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The Worfolks of Stainforth
Many thanks to Christine Hemsworth for this interesting article.


Fred Schofield compiled the following account from his own recollections.

From about 1913 until married in 1934 my house was on the West Bank, Stainforth, and just across the canal was the carpenter's yard of Worfolk & Co.

This was known as the Top Yard. The Low Yard was in Stainforth Basin, and was out of use for many years until in the mid-1920's Charlie Houlton moved his boat-building business from Silver Street, Stainforth into the large shed at the Low Yard. He only built cogboats and small rowing boats.

The Worfolks living in Stainforth were Isaac and his brother Ben: also their sister Lucy. Isaac had four in the family: two sons and two daughters. The sons were named Percy and Phillip and worked in the yard with Isaac and Ben. They only employed one other carpenter, Arthur Woodward. He lived on West Bank and used to ferry to and from work across the canal in a flat. Jack Franklin was the blacksmith until he got too old to work. He was not replaced. The main income of the yard in my time was from repair work: any building was mainly on spec. to keep the men employed in slack times.

Ben told me that the Company in the business was the saw mill in Marsh Gate, Doncaster. He said that they had been involved with the yard since his' father's time. Frank Groom was the manager of the saw mill and Colonel Elwiss was either a director or owner of the mill. Later his son Rupert who lived in Hatfield, took over. When there was not much work at Stainforth Percy and Phillip Worfolk used to go and work in the saw mill. Isaac and Ben lived on Doncaster Road just across the field from the yard, it was known locally as West End. The last vessel they built had been on the stocks about 14 years. She was finished off in 1929 to the order of my uncle William Henry Schofield of Fishlake. She was rigged as a keel and named RUPERT C. She had followed keel THORNCLIFFE bought by W. Bleasdale Co. Ltd., Hull. Before that they had built keel PRIMROSE for Albert Beckett of Thorne. She had followed keel BLANCHE built for William Henry Schofield in 1905. Before that they had built keel PRIMROSE for Tom Shirtliff of Stainforth, and some time earlier I understood from Ben that they had built for Charlie Dishman of Stainforth the cutter rigged billyhoy EMANUEL. I am sure he said that she had been built at the Low Yard, so they may have at some time worked both yards. Charlie Dishman built his next billyhoy at Boston. She was named RESCUE and finished her time as a coal hulk at Goole for G.D. Holmes Ltd. When I first went on board to earn my living, Arthur Worfolk who was a relative of Isaac and Ben was in business under the name of Worfolk and Morton on Queen's Dock side at Hull. Later when the Dock closed he moved to the south side of Queen's Dock basin. He then had his two sons, Allen and James, working with him. James later went to work at Brough Aircraft works. Allen now has premises at South Bridge, Tower Street, Hull. There was also until about the middle 1920's a yard on Packgate Goit near Rotherham which was owned by a Worfolk but I did not know them. Alfred Parish had the keel UNITED built there. I last had my contact with Isaac and Ben Worfolk when I had some repairs done in 1934 to GUIDANCE. At that time Phillip was working full-time in the saw mill at Doncaster. By about l938 the yard had closed down.

Born in 1864 in the small village of Stainforth, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, Walter was one of several sons of Joseph Worfolk, master shipwright and boatbuilder. The family was engaged in building Humber keels the work horses of the inland canal system and sloops, which traded in the Humber and to adjacent East Coast ports, including Lynn. These massively built craft, up to sixty feet in length were, until late in the nineteenth century, clinker-built and became the biggest craft in Europe to be built by this method. The billy-boy evolved from the keel, becoming a coastal trader venturing further from its natural habitat.

Keel, sloop and billy-boy had several common and distinctive features - bluff, almost flat bows and sterns, long straight vertical sides and flat bottoms. This design enabled maximum tonnages to be stowed in vessels whose length, beam and draught were governed by the locks along the various canal systems through which they passed. In short, a keel was built as if moulded by the smallest lock it would encounter on a specific route, typified by their descriptions - a 'Sheffield keel' was built to fit the smallest of the twenty-eight locks between there and Hull, a 'Knottingley keel' had other restrictions.

The Worforks had built canal craft for generations in many impromptu or established yards. Walter's father's step-brother, William, had substantial yards at Knottingley and Worfolk House persisted when the site, next to Skew Bridge, was eventually sold to John Harker Ltd. who build steel tankers today. The family yards were at Agbrigg, Castleford, Worsbury, Rotherham and probably other small temporary sites as the work demanded.

Walter married, in 1886, Lily Maria Florence Silvester, one of eight 'children of Thomas Silvester who traded to Lynn from the Humber, as did his brother-in-law William Lancaster. Walter and Maria had six children including Beatrice (1887) 'Gerald (l89l) William (1893) and Harriet Winifred (1896) the other two daughters dying in infancy.

During his many voyages to Lynn, William Lancaster decided to settle in the town and after a few years took the 'Hulk' public house in Bridge Street, which he added to his carting, removal and farming interests. In the. late 1890's he offered Walter and his wife work and accommodation and as her older sister, Harriet, was already in Lynn working for Uncle William, Lily Maria persuaded Walter to move from Stainforth to seek his fortune here.

The family arrived by train February 26th 1899. They lived at the Hulk, Walter doing various fencing and repair jobs for William but as a time-served shipwright in a long line of craftsmen he soon saw there was a need for his true talents in a town where any additions to the fishing fleet
There are Warolks in Stainforth cemetery.

I have been in touch with many people who are researching their families in Stainforth if anyone wants to know any local info on families I willl look them up with pleasure.

Cheers
Chris

(To save Chris getting unwanted spam through printing her contact details on this page, please ask me if you would like to take her up on her offer of providing info about Stainforth families and I will send you her e-mail address.)

 

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