Monthly Archives: December 2020

Disused rail-lines as public rights of way 20.

Concluding comments on the 20 blogs with the above title – examples covered = (a) Hudson Way, (b) Hull – Barnsley Railway (parts of), (c) Victoria Dock Railway in Hull (green corridor), (d) Hull – Hornsea Railway and (e) Hull – Withernsea Railway (Hull and Holderness Railway). The series also pays tribute to the pioneering work of  the late Dr. Jay Appleton of Hull University.

Railways were commercial enterprises constructed in expectation of an income over capital expenditure from freight, passenger traffic or both. In terms of their route’s subsequent adoption as public rights of way their original function makes little difference.

Almost all railways passed through rural areas but didn’t necessarily serve the interests of those areas. Lines specifically built to serve the trade of rural areas came late in Victorian railway development – and often were the first to close as un-economic in the 20th century. Railways of this sort such as the Market Weighton to Beverley line (Hudson Way) and the two Holderness lines (d and e above) were impacted on badly early in their economic life by the Agricultural Depression of the 1880s and’90s and the mass importation of foodstuffs. In the case of d above an increase in commuter passengers must have been a welcome development and in the case of e day-trip passengers to the coast and the promise of Anthony Bannister’s vision of a ‘Brighton on the east coast’, mostly unrealised but nevertheless significant.

In areas of dense rural settlement such as Holderness train lines couldn’t zig-zag around to serve every village and indeed lines avoided going through villages but rather skirted their built-up area or, as with a, d and e above, had village stations built out in the countryside. Few farmers had a station on their doorstep. Thus rural goods movement networks tended to radiate from stations rather than directly to and from the intended market, e.g. Hull, but only if the siting of the station was convenient to the farmer. Furthermore rural rail-lines left large areas un-served, the south-eastern area of Holderness being a case in point. Easington and its surrounding villages were right out on the edge (coast), almost a land apart, and remained so despite the Railway Age.

The photo above shows a view across Kilnsea ‘Bight’ to Spurn Point, the 1895 lighthouse standing proud with a ‘low light’ connected with Smeaton’s earlier lighthouse showing also. Unlike the road travellers to Withernsea today early rail day-trippers would not have seen the lighthouse proud in the landscape as Withernsea’s Museum (lighthouse) was not built until 1893. A three-hour (plus) stroll along the beach (but only at low tide – very important) and Spurn Point allows one to walk from one lighthouse to the other, the walk in the opposite direction to Selwick’s Bay lighthouse on Flamborough Head takes a bit longer.

Disused rail-lines as public rights of way 19.

Two miles east of Keyingham station on the Hull and Holderness Railway (s.p.b.s) was Ottringham station, this out in the countryside a mile and a half north of the village proper. East of Ottringham station the route of the ex-rail-line loops south, crossing what is now the main road to Patrington and Withernsea from Hull before curving south-east past Winestead White Hall – incidentally, the crossing keeper’s cottage survives where the rail-line crossed the main road.

If the rail-line had been routed north-east after Ottringham station the journey distance could have been reduced by about six miles. As to why this southern loop was created I have no definitive answer but at least two possibilities come to mind. Firstly, although Patrington station was outside the village (to the west) the shorter route suggested above would have been five miles north of Patrington.  Another possibility is that the owners of Winestead Hall were, in the 1850s, disinclined to have a rail-line nearby, or across their land at all – the detailed routes of rail-lines did depend on landowners being persuaded to sell some of it and, probably, to make movement from one field to another more complicated. That said, many a landowner got a capital windfall from the Railway Mania.

Although the site of Patrington station is now marked only by a public house of the same name the old goods yard south of Winestead White Hall is as far as the route of the rail-line can be walked/cycled. The six mile stretch from Patrington station to Withernsea station, passing west of the station-less village of Hollym, has been incorporated into local fields. Within a couple of minutes from leaving their train at Withernsea station day-trippers could be on the beach. With being at the end of the line a hand-powered turn-table and reserve line allowed the loco. to pull the carriages back to Hull.

The photo above shows Hollym church.

(to be continued by one more blog in this series).

Disused rail-lines as public rights of way 18.

There were two and a half miles of open country between Marfleet and Hedon stations on the route of the Hull and Holderness Railway in the late 19th century with views to the south across the Humber Estuary to the county of Lindsey (today such a view blocked by King George Dock, Queen Elizabeth Dock and the Saltend complex). The Hull to Hedon turnpike Hedon Road) would have been visible from the carriage windows, perhaps resulting in an occasional reckless short-distance race. One set of ‘gates’ was necessary where the road from Saltend Grange to Preston was crossed by the railway. Early 20th century O.S. maps show that between Saltend Grange and the outskirts of Hedon the railway ran beside the longest stretch of the ‘Old Race Course’, this land later to become Hedon airfield and is today mostly a large field of permanent pasture.

There seems to have been some municipal wrangling among the governing class of Hedon as to the advisability, or not, of the town having a station, this, presumably, partly at least for fear of the Haven loosing what bit of trade it had to the railway, the photo above shows a view of the mouth of Hedon Haven at low tide with the crossing tower of St. Augustine’s church in the middle distance. Hedon station was located at the north end of the Town, technically, I believe, outside the parish boundary, but still not distant from the built-up area.

