Howdenshire History

Early Goole Memories: George Greenfield

Goole History > Goole People & Families > George Greenfield



On March 1st 1819, George Greenfield was born at Swinefleet. His father was the 'warping agent' for the Aire and Calder Navigation, which was then engaged in the building of the port of Goole. The young George moved with his family to Goole in 1827 and lived there for the rest of his life until his death in 1901.

In 1900, when he was 81 years old, he was interviewed and his memories of what were the first days of Goole were recorded. The interview itself is now part of history and many of the landmarks, familiar to the readers of 1900 have now also disappeared.



George was taken by his mother to the formal opening of the Goole canal on July 24th 1826.He saw the flyboats pulled by horses arrive at Barge Dock, carrying the A and C N dignitaries, but was more fascinated by the sight of a spectator who was swept into the dock by one of the towing ropes and his subsequent rescue.

He remembered Goole's first corn market which was 'where the salt warehouse now stands', but this had to move when Germany Dock was dug out from what had been an open field.

The field had been 'warped up' by what seems to have been Murham Drain. This watercourse ran down North Street and was bridged to give access to what was East Parade and again to Aire Street. There was apparently a portion of the old bridge wall incorporated in the foundation of the Sydney Hotel.


Early Goole was centred around the canal basin. The docks area was still agricultural in the first half of the 19th century, while Boothferry Road area was not developed at all and Goole people lived, until the building of the 'new' town, around the Dutch River.

In the early years of the port, the town centre, according to Mr Greenfield, was around Mr Richard Duckles' farmhouse, which was near the Sailors' Welcome. Also on the Dutch River bank stood Mr Moody's house and two others betwen that and the Anchor Inn [now the Vermuyden Hotel].

On the other side of the Dutch River stood what is now known as Old Goole. There were then 'a few thatched cottages, the Grove [then occupied by Madame Cornwall], Mr Peter's Grove Cottage and the Field House Farm, then owned by Mr Empson'.

This last farm was occupied by Mr J Corner in 1900. There were no houses between Field House Farm and the Marshland Hotel. At the Bridge foot there was the Half Moon and two thatched cottages. The first buildings of the Boothferry road district were the houses around Wesley Square, which were the most fashionable place to live in Goole for many years.



Mr Greenfield went to school, in the late 1820s, on the old Barge dock side. The master was a Mr Nathaniel Chaplin who was remembered as having one leg shorter than the other and wearing an iron patten to help him walk.

The school soon moved to Cross Street where it was held 'in a building now used by Mr Glew as a tin shop'. The pupils learned spelling, reading, grammar and writing.

The next schoolmaster in Goole was Reverend John Wilson, the first Church of England minister in Goole. He at first held his school in the old church, on Barge dock side. This was 'Mr Carr's sailyard and stores' by 1900.

Rev Wilson then held a school, for boys and girls, in a room in the Lowther Hotel yard, over the old billiard room. This room later served as the first meeting place for the Independents when Rev Henry Earle was their minister, before being converted into a dwelling for the ostler.



Travel was a problem in those early days of Goole. The easiest way to travel was by water but even this was slow. A packet boat sailed between Hull and Goole but it was a two day journey there and back.

Passengers wishing to travel to Thorne or Doncaster sailed on the 'Don' or 'Queen' to Newbridge and then transferred to a little horse boat, nicknamed 'the Noah's Ark'.

Travellers who wished to board the packet boat to Selby were ferried out to it in the river Ouse by a ferryman, Mr Richard Moody, from the Ferryboat Inn on Vermuyden Terace.


When he left school, Mr Greenfield became a painter and one of his contracts was to paint the new railway gates when the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway came to Goole in 1848. He recalled that the railway was so unpopular with the farmers through whose land it was passing that not one of them would even give him a drink of water.

Mr Greenfield became assistant overseer of the poor for Goole in 1851 and later collector of taxes. He described how dramatically the taxes rose to pay for the Crimean War and how he and his wife often had to sit up at night and guard the money until the Receiver came for it from Doncaster.


George Greenfield married in 1839 and had a family of two sons and four daughters. He was living in Jefferson Street in 1900.

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