Packet Boats From Thorne 1809-1860 - P. L. Scowcroft
Thorne and district Local History Association
Occasional paper No 19: 1995
The first British steam passenger vessels sailed, as every schoolboy knows, on the River Clyde, from around 1812. Only a few years after that time, operators on the River Humber followed suit, but the history books rarely mention this mainly Yorkshire enterprise. Thorne was to play a notable part in this, but the Thorne-Hull service as a steam packet operation came slightly later than the steamers operating between Hull and Gainsborough and Hull and Selby (later York). Exactly when the Hull-Gainsborough steam packet service began as a regular service is not quite clear, but, operated by a steamer called John Bull, it was certainly running by 4 August 1815 and had been for some while, maybe a matter of months. By 1818 this service was daily being operated by three vessels Albion, British Queen and Caledonia. Caledonia had done the first steam trip on the Humber between Hull and Gainsborough on 12th October 1814. The three vessels had separate owners. The Hull-Selby steam packet Humber began its sailings about that very time, as we have a press advertisement for a coach connection between the packet and Leeds which was stated to begin on 31 July 1815. Another advertisement of 11 August 1815 stated that the Humber was –
'fitted up in a most elegant and superb Manner for the convenience of both Ladies and Gentlemen and is under the management of Captain William Padley, who is a sober, steady and well experienced Man in the said Navigation and by whom every Care and Attention will be paid to his Passengers.' (1)
The Selby-Hull packet took five hours for the 55 mile journey, which cut journey times between those two places compared with the contemporary stage coaches, at any rate until the Hull & Selby Railway opened in 1834. Fares were 6/- Best Cabin, 4/- Common Cabin. An advertisement of 25 April 1816 (2) appears to indicate that it was about that time the Selby service extended to York and that it ran three-weekly. In May 1816 a vessel named the Waterloo was working this service.
And so to the Thorne-Hull steam packets. The earliest reference I have found to these was on Wednesday 14 August 1816, when the steam packet Britannia (proprietor Wm. John Titterton) was reported as sailing between Thorne and Hull, returning the same day, or the following day. A month later on 17 September 1816, it was noted in the Doncaster Gazette that the proprietors of the 'Old Thorne Packet', who were described as Darley & Co. had purchased the steam packet John Bull which we noticed earlier as being involved with the Hull-Gainsborough service. This would, it was stated, leave Thorne Quay (Waterside) at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and return from Hull on the 'odd' days, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Agents at the Thorne end were Thomas Varley of the Blue Boar and Thomas Downing at Thorne Quay itself. One John Jacklin was the Captain. The Darleys were the brewing family but were not at that time in business as brewers – that came later – but they had since the latter part of the 18th Century been known as watermen, keelmen or mariners. The Darley primarily involved with the steam packet service was probably Charles, father of the William Darley who founded the brewery. Charles was described as 'shipowner, landowner and bone merchant'. (3)
More of the steam packet operation in a moment, but it will be noticed that the term 'Old Thorne Packet' was quoted just now. This is a reminder that for seven and a half years, there had been a sailing packet between Thorne and Hull. The service began on 16 February 1809 as a weekly one, leaving Thorne on Mondays and Hull on Thursdays; but after 14 March 1809 sailings were twice weekly in each direction. The first packet was the Nelson, described by the Doncaster Gazette as 'a fine new vessel', which carried goods and passengers and was commanded by John Jacklin. In 1813 the Wellington joined the service which then became four times weekly. In addition to these two vessels, the Britannia packet ran the same route from July 1810; its owner was Robert Whitton (or Whittam) of Thorne. The Britannia came to grief on 22 December 1812, when it collided at Hull with an anchored ship and sank in deep water. The sixteen passengers and two crew survived. This was not the only accident to the Thorne sailing packets. On 14 July 1814, a Thorne-bound vessel (name unspecified) was run down by a Selby ship opposite Hessle. This time the packet did not sink, but the shock of the collision jerked a passenger and a boy from the packet's crew into the water; the passenger, sadly, drowned. The Selby vessel was considered to be responsible for the accident. Packet sailings varied with the tide and even in steam days this tended also to be the case although departures from Thorne at least were stated to be at a fixed time. The depth of the water in the Dutch River was always to be a limiting factor.
