Howdenshire History

History of Blacktoft, East Yorkshire

Medieval Blacktoft - Later periods - Parish registers - The Ouse - River tragedies
19th century Blacktoft - Hall family - Blacktoft memories


Click here to view further old photos of Blacktoft.


Blacktoft in medieval times: the Hansard family

The name Blacktoft means ‘black homestead or ground’. It does not feature in the Domesday Book - the first definite mention occurs when the village of Blacktoft was granted by the bishop of Durham to Gilbert Hansard between 1165-85. Gilbert Hansard received Blacktoft and an area of marsh for a yearly rent of 12 marks plus a pig worth 16d and pannage.

Gilbert Hansard was also granted the right to construct a water-powered corn mill at Blacktoft and a water channel to ‘the said mill’ through his land from near Hive to the River Ouse at Blacktoft. In 1191 there was a mention of the 'fosse of Gilbert Hansard'. The foss (ie. a channel/dyke) also provided drainage and was navigable by small craft. It is still in existence today and known as as ‘Hansard dam’ but nothing survives of the mill.

In 1199 Gilbert Hansard II came of age and was confirmed in his lands by King John.

In 1237 William de Melsonby was instituted as priest of the chapel of Brantingham with the chapelry of Blacktoft.

In 1291 Gilbert Hansard granted the manors of Blacktoft and Thornton in Lincolnshire to his son Robert.

In 1331 Bishop Lewis Beaumont of Durham was returning from London when the ship carrying his goods capsized in the River Ouse. Some goods were carried away by the people of Blacktoft, Faxfleet and Ousefleet.

In 1367 it is recorded that:

during the previous reign, Sir Gilbert Hansard, deceased, while holding in fee the manor of Blacktoft worth 20 marks yearly, did side with the king's enemies in Scotland and also sided with Gilbert Middleton (of Mitford, Northumberland) the traitor.

In 1379 there were 139 adults listed as paying the poll tax. The richest were Gilbert Bucolne, a franklin, and his wife Alice. Eight 'fyshers' or fishermen were also listed, implying that there was a thriving fishery or fisheries in the area. At this time Blacktoft was one of the largest Howdenshire villages due to the river trade.

In 1399 there was a complaint that:

the watercourse called Blacktoft damme, otherwise Haunserdamme, which reacheth from the Foulney to the river of Ouse, was then obstructed and ought to be repaired by Richard Haunsard and the town of Blacktoft for their lands in Blacktoft, and the same ought to be 16 ft in breadth and 8 ft in depth.

In 1459 there is mention of a Richard Hansard being summoned for offences - he was then a Lincolnshire squire married to Jane, daughter of John Aske of Aughton.

In 1521 William Hansard, the last male of the line died, and Blacktoft and other lands passed to his posthumous daughter Elizabeth. She married Francis Ayscough whose father, Sir William, had married her grandmother.



Blacktoft in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries

In 1551 Walter Jobson, a Hull merchant, bought the rectory and church of Brantingham together with the chapels of Blacktoft and Ellerker.

In 1575 a visitation said that Ellerker chapel was in poor repair but Blacktoft chapel was owned by Giles Edwyn, who was described as 'generosus'.

In 1578 Giles Edwyn bought nearby Yokefleet.

In 1581 the manor of Blacktoft was sold by Richard Harper to William Harebred. It was sold several times subsequently.

From 1625-35 Thomas Fisher was an unpopular curate at Blacktoft. His parishioners in 1629 tried to have him removed, as he had 'at divers and sundry times carelessly neglected or wilfully refused to read Divine service'. He was also accused of drinking, brawling and gambling.

In 1630 a large part of Blacktoft (west) was bought by the governors of Sutton's Hospital, Charterhouse, London. In 1657 they sent Master Cresset, a land agent, to survey Blacktoft. He said that:

the truth is the inhabitants of that place are for the most part crafty, false and very moorish to deal with and seldom have I been with their ylke.

In 1662 the chancel roof collapsed (this was the responsibility of the tithe owner) and in 1670 the nave was said to be in ruins (this was the responsibility of the parish).

The largest farmer from 1667 was James Dawson, who later occupied the manor house. His son John, a Charterhouse tenant, was later criticised for ploughing out old pasture land.

