarage was built. 

The new bank manager was Edwin Storry. He also took an active part in local life and, amongst other roles, was a prominent member of the East Yorkshire Volunteers, rising to command the Second Battalion in 1891. His military service is commemorated by a brass plaque on the wall of the Minster.

Banking in Howden seems to have been something of a family business as Edwin Storry was succeeded as manager of the bank by Charles Wilkinson, whose wife Agnes was the granddaughter of previous manager Thomas Clough. It was while Mr Wilkinson was manager that the whole bank building was remodelled in 1902 and the frontage that is there now was installed.

An early view showing what was HSBC bank building before new frontage

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Cat Babbleton and concerts

Here we are in mid October and as yet we have not had to put the heating on - it cannot last but while it does it certainly saves on oil! I have been cutting back my herb bushes this morning and  later while walking Molly could not resist picking up a few conkers. But it's many years since I have threaded one onto a bootlace!

Last week was busy. I attended a concert in Doncaster on the Wednesday and had a few minutes spare to explore the new archives building on Chequer Road. I had not made an appointment but the staff were very friendly and let me have a look round and explore the research room - I was the only visitor!!. I shall return.

And on Saturday I attended a lovely afternoon concert in Howden Minster. The Roscoe Piano Trio played to a packed audience of over 250, many of whom had not visited Howden before. The concert was organised by Howdenshire Music - - whose aim  is to bring free high quality classical music to as wide an audience as possible.

I am particularly looking forward to an event they are organising in November with a specially commissioned piano piece celebrating 650 years of the Anglo Portuguese Alliance. There will be Portuguese themed drinks, Napoleonic war songs and a talk by a historian delivered in costume. I am reading up on my history!

My historical researches too have been wide ranging. A friend bought me a collection of postcards at a fair which were local to Saltmarshe and Laxton. Perhaps the most interesting one was of a bridge  near Yokefleet called Cat Babbleton. I know where it is - many years ago local farmer and enthusiastic historian Joe Martinson came to one of my classes and talked about it but I was surprised to see it as a postcard. It is not the only place with that odd name - others too seem to have an association with drains or water courses.

 A coloured version of the black and white postcard.

I am also busy researching a family from Laxton who emigrated to the Montreal area around 1829. Robert Bishop and his family left for a new life in Canada as did so many others around this time. My own family, the Nurses of Eastrington settled around Port Hope and I have found at least one other family, the Warners, who had Laxton and Blacktoft connections and who emigrated to the area around the same time. It was a hard time then for agricultural workers and a new life with the possibility of your own piece of land to farm was very attractive.

I have some details of emigrant families on my website.

Last month I gave a talk to Howden civic society about the pubs of Howden. I run a small  history group in the Scholfield village hall in Skelton. I was asked if I would give the talk to them too and  so on Monday 16th October at 1.30pm I shall show it again. It is open to anyone but at a cost of £5 pp to cover hall hire etc. If you are interested let me know on

 The white track to the bridge is on the very bottom of this picture of Yokefleet.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Wallingfen and its witches

 This weekend, 16th and 17th September, Howden civic society is having an exhibition in Gilberdyke Memorial Hall as part of the annual heritage open day events.  It will be open from 10am to 4pm both Saturday and Sunday. Whilst concentrating on Howden there will be material too about the area around Gilberdyke including  Eastrington. There will also be information about the large commons of Wallingfen and Bishopsoil which existed before enclosure. 

Some years ago I wrote this article for a local magazine and thought it might be appropriate to reproduce it here.

As a child I was fascinated to hear tales of how my mother’s family from Eastrington were said to be distant relatives of Rebecca Nurse, one of the Salem witches. The jury is out on that.

But I thought I would write about Wallingfen, a 5,000 acre area of marshland which once lay between Gilberdyke and North Cave. And its witches.

The marsh was ancient common land and forty-eight settlements which lay around its fringes had the right to graze their animals, dig turf, gather firewood and fish on Wallingfen.

Representatives of the communities met regularly and held a court to listen to any complaints and make rules about how the Commoners had to behave. Commoners were forbidden to grave (dig) turf from the cart gaits (tracks) or dam any of the drains ‘with an intent to gett fish’. And obviously stray dogs were a problem even in 1636 when it was ruled that ‘ye sheppards that keep sheep on Wallingfen shall keep their doggs on a string att their belts and not suffer them to go loose but to take a sheep’.