To be viable, when they began in 1816, the steam packets needed to tap a wider market than just Thorne – then having a population of around 3,500 – and the immediately surrounding district. Doncaster, being a focus of stage coach services in all directions, was the obvious jumping-off point for a road feeder to the steamers and, sure enough, in the Doncaster Gazette of 11 October 1816 we read that Darley & Co. had agreed with Messrs. W Iredale & Co. to run a coach from the Ram Inn, in High Street, Doncaster (on the site of the present Danum Hotel) to Thorne Waterside and back in connection with the John Bull three times weekly. Iredale’s coach did
not last long, it seems, because another coach owned by Thomas Barley & Co. ran from 7 April 1818 from the Black Swan, Doncaster to Thorne and back thrice weekly 'for want of a regular conveyance to and from Doncaster' (4) The John Bull set sail from Thorne on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and returned from Hull on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, as we have said, but occasionally at this time it also ran on Sundays to Hull and returned the same day – a kind of excursion trip, maybe, though there is no suggestion that the fares were lower than on weekdays. The 'cheap excursion' was, by and large, a creation of the railway age. To do the return trip in a day, the steamer had to sail from Thorne Quay at around 6.15am, rather than 8.30 or 9.00am, and the connecting coaches had to leave Doncaster at 4.45am. Despite this early start, on one occasion in 1819 no fewer than forty Doncaster passengers availed themselves of this facility – three coach loads by my calculation.
The John Bull sailed to Hull from Thorne Quay, or Waterside, via the Dutch River and Goole, then just beginning its development as a port, and into the River Humber. But Hull could be reached by another route, from Thorne Lock, or thereabouts along the Stainforth & Keadby Canal which had opened in 1802 (5) to Keadby where a connection could be made with the steamers from Gainsborough. This route may have been used as early as June 1817; certainly in 1818 a notice concerning the Albion steam packet plying between Hull and Gainsborough referred to the possibility of a connecting service 'by the Keadby Canal for Thorne and Doncaster'. In August of that same year a half share in the Speedwell packet boat (owner and master, William Barker), stated to be sailing between Thorne and Keadby and conveying passengers to and from the Albion and British Queen (then working the Hull – Gainsborough service) was put up for sale. Whether the Speedwell was a steamboat, a sailing vessel or horse-drawn is not clear; probably the latter. When the John Bull was undergoing repairs for some days in April and May 1819, the John Bull coach did not go to Thorne Quay but connected with the Speedwell, presumably somewhere along the canal side at Thorne. This is by no means the last we shall hear of packet services on the Stainforth & Keadby.
The John Bull was joined in service by the Rockingham on 15 May 1820, thus ensuring a daily service (excepting Sundays, apart from some special excursion-type days). Shortly afterwards, in December 1820, the connecting coach was extended to Sheffield. These two developments put the coach/steam packet operation into direct competition with the long-established Doncaster – Hull Rodney stage coach, part-operated by the Doncaster coach magnate Richard Wood. In January 1821 the Rodney's fares were reduced, but seemingly to little avail, as in June that year Wood put on a new coach called the Rockingham which connected with the steam packets at Thorne Quay. This coach was taken out of service after two months when Wood cut into the existing John Bull service, whose proprietors in 1822 were stated to be Thomas Ashmore, John Lambert and William Russell of Sheffield, Richard Wood and James Wilson of Doncaster, and William Darley & Co. of Thorne, still the packet proprietors. For his part, Wood discontinued the Rodney road service between Doncaster and Hull in April 1823, thus frankly admitting that the success of the steam packets had driven it off the road. Wood's stake in the Thorne Waterside feeder helped to compensate him, of course.
