The Hull and Barnsley

by Inspector Eugene Oliver (Hull)


Note: In the following article the writer refers to the Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company which title changed on July 1, 1905 to Hull & Barnsley Railway Company. It will be referred to as the H&B, and the North Eastern Railway Company will be referred to as the N.E.R.

The late 1870’s found the City and County Borough of Kingston upon Hull in the grip of a monopoly so far as the carriage of freight by rail and sea into and out of the port was concerned. Trade and commerce, it was thought, was being stifled. George Hudson with his North Eastern Railway operated the sole railway into the city and the Hull Docks Company operated the port’s docks. Schemes in 1845 and 1862 to break the monopoly by building other railway routes to the city and port had come to nought, and local merchants anxious to increase trade, pressed for alternatives to the monopoly. The N.E.R. Company they accused of fostering Hartlepool’s imports of timber and exports o f coal to Hull’s detriment, and the Hull Docks Company of being unwilling to modernise their somewhat antiquated docks. At a meeting of July 14, 1879, Lt. Col. Gerard Smith, M.P. outlined the need for a new railway and dock. The theme could be summed up one word MONOPOLY. The N.E.R. was paramount in Hull, although its main interest was elsewhere, hence the “Monopoly Waltz” :

? Hey diddle diddle,
the fiend and the fiddle,
and over the Monopoly he vaults.
Now what shall I play
to the people all day
I’ll play the Monopoly Waltz.
He began with his prancing
and set them all dancing
Directors of Railways and Docks.
Oh isn’t it jolly
to dance the Monopoly Waltz ?

When Lt. Col. Smith mooted a scheme for a new railway into the city with a new dock as a railhead for the West Riding to export coal and import raw materials, the Hull Corporation were readily agreeable to assist with finance and a site. At a meeting held on enemy territory, the N.E.R. Royal Station Hotel, the Hull and Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company was born. This was the last considerable railway project of a new company in this country and the largest scheme to be brought before Parliament since the Great Northern Bill of 1845. The new deep water dock was to be built on the foreshore of the Humber, east of the existing Hull Docks Company’s docks. It was the combination of the 1845 and 1862 schemes and, in its enthusiasm, the Hull Corporation undertook to sell 126 acres of land and subscribe £100,000 of capital to the Company.

?  Kick your shoes off and dance in your socks,
So they willop’d and wallop’d

and polka’d and gallop’d
and chuckled and laughed in the revel
Till King Bill on his horse

said to old Wilberforce
He is driving us all to the Devil.
Oh, Hey diddle diddle
The fiend and the fiddle
Colonel Smith has got hold of his tail,
now give a long pull

all you people of Hull
and we’ll make old Monopoly quail.
So they pulled him right down
and battered his crown
and gave him some senna and salts
and clipped off his wings
and his old fiddle strings
and so ended the Monopoly Waltz ?

(The William of Orange Equestrian statue and the William Wilberforce monument are historic Hull possessions. The last mentioned person was a son of Hull and his house still stands in the High Street, a museum to past slavery which he helped to abolish.)

P l a n s were deposited before Parliament in January, 1880, the committee stage reached by June, and the Royal Assent given in August.

? Hull’s only line has got a blow
Monopoly will no more crow,
The N.E.R. were always near,
But now they’ll have to sup small beer.
The N.E.R. through the window goes
The Bore! The Bore!
Whilst commerce enters by
The Door! The Door!
The Bill was clothed with stubborn fact
In Rayment strong it nothing lacked
Lawks a Massey how he shouts now
Gerard’s come marching home. ?

(Alderman William Rayment, Ships Chandler was Honorary Secretary, Massey an opposing Railway director.)

Mr. Tennant, General Manager of the N.E.R., had given evidence before Parliament in opposition to the Bill, saying the new Company would be unable to pay adequate dividends on its large capital-originally authorised at £3,000,000 share capital and borrowings of £1,000,000. Alexandra Dock was opened on the July 16, 1885 and the railway opened for goods traffic four days later. By this time the authorised capital had been increased to £6,000,000 and borrowings to £3,500,000. Mr. Tennant had done his sums well, for, after five months trading, net revenue was £6,710— £50,000 short of what was required to pay debenture interest alone. The N.E.R. had reduced rates for the carriage of coal and the Hull Docks Company joined in to deprive the new project of traffic.

The following years were difficult but the new railway and dock survived. In 1891, N.E.R. and the Hull Dock Company prepared a scheme for a larger dock to be built to the east of the H. & B. to be called the Alexandra Dock, but the Hull Corporation opposed the Bill and it was defeated. Next, in 1893, the N.E.R. sought amalgamation with the H. & B. but Hull Corporation successfully opposed this too. Thwarted in this, the N.E.R. and the Hull Docks Company amalgamated but there were to be safeguards in the Bill for the protection of the H. & B. and the Hull Corporation should a new dock be built. Although the Hull Corporation still opposed the building of a new Dock to the east of the H. & B. Alexandra Dock a Bill for construction of a new Joint Dock venture was successful and the Hull Joint Dock (N.E.R. & H. & B.)—King George Dock—was opened by King George V on June 26, 1914.