Court records of the forty-eight – or eight and forty, as it was then written – date back to the thirteenth century and the area where they met, between Gilberdyke and Newport, is still today known as Eight and Forty.

Exactly where these meetings took place is not clear. In 1584 ‘ye court of ye forty-eight’ met at Scalby chapel. But Mr Jack Holmes, who had a butcher’s shop just west of Newport church, always maintained that the meeting house stood behind his premises but that he demolished it to make way for his slaughterhouse.


In 1772 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the construction of the Market Weighton canal, which would act as a drain for the fen, and in 1777 Wallingfen Common itself was enclosed. The 5,000 acres were divided up and allotted to the various parishes in place of the common rights which they had lost. New straight roads were laid out and each allotment became part of the parish to which it was given – so today we still have places such as Skelton and Saltmarshe Granges detached from their villages.


A folk story has grown up around the area, although how ancient it is you may judge for yourselves.


There were, it is said, forty-eight witches, led by Margaret Weedon and Mary Hooden, who met every year and sat around a fire on the fen. Here they drank and sang their song, which went as follows:


We’re eight and forty jolly girls tho’ witches we may be;

We live upon the best of food and, like the air, we’re free.

A moorhen, coot or leveret, a duck or good fat hen

Each day we’re almost sure to get around old Wallingfen.

From Blacktoft, Eastrington or Holme we get a daily dish;

Old Foonah’s waters will provide us with the best of fish;

And Hotham Carrs we often comb and take the best of game.

None live more happy than we who bear the witches’ name;

Then fill your glasses everyone and drink ’til all is done;

Here’s whisky hot from Saltmarshe Hall; good ale from Howden town

Long may we eight and forty live, long live old Wallingfen

And may she never fail to breed fine women and bold men.


One evening Margaret Weedon stood up after the song had been sung and said to her fellow witches that they should drink well that night as it was the last time they would meet. She declared that she could see into the future when ‘years after we are gone this will not be a meeting place for such as us, but near this very place will rise a building where people will meet for worship just as they do now at Howden’.


The witches took her message to heart and the drinking and dancing continued until, the story continues:


And the man in the moon looked down on the place

And could scarcely believe his eyes

But quietly pulled a cloud over his face

As he nearly fell out of the skies

For there down below him, oh, what had he seen to give him such great surprise?

The forty eight witches all stripped to the skin

Dancing round before Satan’s old eyes.


The two witch leaders were secretly jealous of each other and each had provided half the drink for the evening’s merriment: Margaret the whisky and Mary the ale. Each witch had poisoned the drinks of the others but had carefully drunk only their own personal supplies. However, their caution flew out of the window as they drank and eventually they too lay poisoned around the fire.


Next morning a wanted man, hiding from the authorities, came upon the forty-eight naked corpses and was so horrified he immediately gave himself up.


And so the Eight and Forty witches were no more and of course the prophecy came true in the shape of the building of Newport church.


Make up your own minds about the witches – but after telling this story, I was once asked whether I could pinpoint exactly where the above event took place so that a local coven could meet there. I was even invited to go along – but politely declined!

nb the poem was actually written by a former stationmaster George Grayson of Newport who had a great interest in local history. Were there any witches? Maybe!!

Below are two pictures of the area. 

The Eight and Forty house was sketched in 1892. You can see that the bottom part was stone and may have been Scalby chapel

The second picture  shows where it stood.  Jack Holmes' butcher's shop was the first building of the block beyond the white building, behind a telegraph pole.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Autumn term

 The new term has begun and the weather is beautiful.  I belong to - and teach-  a history group in Skelton village hall. We met yesterday for the first time since April and talked about the early days of Goole, right back to the staithe at Morham which was in medieval times  on the Ouse at the end of Murham lane, now North Street. But it seemed a shame to pull down the blinds when the sun was shining so brightly outside. The group welcomes new members. Just contact me on for more information.

I am keeping my hand in with family history research. A lady has lost her ancestor, William Anson/ Hanson who says he was born at Howden in 1832/33. But he does not turn up until his marriage in Hull in 1857 in a Primitive Methodist chapel. He was a ship's engineer. There is another William Anson with similar dates in Hull at the same time working a similar job but he was definitely baptised at Brantingham. Both men give Joseph as their father. Are they the same man or were there two of them? I wonder what they would all think if they knew how much we hang on now to what they put on censuses and marriage records!