Within a year however, Wood and his partners faced a further challenge in the Doncaster – Thorne corridor. On 16th April 1824 a new Rockingham coach was advertised to run daily from Doncaster to Waterside from May 3rd 1824 to connect with the Hull steam packet. This coach was jointly run by Thomas Vause, landlord of the White Hart Inn in Thorne Market Place, then Thorne's leading coaching inn, and George Dunhill, landlord of the Angel Inn, Frenchgate, Doncaster. The Wood faction countered by putting on an extra light coach, the Independent from Sheffield to Waterside, by extending the John Bull coach to Barnsley, perhaps to try to tap extra traffic and reducing Doncaster – Waterside fares on the John Bull coach to 3/- inside, 2/- outside. Wood also called on his repertoire of dirty tricks. Vause and Dunhill's coach was being built by the coach-builders Anderton's of Frenchgate, Doncaster; this was, so they alleged in correspondence to the Doncaster Gazette, being made available to them on a 'mileage basis' (a form of hiring). This had not been delivered to them by 7 May, four days after the scheduled start, so they said, because of pressure from Wood who had allegedly threatened to cancel his existing hire arrangements with Anderton's if the latter extended similar facilities to the newcomers. Wood denied the allegation – but then he would, wouldn't he? Anderton contented himself with saying that the supposed mileage contract had not been signed by Vause and Dunhill and he had assumed they were buying the coach outright. Wood's competitors eventually received their coach and must then have reduced their charges also, because Wood, when advertising in July a specially early coach/packet service to Hull to see a balloon ascent, expressed gratitude to his patrons for travelling with him when they might have 'travelled cheaper with the opposition'.
The battle between the rival coach operators lasted through 1825 and for most of 1826. Wood's advertisements of this period pointed to various supposed advantages; in August 1825 to the speed of the John Bull coach, now Sheffield to Waterside as before; in November 1825 to the fact that he operated a four-horse coach whereas the opposition had only a pair-horse coach; and, also in November 1825, that he was carrying nearly all the 'respectable' passengers between Sheffield and Hull. Not until November 1826 however, was the John Bull stated to be the sole coach on the road between Sheffield / Doncaster and Waterside, but at the end of October Wood had put up the Sheffield-Thorne fares to 9/- and 5/6 because (he said) of the 'exceeding high price of Hay and Provender', (8) but really because his re-established monopoly enabled him to push his fares to the limit the market would allow. Incidentally Wood bore Dunhill no lasting grudge as we hear of the two being partners in a Doncaster-Stamford coach service in 1827.
This 'coach war' probably affected the steam packets themselves very little. When one of the packets was under repair and the service was perforce thrice weekly rather than daily, Wood ran his coaches to Boothferry to connect with the York-Hull packets on the other days in the week. He could never bear to lose custom.
The next transport war affecting traffic between Sheffield, Doncaster and Hull did, however, concern the Thorne packets. In June 1827 the Paul Pry coach was advertised to run, initially from Doncaster's (Old) Angel Inn, and later (September) from Sheffield to West Butterwick on the River Trent where it connected with the Gainsborough - Hull steam packets. The advertisement stressed the improved speed of this combined service and pointed also to the delays on the route via Thorne and Goole and to the 'disagreeable' passage in a confined boat, a reference no doubt to the larger vessels then operating on the Trent.
The appearance of the Paul Pry brought a reaction from the John Bull party. Packet fares between Thorne and Hull came down on 13 July 1827 to 3/- best cabin and 1/6 fore cabin. Reference was made to the 'flagrant' advertising of the owners of the Paul Pry (who were William Wright of Sheffield and, once again, George Dunhill), to the safety of the running of the John Bull coach and to the 'comfort, cleanliness, civility and moderate charges' of the Thorne packets, which were admitted to be smaller than those of their rivals (9). Unfortunately the West Butterwick to Hull fares came down the following week to 1/6 and 1/-, undercutting the Thorne company substantially.