A further two miles in a south-easterly direction from Hedon station brought the line to Ryhill station. This site was half a mile north of Ryhill village and equidistant between that village and Burstwick. Beyond Ryhill station the line crossed Keyingham Drain before reaching Keyingham station at the very top-end of the village near North End Farm.

(to be continued – once Hull-Withernsea Railway has been covered will round-off with a few concluding remarks before taking a weeks break in first week of 2021).

Disused railways as public rights of way 17.

Although the length of the Hull – Withernsea rail-line was probably greater than that of the Hull – Hornsea line there were only six stations between Hull and the terminus at Withernsea, so the journey must have been less stop-start than must have been the case on the Hornsea line (s.p.b.).

The Hull and Holderness Railway (its formal name for most of its existence), although skirting only the most southern parishes of Holderness, was opened in 1854, approximately a decade before the Hull – Hornsea. As a result of its vigorous support from local funding gentry and from the fact that the undulations of south Holderness were quite gentle the line was constructed in just less than one year. Like the Hull to Hornsea railway line the Hull to Withernsea rail-line was a spur off the southern end of the Victoria Dock Railway, this time between Holderness Road and New Bridge Road, the latter so named following the building of a rail bridge, 1885, serving the ‘high-level’ Hull – Barnsley Railway over the Withernsea line.

The route of the Hull – Withernsea rail-line is mostly a public right of way today although I have only walked it from the Marfleet area and certainly beyond the site of Patrington station (as was) the route of the line to Withernsea has been lost to agriculture. It has not had the investment as a public right of way that the Hornsea line has had and the walker or cyclist needs to be ready to encounter muddy and uneven surfaces.

Late 19th and early 20th century O.S. maps show that the first station encountered beyond Hull’s built-up area was at the village of Marfleet, the station being sited just east of Marfleet Lane. By the 1950s the road flyover at Marfleet had been built over the rail-line. Beyond Marfleet station the line struck east-south-east towards Hedon. The photo above shows the crossing tower of St. Augustine’s church, Hedon from the Rail-line.

(to be continued)

Disused rail-lines as public rights of way 16

Above the last of a short run of views (s.p.b.s.) of/from Hall Garth Park, Hornsea, here showing a glimpse of the parish church’s east window /taken from just inside the Park’s perimeter wall/churchyard’s retaining wall near to the moated manor-house site within the Park (south-west corner).

Only a short distance from Ellerby station (s.p.b.), on the disused Hull – Hornsea rail-line public right of way, was a small station named on early O.S. maps as Burton Constable station, although it was two miles from Burton Constable Hall and much nearer to the village of Marton. Whether this means that the Constable family and their estate had a special status here I do not know, but if so it would be an interesting line of thought.

Next stop Whitedale station, a mile east of Rise Hall, and standing in an isolated location. The next station was identified on old O.S. maps as Sigglesthorne station although it was sited three miles south-east of Sigglesthorne village and much nearer to the hamlet of Great Hatfield. Sigglesthorne village was one mile west of Wassand Hall. The penultimate station to the two in Hornsea served the hamlet of Goxhill and its surrounding farmland, the line then passing through Southorpe Hill cutting. Southorpe was/is the site of a medieval deserted village just south of Hornsea Mere and in the parish of Hornsea.

Hornsea from the map evidence, had two stations although I know nothing of the one serving the southern half of the town, an area traditionally known as Hornsea Burton. The terminus building, station-master’s house, waiting room, ticket office etc., survives, now converted to houses/flats in a pleasant location and conveniently close to the sea-front for day-trippers back in the day.

To travel on this rail-line must have been rather like travelling on the London Underground today with the train slowing down for the next station as soon as it had got speed-up from the last.

(to be continued – Hull to Withernsea line).

Disused rail-lines as public rights of way 15.

Above, another view of Hall Garth Park, Hornsea (s,p,b,), this time of the north-west corner of the Park and shows an area of wetland that is left unmown as habitat. Along the far side of the wetland area a stream runs which defines the northern edge of the Park and the bottom of the adjoining period house’s gardens (s.p.b.). At the moment I am preparing an article on George Poulson’s description of Hornsea (History of Holderness, 1840) – one thing he produces evidence for is that the stream that once (medieval times) drained the Mere to the sea became blocked by storm-deposited sand and gravel, following which a new, natural, drainage channel emerged a few hundred yards to the south, this still in evidence. As the stream at the edge of Hall Garth Park clearly has eroded valley sides I am wondering if this is the remnant of that original drainage channel?

The Hull – Hornsea railway line passed through eight rural stations after Sutton (s.p.b.) and before reaching Hornsea. With this now being the quickest route along-which to walk or cycle between Sutton and Hornsea it follows that the proximity of one to another hardly gave the trains time to get speed-up. Most of these station sites were out-of-village sites which would have involved passengers and/or freight from those villages having to travel up to a mile to catch the train. This was not unusual for rural rail-lines.

After Sutton the next station was to the east of Swine village, this being a Crown estate when the railway was running and still so today ( see the M.Phil. thesis in the articles and publications section of this website). Next stop Skirlaugh, another out of village station, now with a small parking area beside the busy road leading from Ganstead to Leven. Next Ellerby station, here the shallow cutting evidencing the Holderness post-glacial undulations.

(to be continued)