Howdenshire History

History of Newport, Yorkshire

Market Weighton Canal - Growth of Newport - Newport in 1823
19th/20th century Newport - Newport's poet & the Wallingfen Witches


Click here to view further old photos of Newport.



Before the 18th century the village of Newport did not exist.

The village of Newport today stands on what was then a 5000 acre fen, or marshy common, known as Wallingfen. In past centuries, forty-eight local parishes had rights of grazing on the common; they met regularly from at least the 14th century onwards in order to discuss rights and regulations. Tradition says that they gathered in a small building at Scalby (between Gilberdyke and what is now Newport), which was known as the 'Eight and Forty House' in recognition of the number of parishes represented. This house was surrounded by several cottages which still today go by the name of 'Eight and Forty'.

In the late 18th century the new Market Weighton Canal was proposed and part of its route passed through Wallingfen Common. During the construction process deposits of clay were found, including where the canal crossed the existing road to North Cave (then known as the 'Cave Causeway'). This clay was suitable for making bricks and drainpipes and soon a settlement grew up there, based around where the road bridge crossed the new canal; this was the beginning of the village of Newport. Even within living memory some people referred to the new settlement as River Bridge or River Brig.


Old photo of main street of Newport, East Yorkshire

The main street of Newport, seen during the 1950s - visit the old photos section to see more old pictures of Newport and surrounding villages.



Newport and the Market Weighton Canal

The idea of a canal was first discussed in 1765 and on the 21st May 1772 the Market Weighton Navigation & Drainage Act was passed. The new canal was to have two functions - those of drainage and navigation. This dual purpose was to cause tensions for many years between local farmers, who wanted the canal's water levels low in order to drain the surrounding farmland, and canal users, who wanted water levels high to enable them to navigate with heavily loaded vessels.

The first commissioners' meeting was held on the 12th June 1772 at the Black Swan in Market Weighton, and John Smith was appointed chief engineer with Samuel Allam as the resident engineer.

James Pinkerton and John Pinkerton were also taken on as contractors in August 1772.

On the 21st March 1774 Blacktoft parish registers recorded the burial of John Parratt, who was 'drown'd at the new river' (ie. the new canal).

On the 6th May 1776 the entrance lock and section to Sandholme Landing were opened. In 1777 a further short section near the Foulness river was opened.

Work then stopped temporarily due to a lack of funds and complaints of the Pinkertons' slowness.

In 1780 work began again, and again the contractor was James Pinkerton. Further arguments followed about the depth of water in the canal.

In mid-1782 the final section of the canal was completed. The finished Market Weighton canal was now 9 5/8 miles long and had three locks as well as an entrance. However, instead of reaching all the way to Market Weighton as previously planned, the canal in fact ended two miles from Market Weighton down a by-road.


The following memorial lies inside North Cave Church:

"Jane, the wife of James Pinkerton, departed this life April 23rd 1781 aged 43. The above named James Pinkerton departed this life March 5th 1784 aged 47. Jane, their fourth daughter, relict of Anthony Neall, merchant of Kingston upon Hull, departed this life May 13th 1838 aged 63."



The Growth of Newport

After the discovery of clay deposits during the building of the canal, houses were quickly built in the new settlement - there was no shortage of bricks and pantiles.

Confusingly, however, the village that we now know as 'Newport' consisted originally of three smaller settlements known as 'New Village', 'Newport', and 'New Gilberdyke'. These settlements grew in size as many small brickworks were established and began to flourish.

New Gilberdyke was the settlement west of the new Market Weighton canal; Newport was east of the canal but north of the road; and New Village was east of the canal but south of the road

Road transport was helped when, in 1774, the Beverley and Hessle turnpike road was extended to Newport. There was a toll bar where Ploughfurrow Drain crosses the road. In the 1851 census Ann and Mary Johnson were the toll collectors there and the bar referred to as 'Wallingfen Bar'.

One of the first buildings next to the canal was an inn. In 1787 Thomas Craven, son of John Craven, was baptised; John Craven was described as 'then living at New Village near to Cave Causeway bridge and keeping the sign of the Turk's Head'. The Turk's Head is now gone, demolished in the twentieth century, but its name survives in a housing development.

There was also a wind-powered corn mill which was described as 'newly built' in 1795; it was known later as Darling's mill. The mill has gone, demolished in the 1920s, but the mill house still stands, as does the mill granary which was once a school kept by Miss Bulling.

The nearest churches were at North Cave, Blacktoft and Eastrington but the settlement soon had its own Methodist chapel. The building, dated 1789, still stands by the roadside and is used as a Methodist meeting centre.

The year 2009 saw celebrations marking 220 years of Methodism in Newport - a booklet providing many further details of the history of the chapel and village was produced for this anniversary.

In 1814 a new Methodist chapel was opened, standing back from the road and still in use today. The old chapel was used as a school - 200 children were enrolled there by 1823.



Newport in 1823

In 1823 Newport was described in Baines' Trade Directory as:

A pleasant thriving village on the high road from Howden to Hull and on the Market Weighton canal, celebrated for its manufacture of tiles, bricks and coarse earthenware; there being 1,700,000 tiles and 2,000,000 of bricks made annually. This now considerable village was, 50 years ago, a wild uncultivated morass called ‘Walling Fen’. There is here a bed of clay, superior to any in the country, which is got to the depth of 30 feet below the surface. This land which so lately was a barren waste is now sold ... for £200 per acre. Population, 339.