In more domestic news we are eating apple pies and crumbles and just finishing off a good crop of tomatoes in the greenhouse. A success too this year were some cucumbers which looked like lemon apples - I am going to try and save some seed from them.  The grass is still growing and I am very pleased that where the garden was dug up to have drainage work done only a few weeks ago it is now not really possible to see where the trenches were- nature soon  restores itself.

Tomorrow evening I am talking to the Howden Civic Society about the old pubs of Howden. I am hoping to rekindle some memories from the older members of the audience!!

Here's a picture to begin. But I don't know all the names and am not certain of the location. Any help?

Saturday 19 August 2023

Goole history exhibition

 It's been a busy week but very enjoyable. On Tuesday the members and friends  of the local history groups I attend in Goole and Howden concluded our summer visits by coming to Saltmarshe where we have a small museum.  It is in an eighteenth century cottage and we have filled it with all sorts of artefacts ranging from a boot worn by a horse which pulled the lawn mower at Sandhall, my grandfather's adze which he used as a wheelwright at Eastrington and a range of tinplate toys and a wind up gramophone.

We enjoyed tea, scones, jam and cream and also catching up with friends on what was a lovely sunny day.

The following day I met an Australian visitor and his daughter who had come to Yorkshire to look at where their ancestors lived. It is an interesting story about a young man called Robert Donkin, born in 1867 at North Cave to parents William Donkin and Esther Howarth who had married in 1864. 

When he was around 18 Robert emigrated to Australia and took his mother's  maiden surname of Howarth. His descendant had employed an Australian family history researcher to trace his ancestor. Although Robert had never used the surname Donkin he had always said he was born in North Cave in Yorkshire. And armed with that - and eventually DNA  - Robert Donkin and Robert Howarth were proved to be the same person. Why he changed his name may never be known.

My visitors met me in Howden and we enjoyed chatting about what they thought of Yorkshire and its people. They liked us!!

The following day I went to a lovely concert in the Minster organised by Howdenshire Music.

The church was full and the young performers very engaging. All concerts are free and draw in large audiences who are always impressed by our town.

And now I am preparing for our Goole Local History group's exhibition in Junction, beginning on Tuesday 22nd August. There will be old photos,  family research help and information about the First World War and waterways heritage. Our theme this year is railways and ships. 

So above is a picture of West Dock - and the water towers- while below from 1967 is a picture of the last steam loco to leave Goole shed.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Whitgift church - and street names

 I began my post last month with a comment about welcome rain. Well,  now I think it has gone too far the other way. My friend has her birthday on July 15th, St Swithin's day and it seems to have rained ever since. The garden is now sodden and it is difficult to find a space between showers to pick soft fruit.

I am looking forward to Tuesday when the local history groups I attend are visiting Whitgift church. Quite a few years ago I wrote an article about the history of the church and have been re-reading it in preparation for talking about it. It is a lovely church  next to the river and also next to where the Whitgift ferry  crossed from  near Metham on 'my' side of the river. This was a major crossing point from north to south, used by Charles 1 on his way from Hull and on several occasions by John Wesley.

The church itself was apparently re built on 1304 after being destroyed in a dispute over tithes.

 In 1247, the new Rector of Adlingfleet was a Franciscan Friar called John le Franceys [sometimes John the Frenchman]. He was originally a Yorkshireman, but he had travelled throughout Europe, becoming a Papal Legate and a King's Councillor. He had great plans for Adlingfleet, rebuilding and enlarging the church, and taking on the dispute with Selby Abbey. When a dispute over the ownership of a weir in Whitgift became particularly acrimonious, John le Franceys decided to get his own back. 

He demolished Whitgift Church and removed the stones to Adlingfleet where he built himself a stone chamber, attached to what was probably a wooden rectory.  This is still there and has recently been restored. John was not popular in clerical circles and when he was stricken in 1252 by paralysis, dying in 1255  he was mourned 'with dry tears' by the monks of St Mary’s Abbey at York and of Selby.

And of course we shall discuss the famous clock with 13 on its dial. Was it mentioned by Lord Haw Haw and how did it come to be?