By 1828 the battle was joined both on speed and comfort. In May of that year the Thorne route did the Sheffield – Hull journey in seven hours; but the Paul Pry faction boasted on 17 July 1828 that they did it in 6 and a half hours. A new packet boat was built by the Thorne company (the name was unspecified in the press reports, but it was probably the Don) and the other packet, (possibly John Bull possibly Rockingham) was much improved. Neither side won the war outright, it seems, but neither lost it either, because Wood advertised an extra coach, supplementary to the John Bull inn August 1828. At this period the steamships left Waterside for Hull at 8.30am, so this necessitated Wood's coaches leaving Doncaster at 6.30am, although from time to time this was altered to 7am or 7.30. Competition between the Thorne and West Butterwick routes was still ongoing in 1834 when the John Bull camp reduced its Doncaster – Hull fares to 4/- inside and best cabin and 2/6 outside and forecabin. The machinations of their rivals appears to have caused the John Bull coach to make alternative stopping arrangements both in Sheffield and in Thorne (Thorne town, that is). A Thorne man, Thomas Barley, was involved, along with Thomas Percival of Sheffield and George Dunhill and John Keys, both of Doncaster, with the Sheffield – West Butterwick coach, which presumably ran through Thorne, now called the Red Rover. The John Bull was not to be driven off the road however, even though in 1836 further competition to it and indeed their associated packets emerged in the shape of a daily coach (called the Water Witch) from Sheffield and Doncaster (the White Bear Inn in Hallgate) to New Bridge where it met the 'superior and swift sailing packets Eclipse and Magnet' for Goole and Hull; additionally the same operators' York coaches connected at Whitley Bridge on the Aire and Calder Navigation with steam packets for Hull, through bookings being available. Later, these operators' York coaches connected at Selby with trains for Hull when the Hull and Selby Railway opened in 1840. There was even an attempt in July 1837 to revive a Doncaster – Hull mail coach going all the way by road, to do away with the 'trouble of trans-shipping luggage and the Annoyance caused by a detention of several hours on the water which cannot be avoided at certain changes of the Tide'. (10) We should not be surprised to hear that this coach was owned by our old friend George Dunhill and ran from the New Angel Inn in Frenchgate. Nothing further is heard about this, but it is unlikely to have been competitive in either time or cost, which was given as 8/-. This fare was reduced by 50% in 1840, obviously due to railway competition (the Hull and Selby mentioned before).
Despite all these alternatives, there was clearly enough business and available capital for the Thorne Packet Co. to launch a new John Bull steamer, built by Richard Pearson & Co. at Thorne Quay, on 12 September 1836. There was a set back on 7 June 1837 when the boiler of the Hull – Gainsborough packet Union exploded at Hull, killing many, including one passenger and one crew member of the Thorne Packet Don, which had the ill fortune to be within range. The Union's engineer was prosecuted for manslaughter. On 17 October 1839 the John Bull coach overturned at Thorne, killing one passenger and injuring six. The inquest's verdict was 'Accidental Death' and a deodand (12) of £5 was placed on the coach and horses.
From around 1840 new developments appeared in the packet company's arrangements. During the summer, excursions were run to Spurn Head (calling at Hull in each direction) at return fares of 3/- and 2/-. Coach feeders ran from Doncaster at the early hour of 5am or even 4.45am. In 1840, there were three such excursions, in 1843 at least four. In 1842 the company advertised Full Boat Days, whereby – as was the case with excursions – the same packet boat returned the same day. These working left Thorne at 6am. They were not quite excursions as they were specifically aimed at both business and pleasure customers. Another steamer left at the normal time of 9am on the same day. During 1842 Full Boat Days were once a fortnight, usually on Tuesdays, during the spring and summer, from about April onwards. The early start enabled passengers, whether travelling for business or pleasure to stay in Hull 5 and a half hours before returning. In 1843 inclusive return coach and packet fares of 5/- and 6/- were quoted between Doncaster and Hull. At this time the steamers operating the Thorne – Hull service appear to have been the John Bull (the second John Bull, that is) and the Don. Wood's connecting coach services appear to have been variously named John Bull and Red Rover. There was by no means always just one coach on these daily workings – anything up to five per day was common.
