The Preservation of No. 5 Compartment Boat Hoist in Goole Docks

Tom Puddings: A Brief History

Transport is one of the most important factors the development of industry. This was certainly the case with Yorkshire's coal mines, for who the Aire & Calder Navigation provided a vital service for three hundred years. Even quite recently, hundreds of thousands of tons of coal were carried to Ferrybridge Power Station annually on the waterway in a compartment boat system, developed thirty years ago, but which can trace its origins back to the 1860s.

For over 120 years, coal was carried down the Aire & Calder Navigation for shipment at the Port of Goole by 'Tom Puddings'. These were container boats, each one capable of carrying up to 40 tons of coal. They were coupled together in trains, often comprising of more than 20 'Tom Puddings', each train carrying a total of 700 tons of coal. Special tugs towed them down the navigation to Goole Docks, from where the coal was shipped around the coast or over the North Sea to the continent.

At Goole, each 'Tom Pudding' was raised out of the water and emptied by a hydraulically operated lift. By the First World war there were five of these, each one allowing the 'Tom Pudding's' cargo of coal to be tipped, quickly and efficiently, into the hold of a waiting coaster. It was one of the most effective cargo carrying and transshipping systems to be used on waterways anywhere in the world and was devised by the Navigation's Engineer, William Bartholomew. It came into operation in 1863.

By 1913 there were over 1000 'Tom Puddings' available and in that year they carried one and a half million tons of coal down the navigation to Goole. However the tonnage carried declined slowly from this peak, reflecting the decline in Yorkshire's coal industry. Smokeless fuel was increasingly carried, but even this was not enough to compensate for reduced demand. By the 1980s the system had become uneconomic, and the last cargo was carried in 1986.


The surviving hoists, No. 3 in Aldam Dock and No. 5 in South Dock, were 'listed' shortly after the last Tom Pudding had been unloaded, because of their importance to the history of coal transport to the Port of Goole. Afterwards, the No. 5 Hoist in South Dock stood unloved for several years. A small group took on the responsibility of making it accessible to the public and providing information panels and displays telling the story of Goole's coal trade.

Although the listing of a structure or building can ensure its continued existence, it does not guarantee funding for restoration. This is particularly so with industrial structures which are very much the poor relation when it comes to provision of Government funding. In view of this, it was probably fortunate that Associated British Ports (ABP) decided to improve their facilities at Aldam Dock, Goole.

One problem that they had to overcome was what to do with No. 3 Hoist. They approached the Planning Department of Boothferry Borough Council who, at that time, were responsible for controlling any work undertaken on listed structures in the district and were eventually granted permission to demolish No. 3 Hoist. But they had to comply with certain restrictions. Most important were that the control cabin of the No. 3 Hoist had to be preserved and No. 5 Hoist, together with its associated works, had to be put back into a sound condition. In view of the cost of this work, it is unlikely that money for such a project would have become readily available from any other source.

During the demolition of No. 3 Hoist, it was found that structural decay had made it too difficult to preserve the old control cabin. However, work started on the conservation of No. 5 Hoist and the improvement of the land around it. In 1996, the painting and external restoration of the hoist was completed, and the site has been landscaped. The hydraulic accumulator tower, which had collapsed in high winds, was re-erected in 1997. Associated British Ports is taking its responsibilities to the historic hoist structure seriously, and a long-term conservation plan is being created.

The South Dock Compartment Boat Co. Ltd. (A Charity)

The lease of the site alongside the Hoist was signed, and money was raised for the erection of display panels around the Hoist and to make the site safe for visitors. It is possible to visit the site if you contact the Yorkshire Waterways Museum at the address below. There are permanent displays which explain the use of the hoist, coal transport and coal.

Hoist No.5 shortly after it had been repainted.


Floating exhibits such as compartments, jebus and the tug Wheldale are moored on the dockside, and one compartment boat has been lifted out of the water and is on display on the site so you can get a better idea of its size. The Yorkshire Waterways Museum nearby has hands-on displays to enable people to understand the technologies used by the Tom Pudding system. Audio-visual displays can be found here as well, and outside parking is provided for both cars and boats! The Goole Model Boat Club is also involved, and they have created a new pond on the site for their activities. Further money has been raised for the development of the site, which is now under the control of the Yorkshire Waterways Museum

If you want to find out more about developments on the Boat Hoist site, contact the address below:

The Yorkshire Waterways Museum
Dutch River Side
DN14 5TB
tel: 01405 768730
fax: 01405 769868

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revised 27 March 2014