Whitgift church - with clock

Another topic which has come up recently is street names. There have been many new names around Howden on the recent developments, selected by builders from lists suggested by the Town Council. I know that several were names which appeared on the war memorial and it would be good to publicise more about them - maybe a winter project!! I do have a copy of a contemporary booklet about those who lost their lives in the First World War. And how many Howden people know why they have an Osana Avenue?

In Goole there is a newish development called Mulberry Gardens which recalls Goole's contribution to the Mulberry Harbour construction - but controversial as it stands on the site of two former streets - Richard Cooper and Phoenix which many local people felt should have been referenced

And most recently there are new houses being built in the centre of Eastrington. They are to be named Watson Drive. 

At least two village families were - and are - called Watson.  My own parents, Doug and Joan Watson  were very well-known in the community. My mother, who lived in Eastrington all her life taught at the local primary school and my father, originally from Driffield was evacuated from Dunkirk during the war, spent three years in North Africa and then taught in Howden. Both were involved with the agricultural society and the village hall while my mother regularly played the church organ. She was also for many years on the parish council and fought to get the present nature reserve created when it was proposed to make it into a refuse tip.

I remember Maud Watson who was the village postlady when I was a child. Her father too had been a postman. My grandmother, who lived a little out of the village,  used to wait until she saw Maud arriving and then shout  'Any sickness in the village Maud?' Maud then replied with all the news.

Maud's son Tom was killed in 1944. He was 22 and an air gunner on a Lancaster when it was hit and crashed in Germany. He had a brother Leslie who  lived in the village with his family until his death in 1996.

I think street names represent so much local history and it is interesting to find out more about them.

Sgt Tom Colbeck Watson with Betty Cox who was an evacuee from Hull and lived in Alma Row.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Old pubs of Howden

 I am sitting here listening to the welcome rain. The garden was bone dry and everything was drooping. In particular the potatoes needed the water as the roots we have tried are the size of marbles. Gardening can be very frustrating and I am not best pleased at the moment as I was watching some calabrese and tender stem broccoli in the raised bed and thought how well it was doing. It was well netted but somehow a pigeon got in and in a short time decimated the plants. I am not feeling charitable towards pigeons at the moment.

This afternoon I am going out with the history groups I belong to to visit Nunburnholme church. We plan a few visits over the summer and enjoy learning about new places as well as meeting up with old friends. I am also looking forward next week to a concert in Howden Minster by celebrated young  pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason. It has been organised by Howdenshire Music whose high quality free concerts are really putting Howden on the musical map.

I have spent the last couple of weeks working on a booklet about the old pubs of Howden which is to be published in early autumn by the Howden Civic Society. Geoff Taylor, another member of the society and I  have been researching the various inns and Geoff has been taking contemporary pictures to go with my old ones.

Howden has always been known for having a large number of pubs, inns and beerhouses, largely because it was the centre of the local Howdenshire area where villagers came to visit the shops and markets. And also Howden hosted an annual world famous horse fair where buyers and sellers came from all over the UK and Europe to buy horses for many purposes ranging from hunting, pulling cabs in cities and in particular for use in the army. 

Our booklet is in the form of a town trail and includes 24 pubs - or pub sites. Some of them are a challenge to research as a new landlord often meant a new pub name. Charles Ledsham, for example came to Howden as the landlord of the Black Horse in Bridgegate in the 1820s. Having fought heroically and been wounded at the Battle of Waterloo he renamed his pub  after the battle. But when he moved to new premises in Hailgate the Black Horse reverted to its original name.

Around the same time the White Hart became the patriotically named Wellington whilst the Grapes in Bridgegate became the Britannia.

The civic society will be having a stand at Howden show on July 2nd. Come along and say hello. And if you have any memories or old pictures of Howden pubs you would be doubly welcome!!!!

 The white building on the left was once the Spotted Cow inn. It later was a lodging house and is now private housing.

Sunday 7 May 2023

The Coronation

 Yesterday I was glued to the television as I watched the Coronation ceremony. It was not so much the processions in the rain but the actual events in the abbey that fascinated me. Although as we know there were many modernising touches the historical symbolism and actual artefacts were stunning. As King Charles sat in the wooden Coronation chair I could not but think of the other kings and queens had sat in /on it all the way back to probably Edward I.

But Howden Minster was a good stand in for the Abbey on Friday!  It was beautifully decorated with an  impressive banner by Howden School pupils. The school children processed in and out and sang the National Anthem and the WI ladies served lovely cakes during the day. And in the evening I attended a Coronation concert there - braving a thunderstorm to do so.

