After the Humber Bridge Opened

Verbatim account of Sadness from 1983 of Henry Irving's account of New Holland.

New Holland

New Holland, as anyone who has ever been there will immediately realise, was not established as a colony by Dutchmen fleeing from religious persecution or seeking freedom to develop their weaving skills. It was, in the early 19th century no more than a sluice outlet in a dark and remote corner of Barrow parish which offered 'advantages for the debarkation of smuggled goods, more especially of Holland's gin, and it was notoriously used as such.' The settlement that the visitor sees today was developed by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in anticipation of a commercial boom that never materialised. The promise of passenger traffic across the Humber to Hull encouraged them to terminate their railway line on a pier of magnificent proportions which stretches out across the low tide mudflats to a floating pontoon to and from which the ferries plied, albeit with occasional difficulty, at all stages of the tide. The promise of commercial traffic encouraged them to excavate a dock with wharfage for a dozen or more vessels. The anticipated labour demands of both these enterprises encouraged them to build a small company town with a hotel, the Yarborough, of grandiose proportions. All these features still stand to this day, yet New Holland has the atmosphere and accoutrements of an industrial archaeology museum rather than a place with any commercial or residential viability for the fourth quarter of the twentieth centry. Only a few years ago it was full of fascination for the visiting yachtsman: the coal-fired paddle steamer being fuelled by trolleys from the coal trucks at the pier end; the trains creeping along the pier between New Holland Town and New Holland Pier stations; the cars, alien intrusions on to a pure 19th century scene, wobbling precariously along the unguarded platform to the waiting ferry. All these are now gone. An occasional timber ship still unloads in a corner of the silted dock, but New Holland basically just lies there rotting, the hulks of ancient sailing ships and the neglected square of company houses serving as a poignant reminder of an optimistic and dignified era that has gone for ever.


New Holland docks, situated fifty yards downstream of the base of the conspicuous ferry pier, maybe entered with5 feet(1.5m) of draught two hours before or two hours after HWS. On the neap tides, a high water entry is recommended. In any case, if there is sufficient water to permit entry, then the approaches present no problems, for sands in the middle and near the banks are sufficiently covered to pass over easily. Care must be taken, if approaching from downstream on the flood, to avoid overshooting and being carried under the pier by the tide. As with most of these piers and jetties on the Humber, however, the force of the tide slackens considerably as the banks are approached, so no real difficulty should be encountered provided the danger is realised.

The dock itself is best entered midway between the entry walls, and the deep water lies along the eastern wall from the entrance to a point two thirds of the way to the inner end. The rest of the dock is so silted as to make it inaccessible except to shoal draughted boats or to deeper boats only on the top of spring tides. The mud is everywhere soft, so that moorings are problem free and no mast ropes are required. Timber boats sometimes unload in the deeper part of the dock, so care must be taken to avoid interference with this work. The dock is private, and mooring is by courtesy of the timber firm who lease it, so the visitor must conform to mooring instructions given by the employees of the firm.


Despite its unprepossessing ambience in the middle of a timber dock, a mooring at New Holland does offer certain advantages over some of the more picturesque, but more remote Humber havens. The town, or village as it more really is, is close to hand and boasts two pubs, a railway station, shops, garage, post office and fish and chips. In the days when it was a railhead and ferry terminal the place had a gaunt significance in Humber cruise planning. To ignore it could involve vast amounts of time and money travelling round by Scunthorpe and Goole. Now the Humber bridge stands proudly a few miles upstream. New Holland can be conveniently ignored and it usually is. It used to be a fascinating living museum of bygone systems. Now it is a dead one, and full of sadness.

Irving, H. (1983), The Tidal Havens of the Wash and Humber, Third Edition, St. Ives: Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson, 40-42.

Since then New Holland has changed a little!