October 27, 2021

York Watermen

I’m looking into a family for a customer at the moment who were watermen for at least 3 generations going back to the late 18th Century.

The river ouse has always been important to the city and was an industrial conduit in the 19th century carrying, amongst other cargo, coal out to the sea ports and fish back inland.

Queens Staith in the late 19th/early 20th Century

Queens Staith in the late 19th/early 20th Century

Kings Staith (viewed from Queens Staith) around 2000.

Kings Staith (viewed from Queens Staith) around 2000.

This picture on the left shows Kings Staith viewed from Queens Staith. I don’t know the exact date of it but it looks like the late 19th or more probably the early 20th Century. The picture on the right gives pretty much the same view from about the year 2000. The furthest crane was in place when the dock warehouses were being converted, whereas the nearest crane was actually part of a warehouse and shows that the river had an industrial use well into the late 20th century.

Anyway, I spent about an hour in the York Family History Society research room on Thursday and found a few of the correct family and I’m heading heading to the Borthwick Institute tomorrow to look through the relevant Parish Registers.

At first glance it would appear that there isn’t a lot of information readily to hand regarding the watermen of York but this commission has sparked a bit of interest in me. I think I’ll have a bit of a deeper dig into the subject over the next few weeks.


  1. I have just found out that my GGG grandfather Thomas Lowther (?1780 – ?1860) was a waterman in the Castleford area.

    Have you been able to find out more about these men?


    Sue Wood

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