I throughly enjoyed the first half,  hearing Crown Imperial on the magnificent organ and the performance of Zadok the Priest with Matthew Collins again on organ with the augmented Minster choir.

The talented Howden School band, The Soleros were up next, followed by Howdenshire Music's Boglarka Gyorgy and Amy Butler on violin and piano playing a very well-received Gershwin arrangement.

The interval gave us the opportunity to chat with friends. After a performance by a gospel choir we returned to the rather wet streets of Howden. 

Howden ladies dressed as queens of the past in 1953 - tentatively named as Eileen Holliday, Mrs Barnes/ Mrs Winn, Noreen Milnes [ hairdresser], unknown, Rita Sheppard [from the White Horse].

Saturday 22 April 2023

A village funeral

It's gardening time now and we have managed to get in some onions and potatoes. I still have tender stem broccoli and Swiss chard in the greenhouse but today it has turned colder and drizzly and  it's not encouraging to spend a lot of time outside.

Yesterday afternoon I attended the funeral in Eastrington church for Dolly Atkinson,  a lady I had known all my life. She was 98 and the church was full as we celebrated her life. Like probably everyone there I had eaten her famed teacakes and we heard how, after growing up and working on the family farm she had moved to a bungalow in the village and had been a stalwart supporter of both church and the village hall. It was both a comforting and uplifting service.

 In the [old] village hall. From left Greta Atkinson, Betty Hoggard, Dolly Atkinson, Mrs Wilburn 

A winning Eastrington school choir in 1936 on the steps of Hull City Hall. Dolly Atkinson with fringe and wearing a summer dress is on the extreme left. My aunt Jean Nurse [Sellers[ is  on the front row, left of the boy with a short sleeved shirt.

On Easter Monday I gave talks and tours at what turned out to be a very popular Howden Minster open day.  There is a lot of history to cover [!!] so I just  mentioned the highlights ranging from John who sat up in his coffin at his funeral to the possible visit of Parliamentary troops to the church in 1644, the collapse of the choir roof in 1696 due to lack of maintenance and the disastrous fire of 1929. And of course we looked at the Coronation window which was installed in 1953.

Then last week I gave two talks - on the same day - about the history of the Saltmarshe family and the village.  The first was to the ladies of Hook WI who were having afternoon tea in Saltmarshe hall. They were a very friendly and lively group. In the evening it was the monthly meeting of the Boothferry history group in the Courtyard in Goole. It was a challenging start as the overhead projector there failed to work - and not for the first time - but I had brought my own projector just in case and after setting that up all went well.

Tonight I am attending a concert in Snaith  Priory church by the Beverley Male Voice Choir which also includes performances from Shakespeare by local poets. Should be a good evening.

Sunday 12 March 2023

Dorothy Bartlam

 Last week  was  International Women's Day and a local facebook post mentioned Goole born  film actress Dorothy Bartlam. Dorothy starred in several films in the late 1920s and early 1930s and there is much information about her film career on the internet.

The local history group that I attend on Thursday mornings had talked about her and one of our members has carried out a lot of research on Dorothy and her family and her Goole connections.  So I thought I would include a brief summary of his work here.

Dorothy Ezard Bartlam was born 8th November 1897 at Leighton, 2 Airmyn Road (then known as 173 Boothferry Road), Goole and baptised on 25th November at St David's, Airmyn. Her parents had married in the same church 1st June 1895, her father having recently come to Goole to enter into an ironmongery partnership with George Thompson. 

Her father, Charles Ruby Bartlam, had come from Ironbridge, Shropshire, where he had been an assistant in his father's ironmongery. Dorothy's mother was Henrietta Ezard, who had been born in Earswick Station House. Her father was the station-master. Henrietta was the younger sister of Herbert W Ezard. In 1913, when Dorothy was around 6, the ironmongery business was dissolved and the Bartlam  family moved to Torquay where Charles opened his own ironmongery. 

As a young woman, Dorothy won several beauty competitions and found casual employment in the film industry as a "crowd extra." It did not take long for her to be cast in more prominent roles and soon to become a "star." Film reviews in the national press sometimes referred to her as “the girl from Goole” or “the Yorkshire actress.”When she married David Rawnsley, the film art director, in September 1933, the wedding photo appeared in the Sunday newspaper "The People."