Full Boat Days and excursions to Spurn Point continued throughout the 1840s and were thus clearly popular. We may reasonably deduce that this period was quite a prosperous one for the packet company and even for Wood's connecting coaches, despite the received wisdom among transport historians being that most, if not all, stage coaches were driven off the road by the railways by 1840. This sweeping statement may have been true of some areas and some operators but not of a shrewd man like Wood. In any case Doncaster had no railway until 1848 and Thorne had none until 1855-56. There were railways within easy reach of Doncaster, but Wood kept in business by running feeders to them. Little is heard of the alternative West Butterwick route at this time, but in 1849 two developments emerged.
In August a coach called the Columbine, operated by Mr. W Daykin, a Thorne innkeeper, was advertised to leave the White Bear, Doncaster for Thorne Bridge, where a 'swift packet' (also called Columbine, I think; probably not a steam packet, but maybe horse-drawn) left for Keadby by the canal route where connection was made with the Gainsborough steam packets. Inclusive Doncaster – Hull fares were quoted from 2/6 outside and common cabin to 4/- inside and best cabin: quite competitive. Then in December with the competition of a branch from Swinton, the South Yorkshire Railway (or rather the Midland Railway on its behalf) began operating trains between Sheffield and Doncaster. This brought about a change in the running of Wood's Red Rover coach. This did not now run from Sheffield but instead met the first train from Sheffield when it arrived at Doncaster station at 7.15am. People could now travel between Sheffield and Hull (and indeed beyond, like for example Bridlington in summer) by an integrated service of rail, road and water, with guaranteed connections between each: something which had been comparatively rare in this country, although it is common even today, in, for example Switzerland.
This state of affairs obtained until 27 October 1852 when the proprietors of the Thorne Steam Packet Company announced that 'in consequence of a Dissolution of the Company being about to take place' (13) the packets would cease running from Thorne Quay to Hull. The advertisements pointed out that the Columbine ran every morning, (except of course Sundays) from Thorne Canal Bridge for Keadby and the Gainsborough steamers. A coach linked Doncaster to the Columbine, but as that vessel left Thorne at 8am or 7.45 no connection with the train from Sheffield was possible.
It seemed that the great days of the Waterside packets were over. Had rail competition proved too much; were water levels at Thorne Quay and in the Dutch River creating problems; or was the packet company faced with replacing the steamers and felt unable to afford the capital investment? We do not know for sure; interestingly, the advertisements suggest that the packet company owned, or part owned, the Columbine. The John Bull and Don were put up for auction by Mr. Stamp of 55 Whitefriargate in Hull on 21 December 1852. The John Bull was however bought by the so-called John Bull Packet Co. and, skippered by Captain Crapper, surely of the same Thorne family as the inventor of the water closet, conveyed goods and passengers from Thorne Quay to Hull from 10 January 1853, thrice weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. By 31 January the John Bull coach was back in business and through it the rail link with Sheffield was restored. By July 1853 the Don steamer, was back on the Thorne – Hull service. Its owner however was apparently different, being John Whaley, who had a shipyard at Thorne Quay and was a local man. One presumes a daily service to Hull was restored. But by October 1855 only the Don was left on the service and it survived only until 1 November 1856, a few months after South Yorkshire Railway passenger trains had started running between Doncaster and Thorne.
