Film ID: YFA 521 Video of YFA 521 Is Rotherham a seaport town? 1959 IS ROTHERHAM A SEAPORT TOWN? 1959 Visitor TabsDescription This is a film made by Charles Chislett documenting a trip by barge and by boat along the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. The trip continues on along the River Don, through Stainforth and the Keadby Canal, and eventually ends at Thorne. The film includes footage from the boat along this scenic journey. Title: 'Is Rotherham a Seaport Town?' Title: ‘By canal from Sheffield to Thorne – 10 hours’ The film starts on the canal quayside – Sheffield Basin, Victoria Quays – with barrels stacked on the side. Several boats and barges are shown, including one with ‘Hull’ on the side, moored under the Straddle Warehouse. There is another with ‘Good luck’ on the side, and a teenage boy sits on top of the canvas coverings. The captain of the barge unties the rope from the canal side and takes the lid off the funnel revealing the smoke coming out. The barge sets off with the boy at the steering wheel. The barge passes under two railway bridges, the second, Northern Rail./ They continue past a signal box and then under the bridge taking the St Bernard Road. The barge passes under other bridges as it makes its way along the Sheffield-TinsleyCanal through Attercliffe. Factories can be seen on either side. As it passes under one road bridge, there is a road sign which gives directions to the A6135, the A630/A631 and the B6073. They pass under more bridges and old canal buildings, including ‘Wilford and Co.’ As they pass under another bridge, two young boys wave from a wall behind some terraced houses. The barge passes by Tinsley Locks. A passenger train, pulled by a steam locomotive, goes by on the left, travelling towards the barge. Then a lock is opened, and railway sidings can be seen in the background, and they pass through several more locks. They then pass by the two cooling towers of Blackburn Meadows Power Station, it passes Tinsley Rolling Mills. Other boats and barges pass through the locks. A steam engine passes over a bridge (possibly the HalfpennyBridge,) where the canal meets the River Don. There is a line of barges filled with coal there is a large factory on the right (possibly Templeborough Steel Works.) The journey continues passing some open countryside. The captain blows a horn before arriving at another bridge and lock. There are more factories as well as the steeple of All Saints’ ParishChurch, Rotherham, in the background (now Rotherham Minster.) The two cooling towers are seen again from a different angle, and a barge is loaded with coal. A large group of people, mainly women, are chatting together on the canal side. The group boards a pleasure boat, the ‘Water Gypsy’, and the rest of the film is taken from this boat. It moves off with the Power Station behind them and the passengers waving to a passing steam train. The boat passes through two more locks. One has a white house next to it, and the film shows the lock being opened and closed. Some boys are swimming nearby from a jetty. The younger passengers travel on top, whilst the more elderly stay below. The boat approaches a stone bridge (possibly WashLaneBridge). A lock (possibly Aldwarke Lock) is seen on the left. They then pass through another lock (possibly the now disused lock at Kilnhurst). An old stone bridge with several arches is on the left. A group of cyclists follow a path next to the canal on the right, and some boys jump in with their swimming costumes on. They pass a barge being loaded with coal, and as they make their way various industrial works can be seen on both sides of the canal. Some children are on a slide in a playground which also has long swings. Going through another lock, the white foam on the surface of the water can be seen. They pass by another power station (possibly Mexborough or Doncaster before either was closed.) A trolleybus goes over a bridge, and cows graze in fields. Large slag heaps appear on both sides. As they pass another lock, a colliery is seen on the left. On the right there is a row of houses with Conisbrough Castle in the background. Further on is a quarry with white slag heaps on the left, along with a large steel industrial construction with eleven chimneys belching out smoke. A sign warns of a weir, and they pass a couple of boys sitting on footbridge over the river. Further on there are more quarries, followed by workers doing some construction on the side of the river. On the right hand side, there is a complex of steel tanks with a pipe going into a barge from Hull. Just past this are tall factory chimneys on the left. Again the film shows the barge ‘Good luck’. The barge arrives at a busy junction with two other barges, 'Swinton’ and 'Wharncliffe’, passing under a bridge where a ‘Turnballs’ lorry passes over it. A rail bridge is just behind it (this is possibly Doncaster Town Lock.) They pass by a factory with a large chimney with BNS Nylon written on it (British Nylon Spinners, in Doncaster). The boat passes a large tractor factory (McCormick?), with red tractors lined up outside. Further on a yellow building has a conveyor belt taking material to the top. Next they go through a lock with a sign ‘Long Sandell New Lock’, going under a bridge carrying a coal train. They pass Conisborough castle and North Bridge. Emerging on the other side there are horses in a field, and passengers are shown having tea. One woman is using a cigarette holder as they pass another large industrial works. Someone on horseback goes over a footbridge as the boat passes underneath it. A village with a church just set back from the river can be seen. Someone is opening an old swing bridge (possibly the forerunner of Low Lane Swing Bridge, near the village of Barnby DunThe barge then approaches a lock where the barriers descend into the water from a steel frame (possibly an older version of Wykewell Lift Bridge, east of Thorne.) On the left earth movers are preparing the ground for new development, and on the right there is a row of old houses. Further on there are several boats moored up in front of some buildings, one has a company name written on the side (this reads like ‘Stanland & co.’). (This is possibly just before reaching Thorne Bridge). The film ends with a roll of rope laid out on the bow of the boat. The End Context This film was made by Charles Chislett, a skilled amateur filmmaker from Rotherham. Chislett produced a considerable number of exceptionally well made films over a period spanning from 1930 to 1967. The Charles Chislett Film Collection held at the YFA consists of over 100 films, mostly directly relating to Yorkshire, but also including many holiday films from around the world. Chislett made many types of films: documentary, fiction, and family portraits. Although Chislett was not a