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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History

WILLIAM HAMOND BARTHOLOMEW
1831-1919


WATERWAYS ENGINEER

William Bartholomew Waterways Engineer

Although not directly connected with the town of Knottingley, it is perhaps worth mentioning the contributions made to the prosperity of the Aire and Calder Navigation that William Hamond Bartholomew brought about.  He was probably one of the most important men to be connected with the Aire and Calder Navigation.  The son of Thomas Hamond Bartholomew, the navigation's engineer between 1825 and 1853, he was born a few miles from Wakefield at Lake Lock.  He became engineer to the Navigation at the age of 22 when the Navigation was in it's halcyon days and generating dividends of up to 150% annually to it's shareholders and continued in the post until 1895.  Even after his retirement he retained the position of  consultant until his death in 1919.

During his term as engineer, William oversaw the complete rebuilding of the Navigation with all the locks being lengthened to cope with the increased tonnages that were being carried along it.  The success of the navigation had shown the short-sightedness of it's original design which had not foreseen the demands that would be made upon it.  Increasing competition from other forms of transport, in particular the newly opened railways, resulted in the canals having to think of new ideas in order to remain successful.  William Bartholomew provided this in 1863 when he devised his compartment boat system, better known to us all as 'Tom Pudding's'.  In a system very similar to today's railway 'merry-go-round' coal trains,  a train of compartments would be pushed by a steam tug using steam operated chains to bend the train of boats so that they would go round corners.  It was later found to be more practical to tow the compartments in trains normally comprising 21 compartments though this could be exceeded, but was often governed by the fact that the train required splitting to negotiate locks along the way.  Each compartment carried approximately 40 tons of coal.  Five hoists were constructed at Goole, where the compartments were lifted out of the water and emptied into the waiting holds of ships before being returned to the water.  At it's peak just before the first world war, over one and a half million tons of coal was being transported annually by this method.   This system continued in use up until the mid 1980's before the coal industry in this country fell into decline.  Though extremely successful for carrying coal,  William's original design was for a sectional boat rather than a system designed for coal carrying.

Compartment Train Diesel Tug
A typical compartment boat train headed by a steam tug A compartment boat train hauled by a diesel tug

From 1876, William Bartholomew also became responsible for the day to day running of the Navigation where he would authorise freight rates and wharfage charges.

He died in 1919 at the age of 88 years and is buried in the family grave at a Church overlooking  Lake Lock.


Bibliography:

Images of England, The Aire and Calder Navigation
Compiled by Mike Clarke in association with the Waterways Museum at Goole
Published 1999
ISBN 0-7524-1715-0
A short account of the Navigation including lots of interesting photographs from the area.


 

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