This was still not the end of packet services between Thorne and Hull. An 'aquabus or packet' commanded by Captain Jacklin (maybe the son of the Captain Jacklin back in the 1810s) was advertised to run to Keadby to link with the Gainsborough steam packets, through bookings to Hull being available. Sailings connected with the S.Y,R's passenger trains when they ran to Thorne from July 1856. This aquabus was apparently not a steamer, but by mid-November 1856 it was replaced in normal service (though it was dragged out for some subsequent excursions) by the iron screw steamer Speedwell – not, presumably, the Speedwell sailing the same stretch of water in 1819 – purchased second-hand by the South Yorkshire Railway. Its engines developed twenty horsepower and its measurements were 70ft by 10ft by 3ft. Over 100 passengers could be accommodated 'in all weathers', no doubt in considerable discomfort. It had been renovated in the autumn by the yard of Samuel Atkinson, described as the Don Navigation Company's carpenter (14), which was near Thorne Lock. Speedwell, whose captain was Samuel Forster, ran until the S.Y.R was extended to Keadby in September 1859 and sometimes worked excursions (of Sunday schoolchildren, workhouse children or fishermen) advertised to Keadby and, by other vessels, beyond. The Gainsborough – Hull steamers continued to prosper until well into the 1870s if not later, and were now fed at Keadby directly from the railway.
We now return to the late 1850s. William Daykin, landlord of the Red Bear, Thorne, was still involved with the packet business. From 9 March 1857 his 'bus' (15), the Rapid left his inn at 8am (soon it ran at 7.45 from the Railway Station, presumably at Thorne Lock) for New Bridge where it connected with an aquabus – I think this could have been Captain Jacklin's, which had by then been replaced on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. By July, Daykin was carrying 60 passengers a day. The aquabus in turn linked at Goole with the Empress steamboat on the York – Hull service. That one could leave Thorne at 8.00am and arrive in Hull by 11.15am suggests smart work at the connection points. From October 1857 Daykin's bus ran from the White Bear in Doncaster; Daykin quoted competitive Doncaster – Hull fares of 2/6 and 3/6, but during the winter season of 1857-8, his bus ran only from Thorne. However the Doncaster link was restored for the summer of 1858, although it made no connection with the trains from Sheffield. Such a connection was proposed but there is no indication that it was ever achieved and in September 1858 Daykin announced that he was selling his business. Assets comprised 'six horses, three omnibuses and 14 tons of prime Highland Hay stacked in the field where it grew at Doncaster'. (16) These were doubtless disposed of that winter (1858-9) though I have not traced the transaction. The aquabus still sailed to Goole (though whether from Thorne or New Bridge is not clear), because I have discovered a change of its Master from Captain Crapper to Captain Coulman: one great Thorne name to another. For how long it continued to do so I do not know for certain – probably not for long, and anyway the great days of water travel between Thorne and Hull were over by 1860. As we have seen, for many years afterwards the Gainsborough packets flourished (17) and for several years during the early 1860s the South Yorkshire Railway advertised excursions from Sheffield, Barnsley, Conisbrough, Doncaster and Thorne to Keadby and thence by water to Hull and sometimes beyond. For over half a century from 1815, the Humber steamboats were an important transport feature and Thorne played a major part in their operations. That it did so for so long is remarkable, as the packets on the Trent and the Ouse had considerable advantages when one considers the limitations of the Dutch River. Credit must be given to the enterprise and business sense of the packet company proprietors and the coach operators feeding them especially Richard Wood.
How many of the boats used in the Thorne – Hull packet services were actually built in Thorne? Not as many as one would think, considering Thorne's prestige as a shipbuilding centre from the 18th Century onwards. Thorne has had many shipbuilding yards over the centuries, both at Waterside and, after 1802, on the canal frontage. The earliest known one is Thomas Steemson who had gone bankrupt at Fishlake in about 1788 (I have traced notices of meetings of his creditors in 1789 and, on several occasions in 1792), but he started up again at Waterside during the 1790s where his yard built seagoing and coastal craft of up to 400 tons, the largest that could be manoeuvred through the bridges of the Dutch River, which was Thorne’s only outlet to the Humber and then, in 1804, a 24 gun warship called the Combatant for the Royal Navy. At the same time Joseph Atkinson was also active at Waterside as his shipyard was offered for sale in 1799 (18).