In 1757 the governors of Charterhouse sold the manor of Blacktoft to Charles Pelham who, in turn, sold it in 1761 to Amaziah Empson, whose family had lived at Goole Hall but who already owned much land at Yokefleet.

In January 1839 a hurricane blew the tower of St Clement's through the church roof. The village Methodists allowed churchgoers to use their new chapel until a new church was built.



Blacktoft parish registers

The chapel at Blacktoft kept its own registers, despite being part of the parish of Brantingham. Unfortunately, from before 1700 very little of them survived and even after that date the originals are in poor condition. Perhaps part of the reason can be found from the results of Archbishop Herring’s Visitation of 1743. Blacktoft chapel was in trouble for not having a ‘parchment register’. Parchment registers were the regulation because, although more expensive, they stood up better to wear, tear and damp. Also in 1743 it was recorded that there were 38 families belonging to Blacktoft Chapel, one of them a Quaker family.

Nevertheless, from 1700 the registers are intact and cover a wide area between Eastrington and North Cave. In March 1774 John Parrat was buried at Blacktoft, having ‘drown’d at the new river’. This is the first mention of the nearby Market Weighton canal which, at that time, was under construction.

Occasionally the registers give a glimpse of village characters, such as when in May 1788 Ann Johnson, a widow of Blacktoft, died. The record of her burial describes how she was ‘commonly called Nanny Hart’ and was a pauper. Or again, two years later, when a 31-year-old Thomas Wilson, a shoemaker of Blacktoft, died in August 1790 ‘of a consumption’.



Blacktoft and the River Ouse

In the 16th century there were three staithes or jetties at Blacktoft. Flooding was always a problem and early in the 18th century there were exceptionally bad floods and the river banks were moved. Bundles of straw were kept at the bottom of the church porch door to keep out water until c.1930, by which time the banks had been strengthened.

In the early 19th century the Hope & Anchor pub was built by the riverbank, probably to serve the local ferry and steamers.


Hope & Anchor pub, Blacktoft, Yorkshire

The Hope & Anchor, Blacktoft, viewed from the River Ouse


In Baines' trade directory of 1823 it was remarked that:

Opposite the village sometimes great quantities of vessels anchor, being considered a good road stead. The steam boats from Selby and Thorne pass daily on their way to and from Hull. A bed of sand, which at low water extends over several acres, serves for the ballasting of small craft.

Between 1873-81 the local Aire & Calder Navigation Company built a jetty at Blacktoft. This was so that ships travelling to Goole could lay up at Blacktoft if they could not make the journey out to the Humber in one tide.


Blacktoft river tragedies

Due to its riverside location, Blacktoft saw its fair share of tragedies. Several victims were laid to rest in Blacktoft churchyard. In 1794 the burial register records:

John Magnus, a native of Denmark, was drowned on Sunday 7th September as he was passing Trent mouth on his way from York to Hull in the Bonny Boatman’s Boat belonging to Trinity House at Hull.

He was eventually washed up near Thornton Land and was buried on the 26th September 1794. A footnote in the register adds that ‘he seemed to be about 25 years of age.’

Exactly a year later, Timothy Rymer, a sailor, ‘was drowned in the Humber and was buried at Blacktoft’ and in January 1806 Samuel Wriglesworth, ‘a mariner’ of Hull, suffered the same fate.

A Goole sloop, Providence, captained by John Kitson and owned by Thomas Cliff of Knottingley, was lost near Blacktoft on 5th September 1846.

In May 1854 Captain William Turgoose of the sloop Oddfellow, while lying at Blacktoft, was moving his rifle off the hatch when he accidentally shot his two-year-old child.

On Monday 15th August 1859 a boy of five, Alfred Mark Chapman, son of Mr Benjamin Chapman, accidentally fell overboard from the vessel Brilliant which was lying at anchor in Blacktoft Roads. The body was not recovered until Saturday 27th August, when it was found near the Middle Lock, Goole after being in the river for nearly a fortnight.

In January 1864 it was noted in the Goole Times newspaper that:

Mr Richard Eccles, the Blacktoft ferryman, put out in his boat to meet the York packet, ‘Ouse’. He sculled his boat ahead of the ‘Ouse’ and came into contact with her, causing him to be pitched overboard where he was caught in the fast current and drowned.

Richard Eccles was the son of Mr Eccles, the ferryman at nearby Howdendyke.