professional filmmaker, he brought to his films a lot of thought, great passion and considerable expertise that he built up over the years. Several of Chislett’s films can be viewed on YFA Online, including Men of Steel in 1948 documenting the work of the Park Gate Iron and Steel which might be seen in this film. A large number of the places that are seen in Is Rotherham A Seaport Town – many of which are identified in the description – have now vanished. Not least the two cooling towers at Tinsley which were demolished in 2008. In 1959 the river would have been heavily used by the pits and other local industry lining the Don. A trip along the same route today would reveal a quite different picture with much less goods being transported and more leisure boats. It is unclear whether the boat trip in the second half of the journey from Rotherham is a regular leisure trip or a special booking. Included in it though is Chislett’s daughter Rachel, sat at the front of the boat with the other young women, who can also be seen on YFA Online in Rachel Discovers the Sea, at a somewhat younger age. But the canals and the River Don remain, and like much of Britain’s canal network and rivers, have been considerably spruced up. In 1983 the locks all the way from the New Junction Canal to just short of Rotherham were extended by about 20 feet so that large 700 tonne barges and butties could use the locks together. The Sheffield Basin, (AKA Victoria Quays) was revamped in the 1990s, with the warehouses being restored and the Sheaf works becoming a pub. The use of waterways as a means of transport goes back into pre-history, and the alteration of rivers, better to enable navigation – with weirs and locks – really got underway in Elizabethan times. There were even some very early canals, but interest in the building of canals only really developed following the English Civil War in the 1660s, when there was about 685 miles of river navigation. The first modern canal wasn’t built though until 1757 with the Sankey Brook (St Helen’s Canal). From then on the interest in canals, inspired by those on the continent, grew from the need to transport coal, raw materials and other goods that were beginning to be manufactured through the industrial revolution. During the Napoleonic War canal companies started up to raise the large sums of money required to build canals, and to campaign for Parliament to pass the Acts which were necessary for each canal project (to buy up land and so forth) – often against great opposition. The building of the canals had a huge impact on many aspects of life, and not least in creating a new breed of worker before the railways and the roads. Those who dug the canals were originally called ‘cutters’, by the 1790’s ‘navigators’, and from the early 1830s, ‘navvies’. The building of the canals also gave rise to civil engineers, who had to work in a situation where the first ordinance map of England – part of it at least, from a line between Hull and Preston – didn’t appear until 1844. In Yorkshire the keels that were used on the canals were 60 ft long, 15 ft wide and could carry upwards of 80 tons. These would often be pulled by men where no towpaths existed for horses or donkeys. An invaluable sourcebook for the canal system at the close of the main canal building period is Joseph Priestley’s – not the more famous radical chemist who died in 1804 – Navigable Rivers and Canals (1831). At the turn of the twentieth century Bradshaw’s Canals and Navigable Rivers of England and Wales (not its original name) provided a very detailed guide. There was already a navigable link between Tinsley and Goole from 1751 when work was completed on making the Tinsley section of the River Don navigable. Therefore Rotherham had had a navigable connection to the sea, and hence was a ‘seaport town’, via the rivers Don and the Ouse from the mid eighteenth century. The Sheffield and Tinsley canal was given Royal assent in 1815, linking with the River Don (Bradshaw has it as ‘Dun’, Priestley as ‘Dunn’). What is seen in this film is the four miles of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal as it goes into the Don at Tinsley, possibly along the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation, and thence onto the Stainforth and Keadby Canal at Bramwith Lock, for the last 3 miles to Thorne – a total journey of 33 miles. The Stainforth and Keadby Canal was built in 1902 to take the journey away from the choppy tidal waters of the Don to the less treacherous tidal waters of the Trent. From Thorne the Canal goes onto the River Trent and thence to the Humber at Blackfoot Sands. There is another way from Rotherham to the sea by waterways. Instead of taking the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, one could take the New Junction Canal and on across the River Went to join the Aire and Calder Canal and hence to the River Ouse at Goole, which in turn becomes the Humber – classed as both a river and an estuary – where it meets the Trent. In fact one could also take the Dutch River at Stainforth Junction, created in the 17th century by Dutchman Vermuyden, on to Goole. There are other, more circuitous, ways of getting to the sea from Rotherham: finding them might prove an absorbing project for a school geography class! But remember, although Rotherham might be connected to the sea by waterways in various ways, there is at present no legislation that permits navigators general access to rivers in England in the way that ramblers have access to the countryside. References The YFA holds a collection of documents relating to the life and work of Charles Chislett. This includes many letters relating to his films and other matters, working notes on some of the films. There is also an obituary which gives a fuller account of Chislett’s work, with a list of the charities and other activities that Chislett was involved in. These can be viewed at the YFA. Rotherham Archives also holds a Collection of material on Chislett (Archives & Local Studies Service, Central Library, Walker Place, Rotherham, S65 1JH). Joseph Priestley, Priestley’s Navigable Rivers and Canals, David and Charles Reprints, Newton Abbot, 1969 (a reprint of the Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, And Railways, throughout Great Britain, 1831). Bradshaw’s Canals and Navigable Rivers of England and Wales, compiled by Henry De Salis, Redwood Press, 1969 ( a reprint of A Handbook of Inland Navigation for Manufacturers, Merchants, Traders and Others, 1904). Charles Hadfield, British Canals: An Illustrated History, David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 4th edition, 1969. Pennine Waterways This provides a photographic journey along the route of The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation, along with its connection to other waterways.