Neither of these firms built steam vessels as Steemson, or maybe his creditors, sold out to Gilderdale, Pearson & Co. probably in 1807, (though this firm was in business as 'carriers between Hull and London' by 1803), but it was to be a different matter with Pearson. They were to be among the first on the Don to build steamers, though not quite the first as Lord Milton was launched at Doncaster on 6th February 1817. Lord Milton was intended for the Doncaster – Hull (freight) run. The Pearson family were involved in the carriage of goods by water as well as in shipbuilding and they inherited a tradition of carriage by water in Thorne which extended not merely to points higher up the Don but, in the opposite direction, to Hull and even direct to London. At first Pearson's built larger sailing craft, like the 400 ton Fife for the West Indian trade (1811) and the Alexander of 310 tons (1814) before turning their attentions to building steam packets. They did not build the John Bull, which was possibly built at Gainsborough, nor the Caledonia, which was built in Scotland (Caledonia any way appears to have operated up the Ouse to Selby and York or up the Trent to Gainsborough), but the Rockingham which entered service in the spring of 1820, is reputed to have been built at Thorne Quay, although I have not been able to find any contemporary evidence of this.
Definitely built in Pearson's yard were the paddle steamer Kingston (121 tons, 60hp, 105ft x 20ft x 10ft: launched 7 March 1821) and Yorkshireman (164 tons, two 40hp engines: launched 26 March 1822) which worked, not the Thorne – Hull service, but a Hull – London passenger service
taking between 24 and 36 hours. The operation of the London terminal at Stanton's Wharf was in the hands of Robert Pearson, presumably a brother of Richard. During the 1830s, the peak period, really, the operators of this service were sometimes styled as Brownlow, Pearson and Co., sometimes as Hull Steam Packet Co. At the time there was competition on the Hull – London run. Yorkshireman stayed in service until 1840 at least. These vessels were followed from Pearson's yard by Prince Frederick (154 tons, 87hp: launched 27 March 1823), which replaced Kingston on the London run, Kingston then establishing a Hull – Antwerp service (Prince Frederick was sunk off Yarmouth in November 1835), by Monarch (176 tons 140hp, 155ft long after rebuilding in 1834: launched 19 March 1830) which inaugurated a Hull – Hamburg service, and by Transit (176 tons, 160hp, 137ft by 21ft by 15ft: launched 23 February 1831), also intended for the Hamburg service and described as 'the largest and last steamship built' at Thorne and was supposedly in 1831 the second largest packet boat to have been built in Britain. It was not however the largest, if tonnage is the criterion, as Monarch was slightly heavier, nor was it the last for as we have seen, the second John Bull was built in Pearson's yard and launched in September 1836 – the only definitely Thorne-built vessel for the Thorne – Hull packet service, although Rockingham and the Don may have been Thorne-built. I have not discovered when Pearson went out of business, (there was a Hull shipbuilding firm called Humphreys & Pearson active in 1870), but ships continued to be built at Thorne Waterside up to around 1890, though not steamers as far as I am aware. Launchings at Thorne in the 1820s were regularly attended, according to contemporary reports, by 3-4000 people, roughly the total population of Thorne at that time, so obviously people came from Hull and elsewhere for these occasions.
On the canal frontage, notable shipbuilding names were James Holland Healam, whose yard was prospering in the 1870s and Richard Dunston, operational from 1858, at first building wooden barges and other small vessels up to 80 tons, not more than two or three per year. Thomas Dunston, his son, took over when Richard died in 1902 and his son, also Richard, from 1910 on Thomas' death. The younger Richard gradually turned over the yard to building iron and steel vessels, in much greater numbers than before: tugs for the Thames, the Admiralty, the LNER and many other customers, small tankers, coasters, hopper barges and other lighters, trawlers, naval seaward defence vessels, fleet tenders and much else. Dunston's vessels were seen all over the world before the business went into liquidation in 1987. And there is Staniland's still existing, established for over a century, near Thorne Lock, of which more in a moment. Neither Dunston's, nor Stanilands, still less Healam, were associated, so far as I can prove, with any of the packet services we have mentioned. It is possible that Speedwell, Columbine and Captain Crapper's aquabus (if different from Columbine) were built on Thorne's canal frontage, but we cannot be certain.