Blacktoft in the 19th century

By 1809 Blacktoft was largely agricultural. It had an inn, the Bay Horse, kept by John Lister, several yeomen and a school, although in May of that year the schoolmaster, Mr William Atkinson, died aged 60.

Fourteen years later, in 1823, John Lister still kept the inn (which was on the corner near where the telephone box now stands). He was also a coal dealer, no doubt taking delivery of his stocks from the nearby jetty. Thomas Lister was the village tailor, William Taylor was the carpenter, Joseph Poppleton the constable, Solomon Scott the parish clerk, John Reynolds the blacksmith, and William Reynolds the shoemaker.

In 1830 the open fields of Blacktoft were enclosed, along with those of nearby Faxfleet, Gilberdyke and Hive. The commissioner was John Bell of Portington. The map drawn at the time provides a lot of information about the area. There were then about 15 dwellings in the village, as well as the old church and the manor house. The Blacktoft pinfold for stray animals appears to have been opposite the church, although it is not clear exactly where. The main street was described as ‘the Cave and Howden’ road, and was shown as 30 feet wide.

Blacktoft seems to have had three open fields - Church Field, between Hansard dam (marked Anser Dam on the map) and Sparrow Croft Lane; Mill Field, east of Sparrow Croft Lane up to Bishopsoil Drain; and Hook Field, to the south of the other two and abutting the river.

The existence of ‘Mill Field’ and the granting of a wide track into its centre, east of Sparrow Croft Lane, suggests that at some time Blacktoft may have had a windmill on this site (perhaps after the water mills at Blacktoft and Thornton Lands had fallen out of use?).

A large area of land north of Blacktoft, around Staddlethorpe and Gowthorpe, was also enclosed - giving a total area of 302 acres. The largest allotment, of 70 acres, went to Robert Plummer Weddall. The Weddall family were originally from Selby and acted as surveyors for two local enclosures. Robert surveyed the Eastrington, Bellasize and Sandholme enclosure (act 1813, award 1822), and John George Weddall was described as one of the principal landowners of Blacktoft. It was George Edward Weddall of Thornton House who transcribed the Blacktoft parish registers.

The Empson family - Reverend Richard Empson, Amaziah Empson, and Gervis Empson - were allotted approximately 125 acres between them. John Lister of the Bay Horse Inn received 14 acres, William Jewitt received 16 acres, John Phillips 8 acres, and the trustees of John Coates 40 acres.

William Jewitt was a member of a Howdenshire family of yeoman farmers who had possessions at Saltmarshe, Ousethorpe and Balkholme. In 1809 two William Jewitts (father and son) were both freeholders in Gilberdyke and Clementhorpe. In 1791 a notice, now in Blacktoft Church, noted that:

A person unknown left 10- yearly for ever to the poor of Blacktoft, to be laid out in bread and given at different times, viz. at Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas, chargeable on certain land called Oxpasture Hill in the township of Blacktoft, in possession of William Jewitt of Clementhorpe.



The Hall family of Blacktoft

Another Blacktoft family were the Halls, who were the village blacksmiths from around 1860 to 1933. John Hall [1831-1908] was originally from Duffield and as a young man was apprenticed to the blacksmith at nearby Hemingbrough. He married Elizabeth Fairweather from Cliffe. Their two eldest children, Mary and William Fairweather, were born at Hemingbrough but by 1861 the family had moved to Blacktoft. Here their children Ann and Robert were born.

They lived at the blacksmith’s shop in Blacktoft, which was opposite the end of the lane leading to Gilberdyke.


The Hall family of Blacktoft, Yorkshire

The Hall family, c.1902, outside the Smithy at Blacktoft. John Hall is seated middle row, centre.


John and Elizabeth lived the rest of their lives at Blacktoft and are buried in the churchyard there. Their gravestone shows that Elizabeth died in 1898 aged 64 and John died in 1908 aged 76.


John & Elizabeth Hall's children:


Mary married John Cawood in 1881. John was a farmer and they lived at nearby Faxfleet with their daughters Annie, born 1886, and Doris, born 1901. Annie married James Pearson.

