The Hessle - Barton Ferry

Ferry across the Humber – The Hessle - Barton Ferry

There has been a ferry across the river Humber to Barton on Humber from Hessle since before the Domesday Survey and possibly since Roman times. The ferry was also mentioned in the 'Chronicles of Meaux Abbey, and Edward I is recorded as having used the ferry in 1300, taking two days for his party to cross the river. By 1800 the ferry had been established for several centuries, with boats from the Haven, where there was also an inn and warehousing facilities. The ferry catered for passengers, animals and goods. Crossing the Humber was not always a pleasant experience: it could take up to four hours on a stormy day when the meagre shelter had to be shared with the animals on board. Prices levied on the ferry depended upon where you lived. Local people from Hessle, Barton, Hull or close by villages paid 2d (1p) whilst strangers paid 4d (2p); carriages cost 5 shillings (25p) for local gentlefolk or 10 shillings (50p) for strangers. The ferry was dependent upon the state of the tides for the timing of its sailings.

The Spicer family had control of the ferry for many years either side of the turn of the century. John Spicer, a Hessle farmer, land owner, coal dealer and warehouse owner advertised the ferry to let in 1803 7. However, Spicer was still in control of the ferry in 1832 when he was criticised by John Acland of Hull for monopolising the service as well as the roads around Hessle Haven.

During the eighteenth century and, increasingly, in the nineteenth the Hessle ferry faced competition from the ferries that operated into Hull, from Barton, Goxhill and New Holland. The Hull Advertiser (April 1836) carried advertisements for the Barton Ferry Company detailing sailings from Hull and Hessle by steam packet (the Laurel and the Ann Scarborough). Travelling by steam packet was much quicker than by a ferry which depended upon the wind for its power and the state of the tide for case of crossing; consequently the journey time was reduced to half an hour on Barton to Hessle crossings.

Ultimately only the New Holland Ferry, from Hull, remained in service but as other ferries gave way the Hessle - Barton ferry held out and put up a strong resistance. The coming of the railway to Hessle in 1840 marked a new chapter in the life of the ferry. By 1845 the Hull and Selby Railway Company had taken control of the ferry, including the steam packet, the Ann Scarborough, and timed sailings to coincide with the arrival of trains at Hessle. To facilitate this the ferry boarding point was moved a few hundred yards along the foreshore and a jetty was built. This meant that sailings were no longer dependent upon the tides. As a consequence of this the length of the crossing was reduced from a mile and a half to a mile and a quarter. Passengers were conveyed from the station to the ferry by means of a carriage along a specially constructed road.

By the 1860's the ferry was beginning to struggle in the face of competition from the Hull - New Holland ferry, which had established a superior fleet of boats. The ferry was now used mainly by local people conducting business in Hessle. Barton or the local villages, or to visit relatives across the river. It was still operating in 1879 but not in 1883 when Christopher Sykes, M P, made a speech in Parliament lamenting its demise. Ferry boats probably operated into the 1890s serving to ferry local people and their livestock across the river.

There were also ferries to serve Barrow on Humber and South Ferriby.