Two Thorne shipyards are however worth mentioning in the packet connection. On 25 April 1857 a clipper brig, the Ann Staniland, larger, at 350 tons, than any previously built at Thorne, was launched from the shipyard of Whaley & Son, and was the property of William Staniland of Selby and John Whaley of Thorne Quay. Whaley, it will be recalled, operated the steam packet Don between Thorne Quay and Hull between 1853 and 1856. I do not know whether Whaley, who died in 1868, built any steam vessels, but he part-maintained a London freight service after the Pearsons discontinued theirs in 1851. The name Staniland, Whaley's partner, is suggestive although if there is a connection with the present day Stanilands it is not precisely clear when the transfer from Thorne Quay to the canal frontage took place. John Staniland, shipbuilder, was still at Waterside according to a Directory of 1867, but in another of 1877, he is stated to be 'near the lock'. Samuel Atkinson's yard on the canal frontage was active in the 1850s and 1860s, though Atkinson does not appear in the 1867 Directory. It built, in 1859, a sloop Emma for the wealthy Thorne resident, the civil engineer Makin Durham (it was named after Durham's married daughter) and sundry keels of approximately 100 tons for the River Don trade. (19) As we have seen, Atkinson was Carpenter to the Don Navigation and his yard had the task of refurbishing the screw steamer Speedwell which he had purchased second-hand for the South Yorkshire Railway to run the shuttle service along the Stainforth and Keadby canal between the SYR’s railway station at Thorne lock (then a terminus) and Keadby.
So there we have it: Thorne the packet terminal and Thorne the shipbuilding centre are two important, and related features of the town's heritage. On both aspects there is, I am sure, more to be discovered and I hope this 'pilot study' has shown the way forward.
,  Doncaster Gazette
 See Malcolm Hobson, The Darley Family and Thorne Brewery (Thorne Local History Society Occasional Paper No. 17, 1994) p 3. There was a bone-mill at Waterside as late as 1867.
 Doncaster Gazette, (my emphasis)
 I cannot resist quoting an advertisement in the Doncaster Gazette of November 5 1808, for a Lockkeeper, Surveyor of Works and Collector of Tolls for the Stainforth and Keadby: 'None need apply but such as can be well recommended for Ability, Honesty and Sobriety'.
, , , ,  Doncaster Gazette
 The (Old) Angel was demolished in November and December 1846 to allow the Guiildhall to be built.
 A deodand was a forfeit (to the Crown) payable by a chattel which had caused an accidental death.
 Doncaster Gazette
 The Don Navigation and the SYR were at this stage worked by the same company.
 The term 'bus' was now becoming increasingly used to describe a short-haul coach.
 Doncaster Gazette
 For example, a body found floating in the Humber at Ferriby in September 1874 was later proved to be that of a passenger lost from the Hull – Gainsborough
steamer Atlanta. An excursion (not a publicly advertised one, apparently) from Thorne to Alkborough on 19 August 1867 made use of the Gainsborough United Steam Packet Company's steamers between Keadby and Burton Stather and back. Several other excursions by that Company were reported in the Doncaster Gazette in 1870, 1871 and at Easter 1874. Gainsborough flourished as a port at that period, judging by the port dues collected which rose each year between 1867 and 1871.
Published by Thorne Local History Society
Supported by Thorne Moorends Regeneration Partnership 2014
© Thorne Moorends Regeneration Partnership. All Rights Reserved.