William Fairweather
William married Harriet Harland at Goole in 1884. He too was a blacksmith and in 1891 was living in Couper Street, Goole. They later moved to Beverley Street and by 1891 were in Parliament Street. William and Harriet had five children; two boys (John Robert and Walter Harland) and three girls (Emma, Ethel and Helen). John eventually went to work with his Uncle Robert at Blacktoft. Ethel married John Westerman and had a son called Harland. William Fairweather Hall died in Goole in 1922.

In 1881 Annie was living with the headmaster and his wife at Laxton and working as a pupil teacher at the school there. In 1901 she was at home, looking after her widowed father.

Robert followed in his father’s footsteps and was also the Blacktoft village blacksmith. He married Alice Walker in 1893 whom he met when she was working as a servant at Blacktoft vicarage. She was originally from Whitton, across the river in Lincolnshire.

Robert worked as the Blacktoft blacksmith until his death in 1933. His gravestone is in Blacktoft churchyard. His wife Alice died in 1935.

Robert and Alice had eight living children: Mary Eizabeth [Lizzie], Edith, Eva, John, Alice, Annie, Joyce and Eleanor.

Of Robert and Alice's children, Lizzie married George Holmes from Hull, and Edith married Frederick Oldridge, whilst Eva married John H Thompson in 1921 and lived at Broomfleet. In 1928, both on the same day, Alice married Tom Houfe and John Hall married Bertha Blee. Annie married Fred Sims from Howden, whilst Joyce married Fred Neville. In 1934 Eleanor, known as Nellie, married Stanley Haigh of Newport.



Blacktoft Life & Memories

Blacktoft is unique in that not only is it an agricultural village, but for many years it was also visited by seamen from all over the world when ships moored at the jetty there (this does not happen as much today). Many of these men went for a drink at the local Hope & Anchor pub, creating quite a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and although the village had a full-time customs presence it was always said that some smuggling still went on. Another feature of the jetty was the very loud foghorn - the Blacktoft bull - which could be heard many miles away when there was fog on the river.

The following brief section refers mainly to Blacktoft in the 20th century. I hope to expand this section in more detail in the future - if you would like to contribute any further memories/material about Blacktoft's past for use in this page, please do get in touch.


Blacktoft jetty masters

In the early 1900s the jetty master was Captain David Jackson.

From July 1941 the jetty master was Captain Dick Collier. By then, the pier house where he lived had mains water and a WC (the only one in the village) but there was no electricity, only paraffin lamps.

One night in 1946(?) Captain Collier received a phone call from Mr Rowland(?) Winn at Faxfleet. A bomber had crashed onto the mudflats where the Trent and Ouse meet and the crew could be heard shouting for help. Captain Collier met Mr Winn at the drain on the Blacktoft to Faxfleet road and, along with Norman Parker, set off in Mr Winn’s boat for the Trent training wall. They rescued the Canadian crew from the mud but then their engine failed. They, in turn, were rescued by a ship piloted by Tommy Mapplebeck from Goole.

The Collier family left Blacktoft in 1950.

The new jetty master was Frank Raywood. He remained there until the 1980s.


20th century Blacktoft families

Some Blacktoft inhabitants of the last century include: Harry and Nelly Blee, who lived at Bank House on the river side (Harry kept bees); Jack Drury and his wife who ran the village post office; Jim Drury, who was the village joiner; and past landlords of the Hope & Anchor who included Tom Tomlinson and Fred Lord.

There were also Mr and Mrs Hibberd, the Smalley and Reed families, the two Crisp families and Burt’s shop, while at Manor Farm lived the Thompson family. Harry Rutter, who married Pauline Collier, was the customs officer.


Blacktoft school

The old school, near the church, was built in 1851 and enlarged in 1873 after the Education Act was passed. For many years the master was Elliot Smith, who lived in Lister House and died in 1902. He was succeeded by Richard Hamlet, who wore a monocle.

In 1907 a new school was built and Richard Hamlet moved to become the headmaster of this new establishment. He remained there until 1936. Other teachers included Mrs Frances Smith, Miss Moses, Mrs Madge Taylor and Mrs Evelyn Robinson, who was the head when the school closed in 1964.

The old school, having formerly been home to POWS and also used as a school canteen at one time, is currently in use as a village and church hall.


NB. A history of Blacktoft has been written by Mr Robert Thompson of Manor Farm, Blacktoft, and is available to buy from Blacktoft Church. Proceeds are in aid of the church.


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