As Mrs David Rawnsley, her portrait was shown in the National Portrait Gallery, she was featured on cigarette cards and appeared extensively in advertisements for Pond's Cold Face Creams 

This is  Dorothy Bartlam (1907-1991} as shown on a  cigarette card from Modern Beauties, 4th series, issued by the British-American Tobacco Company.

Some extra information which might be interesting

Bartlam and Thompson were in business at 106 Boothferry Road. The partnership was advertised in 1901. After the Bartlams left Goole George Herbert Thompson continued the business at 106 as ironmonger and plumber until at least 1920. 

Bartlam and Thompson had their shop at 106, Boothferry Rd in the block on the left

Before he married George lived with his widowed mother Martha at 186 Boothferry Road. She died in 1933

Dorothy Bartlam's mother Henrietta Ezard was the sister of enterprising shipowner  Herbert W Ezard. He  lived at 'Haxby'  [4 Airmyn Road/ then 175 Boothferry Rd] which he built in 1907. His initials HWE are over the door.

He died in 1938 and his obituary is below

1938 DEATH OF H. EZARD Former Goole Shipowner and Local Preacher The death has occurred of Mr Herbert Wm. Ezard, aged 68, of White House, Stepney-drive, Scarborough, a former Goole shipowner, and for many years a promiment local Methodist. Mr Ezard was only 21 years of age when he formed his first shipping company, the Goole and West Riding Steamship Company. Later he became managing director of the Yorkshire Coal and Steamship Company, and was also a principal the firm of H. and C. M. Ezard, shipbrokers and coal exporters. For years he was a lay preacher, and while at Goole was closely associated with the North - street Methodist Church. He had been twice married, and leaves a widow and two sons. The funeral took place at Goole Cemetery.

In later years Dorothy turned to writing and her first novel was published in 1931. She seems to have retired from acting following her marriage in 1933. The divorce was in June 1936. The 1939 register describes her as "divorced writer," living at  Mockham Down, Brayford, Devon {a large detached rural property}.She seems to be living there alone.

She married Maurice Gleeson in 1946 (in 1939 he was described as "chef and waiter") and remained Mrs Gleeson until she died. Whenever she was mentioned in any newspaper article (usually in connection with dogs) she was just Mrs Gleeson.

Our Thursday morning group  is very friendly and we never know where our researches are going to take us. We have never yet run out of things to talk about! And it is fascinating to find out more the many interesting people of Goole.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Howden Minster open day

Last night I gave a talk to Gilberdyke WI and on the way home, through thick fog, saw a badger run across the road in front of me. I know they are around but only see them infrequently and was surprised at how fast this one ran.  The only other wildlife out was  a solitary rabbit. It was good to get home although I didn't need supper as the ladies of the WI provided a lovely buffet.

I am busy at the moment refreshing my knowledge of the history of Howden Minster. I am taking tours around the church on Easter Monday, 10th April when the Minster is having an 'open day'. The idea is to show off the church to everyone, young and old, locals and visitors. There will be old photographs, archaeological discoveries, refreshments from That Tearoom, musical interludes on both piano and organ and activities for children including brass rubbing.

Howden Minster has always been at the centre of the town and driving home its beautiful lantern tower and green roof are the signs that you are nearly there. Many travellers in the M62 are attracted by its beauty and increasingly are stopping off to visit both church and town.

What follows is a very very brief summary of the church history - come along on Easter Monday to find out more.

It is believed that there was a church here in Saxon times although the written evidence is a little uncertain!  A twelfth century chronicler, Gerald of Wales wrote several centuries later that

"In the north of England beyond the Humber, in the church of Hovedene, the concubine of the rector incautiously sat down on the tomb of St. Osana, sister of king Osred, which projected like a wooden seat; on wishing to retire, she could not be removed, until the people came to her assistance; her clothes were rent, her body was laid bare, and severely afflicted with many strokes of discipline, even till the blood flowed; nor did she regain her liberty, until by many tears and sincere repentance she had showed evident signs of compunction."

Osred was king of Northumbria and died in 716 AD . There is nothing more known of Osana beyond this mention but it does suggest evidence of an early church at Howden.

We are on more certain ground with the knowledge that the church was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and eventually, when Howden became associated with the bishopric of Durham it became very important.