The directory goes on to list the various tradespeople employed in the three settlements in 1823:


Newport & 'West Side' (ie. New Gilberdyke):

Blacksmith - John Thornton
Brick & tile manufacturers - George Armatage, Joseph Brittain, Thomas Brown, John Brown, William Brown, James Garnett, Thomas Moss
Butchers - William Cryer, William Kirk
Carpenter - Thomas Brown
Coal merchants - James Dudding, Richard Grasby
Corn millers - John Clarkson, William Robinson, John Smith
Drapers - John Bennington, Thomas Hornsby, Robert Kemp, William Scott (& druggist), Anthony Scott (& tailor)
Farmers - George Armatage, Thomas Barker, John Clarkson, George Cock, William Cryer, William Hudson, William Robinson
Grocers - John Bennington, Robert Kemp, William Scott
Master mariners - Thomas Armatage, Joseph Boyes, John Craven, Benjamin Craven, Thomas Dudding jun., Peter Holmes, James Mouncey
Saddlers - John Brown, John Prince
Shoemakers - Peter Barff, Edward Ramsay
Tailors - James Coulson, George Hewson, Thomas Hornsby, Richard Scott, Anthony Scott

Bricklayer - George Brittain
Gentleman - Charles Baines
Hairdresser - Amelia Button
Sacking weaver & basket maker - William Dudding
Shopkeepers - John Dudding, Thomas Thompson
Baker - George Fitch
King's Arms Inn - James Foster (vict.)
Earthenware manufacturer - George Saville
Gardener - John Snell
Crown & Anchor - George Turner (vict.)
Schoolmaster - William Wardell


New Village:

Blacksmith - William Woodall
Carpenter - Arthur Mouncey
Farmers - James Kirk, Thomas Naylor
Master mariner - Thomas Dudding sen.
Turk's Head - Thomas Armatage (vict.)


The directory also noted that:

Goods are conveyed to and from Hull every Tuesday nearest the full and change of the moon, by Thomas Dudding's packet, which also conveys passengers.

Frank Smithson conveys goods and passengers, by land, to Hull, every Monday at 10 morning; to Howden every Tuesday evening at 6.

The Rodney Post-coach to Doncaster, &c. every mg. at 9, to Hull at 4 aft.



Newport in the 19th/20th centuries

By 1851 the total population was 777; this included 51 men employed in brickmaking; 48 in agriculture and 18 employed in trades associated with the canal.


A brief chronology of some events in Newport's history follows.


1855 - a school chapel at nearby Scalby, between Newport and Gilberdyke, was opened. This was used a school during the week and for Church of England services on Sundays.

1873 - Ocean Terrace, a large and slightly incongruous three-storey block of houses, was built (by a sea captain, it was said).

1881 - the construction of the Hull and Barnsley railway began. This new railway was opened in 1885. Newport Station was renamed as Wallingfen Station in 1923 in order to avoid confusion with other places with the same name.

1887 - in August a corrugated iron Catholic chapel was opened at Newport to cater for the many Roman Catholic Irish workers who came to work on the land.

1891 - a new Primitive Methodist chapel was built. It was contributed to by the locally-born Walmsley brothers, who were builders, and was known as the Walmsley Memorial Chapel. A similar chapel was also built at Gilberdyke.

1897-99 - Newport church was built. It is an impressive building and was paid for by Mr T S Whitaker.

1900 - the Market Weighton Canal was officially abandoned above Sod House lock. Much trade had been lost to the canal after the opening of the railway. Henry Williamson & Co., brick and tile makers, agreed to contribute to the upkeep of the 4 miles of canal from Humber lock, in order that they could use it to transport their products out to the Humber.

1919 - Newport show was first held.

1922 - the village clock on the wall of the old chapel building was erected as a war memorial.

1926 - Alfred Williamson gave the playing field to the village of Newport.

1927 - the recreation hall was built.


Old photo of presentation at Newport, East Yorkshire

A presentation to Newport's organist, Raymond Botham, on the occasion of his wedding to Dorothy Wainman.

Back row from left: Miss Tighe, Margaret St Paul, Mrs Jarrett, Mary Patchett, Mrs 'John Willie' St Paul, unknown, Mrs Plaster holding Rita Hairsine

Front row from left: Rev. Bottomley, Ada B Foster, unknown (part hidden), unknown, Esme Thompson (head turned), Raymond Botham (holding table), Dorothy Botham (nee Wainman), unknown, Mrs Pawson (part hidden), Mrs Patchett, Dolly Cockin, unknown (patterned dress), Mr Wainman



Mr George Grayson, Newport's poet

George Grayson was the stationmaster at Newport for many years. He came to Newport from Brodsworth in the early years of the twentieth century and never left, dying at the age of 95 in 1961. Mr Grayson was very interested in the history and folklore of the village and wrote several poems on the subject, some of which were published in the Hull and East Riding Times.

He wrote as the 'Wallingfen Wanderer' and most of his poems were written to be sung, often to hymn tunes. He himself sung them to his friend Coulson Mounsor, who was ill at the time.

Perhaps the most well-known is the following poem he wrote about the 'Wallingfen Witches', which itself has passed into folklore.


The legend of Eight and Forty

We’re Eight and Forty jolly girls tho’ witches we may be
We live upon the best of food and, like the air, we’re free
A moorhen, coot or leveret, a duck or good fat hen
Each day we’re almost sure to get around old Wallingfen
From Blacktoft, Eastrington or Holme we get a daily dish
Old Foonah’s waters will provide us with the best of fish
And Hotham Carrs we often comb and take the best of game;
None live more happy than we who bear the witches’ name
Then fill your glasses everyone and drink ’til all is done;
Here’s whisky hot from Saltmarshe hall; good ale from Howden town
Long may we eight and forty live, long live old Wallingfen
And may she never fail to breed fine women and bold men.

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