T h e fortunes of the Hull Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company improved and in July, 1905, the name was changed to Hull & Barnsley Railway Company. The main station was Cannon Street, some few hundred yards short of the Railway’s Headquarters at Charlotte Street, Hull. The principal goods depot was at Neptune Street, the carriage and wagon works at Dairycoates, engine sheds and works at Springhead. The line was built on an embankment and thus caused no embarrassment to the city in the shape of level crossings as did the N.E.R. line. Today this line encircles the city and forms the main goods line linking the Eastern Docks and Saltend to the main line at Dairycoates. The Georgian style Headquarters were to become the Divisional Headquarters of the L.N.E.R. at Hull until 1962.

April Fools day 1922 saw the N.E.R. absorb the railway and dock which were created to break its monopoly on the trade and commerce of the Port of Hull. The Corporation vigorously opposed the move without success. Perhaps it was inevitable in view of the proposed amalgamation of railways into four main groups. A railway of great distinction in its costly construction of fine stations, many tunnels, cuttings and embankments and Ouse river bridge; born of an attempt to break the monopoly of the N.E.R. on the trade and commerce of the Port of Hull, it survived for 37 years without fulfilling the hopes of its sponsors.

There is little doubt that but for the H. & B. venture, Hull would have languished. Lt. Col. Gerard Smith’s introduction of the H. & B., prompted the N.E.R. and the Hull Docks Company into action and the new Alexandra Dock created the incentive for the building of the King George Dock. This put the City and port into third place of the U.K’s ports, a position it has since lost. The cost per mile of construction was £58,911. The 53 mile Hull to Cudworth occupied a journey time of 110 minutes. The line was of sterling service during the last war when, 24 hours a day, seven days per week, the line was in constant use hauling much needed coal from the pitheads to awaiting shipping. August 1, 1955 saw the closure of passenger services and the withdrawal of through mineral trains came three years later. A pick-up service remained—Hull to Little Weighton until the total closure of the line in July, 1964.

The last criminal case of importance affecting the line was one of malicious damage to track installations and signalling equipment, which resulted in the near death of one Police officer, Police Constable Brown was an Inspector by the time the North-Eastern Railway took over the Hull and Barnsley in 1922. After 10 days and nights of intense Police activity by uniform, plain clothes, C.I.D. and Police dog handlers, Victor Alfred Thompson was finally chased across country and caught for these offences. A mentally disturbed person, he appeared at Quarter Sessions and received six months sentence. A result highly commended by Mr. Beynon the then Chief of Police.

The following poem was written in tribute to the H. & B. by an admirer whose Easter treat was a five mile ride on that railway.


“Parfum du Passe”
I write now of the H. & B.,
A line which meant so much to me;
Whose locomotives clean and neat,
Ran by my home in Ella Street.
For me—a way of life sublime,
I used its trains to tell the time;
And this—’twas possible to do,
With Hull & Barnsley teak and blue.
The early morning “Cudworth Fast”,
Looked splendid as she hurried past;
Her locomotive—Yorkshire built,
My heart with admiration filled.
When quite a boy—each Eastertide,
My parents gave us all a ride,
A trip by rail, for me “best seller”.
From Hull to Willerby and Kirk Ella.
For Fitzroy Street, our course set “fair”,
To Hull & Barnsley Station there;
On high level platform to remain
awaiting joyously — our train.
Soon around the curve from Cannon Street,
She gently steamed—superb, elite,

Whilst we—keyed up, on platform stood,
And everything around seemed good.

Out o’er the bridge on Beverley Road,
Past Ella Street—and our abode;

To Springhead, where came into view,
The engine sheds—vast sidings too.
Then up the gradient—steady pull,
Some five miles steaming time from Hull;
With exhaust at a slower trend

‘Twas Willerby Station, “Journey’s End”.


In conclusion, the old H. & B’s spirit lingers on.
The Five Arches Viaduct at Eppleworth, to the west of Willerby, some 50 ft. high and 200 ft. in length should have been demolished a decade ago, but rumour has it there are mines, placed in its structure, relics of the last war intended to destroy it had invasion come. Rail engineers, estate officers and the local Police are all loth to give the “go ahead” and, who knows, the first swing of the ball and chain may cause an avalanche of damage; but I seriously doubt it.

During the war the Royal Engineers had huge howitzers on rail bogies in a nearby cutting at Kirkella to deal a scorched earth policy had invasion come. I met them on site, planning the destruction of docks and railway and was I scared? It seems a long time ago now. Perhaps Lt. Col. Gerard Smith M.P. still dances the monopoly waltz and spreads a rumour here and there.


Extract from the BTP Journal 106 (1974)
Photo and text from the BTP Journals DVD.
© British Transport Police History Group