In 1267 the church became collegiate - ie a college of priests was set up and thereafter much building took place until a magnificent church, with a beautiful chapter house and its own song school dominated the landscape. Around 20 priests lived in Howden, some in separate prebendal residences on Churchside and some in the bedern [like a sort of hall of residence] which was where Parson's Lane is now. And there were too regular visits by the bishops to Howden when they stayed in their palace and where at least two kings  [ Edward II in 1312 and Henry V in 1421] were hosted

The church became a place of pilgrimage after a supposed miracle took place at the funeral Mass of John of Howden in 1275 when he apparently sat up in his coffin to receive the Host. He was an eminent poet and philosopher and had been chaplain to Queen Eleanor of Provence, the wife of Henry III

Although never officially created at saint he was held to be one and of course St John Street leads directly to the Minster. His shrine was in the centre of what is now the ruined choir

So many pilgrims  visited Howden that enough money became available to build a new choir and raise the height of the nave. We can still see the old roof lines both from the Market Place and inside the church.

 View from the Market Place showing the ruined choir and the older roofline

But then came the Reformation and Howden became an ordinary parish church. No one repaired the choir and in 1696 the choir roof and walls collapsed in a storm. The chapter house roof went the same way in 1750. But the choir was totally ruined and it is hard to imagine what the church must have looked like when it was complete.

Many repairs were made to the church in the nineteenth century and then in 1929 a disgruntled farm worker set the tower on fire. A lot of damage was done both by the fire and by the water used to extinguish it by the firemen. The alarm was said to be have been given by a sea lion from a circus parked in the Market Place. It took three years for the repairs to be complete.

  The dramatic and awful sight of the tower on fire in 1929

There is lots to see inside the church today, some lovely stained glass and statues as well as memorials to many Howden families.  And do not forget to visit Peter de Saltmarshe, lying in his armour in the centre of the Saltmarshe chapel with a dog at his feet to symbolise loyalty.

This  is a picture of the Minster choir in 1982.


Sunday 22 January 2023

Farming, Ropewalk and Skating

 It is cold and foggy today but I hope we are soon going to see the last of the hard frosts and the chickens will not then need jugs of hot water twice a day. Our snowdrops are just showing white and the daffodils are well up. The woodpecker is busy hammering in the large ash tree seemingly all day and last night I  heard two owls calling. So nature at least thinks we are heading for spring.

On the history front too the new year is off to a very busy start.  I spent one Wednesday evening at the Wellington in Howden speaking to a large group of  Howden Young Farmers.  My talk was about local farming and how it has changed over the last hundred years. I have always been interested in particular about how cleverly nineteenth farms were designed with, for example, stables facing east so that horse lads could see what they were doing -feeding and preparing the farm horses for work as the sun rose.

And on Monday afternoon the local history group resumed meetings in the Scholfield Memorial hall at Skelton. There was a good attendance and my pictures of Eastrington went down well I thought. The next meeting will be about Portington, Ousethorpe, Hive, Sandholme and Gilberdyke. If you are interested in coming please contact me on

Then at short notice I was asked to stand in at the meeting of the Howdenshire Archaeological Society as the speaker was unavailable. Not being an expert on archaeology I talked instead about how Howden has changed over the years.

But perhaps one of the most interesting meetings I have been to this month was the small research group which meets in Goole on Thursday mornings. Earlier this year the Goole museum publicised an album of old photos they had been given which showed some lovely Victorian photos of Goole.

This was not new to me as a friend and I had been shown the album some years ago and had been given permission to copy it. But the Thursday morning group had not seen the pictures and so we have spent a couple of weeks looking at them

The earliest picture shows the newly built Pomfret and Goole lifeboat visiting Goole in December1865 before being put on station on the mouth of the Tyne.

Some of the pictures are taken from the top of the water tower and one shows the town rope walk and how therewas no direct connection then between Bridge Street and the town centre. Goole has changed a lot.

We have also been trying to find out who took the photos but with no definite results. But we do have  some dating evidence. An extract from a photo of the old Goole Times shop [beautifully coloured by my friend] dated 1896 shows some of the pictures for sale - look at each side of the main windows.

Another of the photos showed Carlton fish ponds and we discussed how they were used well into living memory for ice skating. By coincidence some lovely pictures on the same topic have been added to the Snaith facebook group and here is one, with acknowledgement to Chris Robinson - in the pram!!