|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© DECEMBER 1968
|(4) NORTH KILLINGHOLME CLAYFIELDS
K. P. PLANT
Towards the end of the 19th Century G. & T. Earle Ltd. found it necessary to open out new clayfields to supply the growing needs of their Wilmington Cement Works in Hull. Alfred Chapman, then working at Wilmington, was able to negotiate the sale of several acres of land at North Killingholme, near Immingham, which his brother, Charles, was farming under lease from a Mr. Simpson. Alfred returned from Wilmington about 1899 to be foreman at the clayfields.
"Koppell" type side-tipping iron wagons with rounded frames were purchased, and a short 2' 6" gauge tramway was laid between the jetty and the clayfields. Here the top soil was removed and clay dug out to a depth of about four feet by hand, an arduous task as the mechanical bucket-excavator never came to North Killingholme. At first only six men were employed on digging, but the number varied through the years to as many as twelve, depending on the amount of clay needed at Wilmington.
The motive power was provided by horses hired out by Charles Chapman at an hourly rate of one shilling (later elevenpence) per horse and man. Two worked singly between the claypits and the foot of the incline, two others being used on the incline up on to the Humber Bank, while the fifth hauled the wagons from the embankment to the jetty. Each-horse pulled about two or three wagons in the pits or on the incline, but on the level (or slightly downhill) stretch to the jetty the load was doubled.
Starting times of work varied with the arrival of the daily boat which, owing to the narrowness of North Killingholme Haven, generally had to anchor offshore and wait for high tide before being able to enter and tie-up at the jetty. The diggers worked in pairs, and ten men would get out some 150 tons of clay in a day. Once the boat was fully loaded work ceased as there was no stock-piling of clay. Occasionally friction was caused between the diggers, who were employed on piecework rates, and the transport men who were datal. This was the more noticeable on the odd occasions when a second boat was able to catch the tide after the departure of the first. Then the diggers might be able to load another fifty tons of clay and so boost their earnings for the day to about seven shillings and sixpence each - a highly respectable sum in those not so far off times. John Deheer Ltd., one of the large shipping firms in Hull, had contracted to carry the clay to Wilmington, the type of ship used being known as a flat-rigger. These carried only a mainsail and foresail and loaded to between 120 and 150 tons. Occasionally a lighter of similar capacity was used, but this would be towed by one of Deheer’s tugs.
After a few years of operation a winch was installed at the top of the incline. Loaded wagons were then hauled up on an endless rope and balanced by empties returning to the claypits. This measure displaced two of the horses but, when steam traction was introduced shortly afterwards, the remainder became redundant. The first locomotive was named VIXEN and arrived by rail about April 1910 from an unknown source. She weighed about three tons, and had four coupled wheels with outside cylinders, and a square-topped saddle tank. Protection from the elements was afforded by a meagre weatherboard.
VIXEN was not in very good mechanical condition, and in June the following year a new locomotive was ordered from Kerr, Stuart & Co. Ltd., Stoke-on-Trent, at a cost of £278. Being of the makers’ "Wren" class, immediate delivery from stock was possible but, owing to a strike of the men at Killingholme, despatch was delayed. The new engine had four coupled wheels 1' 8" in diameter, 6" by 9" outside cylinders, steel firebox and tubes, tank capacity of 87 gallons, and cabside bunker space for just over two cwts. of coal. For some reason Earle’s asked for the chimney to be shortened slightly so as not to exceed 6' 8" above rail level, and for the provision of a weatherboard only instead of a cab. She carried Kerr, Stuart works number 1192, weighed 3 tons 2 cwts. empty, and was similar in outward appearance to VIXEN except that her saddle tank had a round top. There had been some slight disagreement over the naming of this locomotive for the driver, Robert Warnes, considered that he should be so honoured. However, the foreman had the last word and the engine was despatched from Stoke on 18th July 1911 in a chocolate livery, with yellow lining, and the name CHAPMAN painted on the tank.
The first claypit to be worked was some two-hundred yards from the jetty, but the last one was some distance away. CHAPMAN soon proved capable of handling all traffic and it was only an emergency that brought VIXEN out of her seclusion in the engine shed. In 1921, when the claypits became worked out, the two locomotives were disposed of, but whether for scrap or re-use is not known. Several other claypits in the immediate vicinity closed at about the same time, among them Slater’s pits at East Halton. These had been acquired by Earle’s from Robson’s not long before and supplied Earle’s works at Stoneferry in Hull (formerly owned by Robson’s).
Years ago Charles Chapman’s farmhouse also served as the local hostelry and was most appropriately named "The Ship and Shovel". It still stands, not far from the water-filled claypits, but now goes by the much more ordinary name of "The New Inn". A link with the past is still preserved as the licensee is Mrs. Susie Thompson; Alfred Chapman’s daughter.
I am indebted to Horace Chapman of East Halton whose recollections proved the basis for this article. Unfortunately, G. & T. Earle Ltd. have been unable to corroborate the historical information.