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Humber Barges History


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   Directors of Humber Barges Ltd have been involved in freight by water for over 30 years.  Initially companies were established in the early 1970's to re-establish freight use of the Leeds & Liverpool, Bridgewater and connecting waterways at a time of general decline and lack of interest.  Early successes included carriage of coal, grain, pipes, aggregates, effluent and other cargoes amounting to around 10,000 tonnes,  using craft with a maximum capacity of 50 tonnes.    Additionally a substantial aggregate traffic, on the River Soar in the east midlands, using similar sized craft - narrow boats, barges, and tug/barge combinations - started in 1976, and by the time it ceased  some twenty years later (due to the pits being worked out) over one million tonnes had been carried.

  By the mid 1970's it was apparent that there was scope for new entrants operating on the larger waterways of the north and midlands and larger craft were obtained to exploit this opportunity.  At first traditional cargoes were sought and carried in the north east - import/export goods in particular.  In 1977 a new traffic of sand from the River Trent (and Hull)  to a York builder's merchant was established, followed, in 1981,  by a much larger contract for carriage of  around 150-200,000 tonnes/annum of aggregates from a new pit at Rampton, to Knottingley - a contract which continued until late July 2013, from Besthorpe to Whitwood, near Wakefield.

   In the north west a new traffic - grain from Seaforth to Stockport via Frodsham wharf - commenced in 1981, and still runs today, at approximately 30,000 tonnes/annum.

   Around this time directors and associates formed a new company, Water-Link Ltd, to handle traffics in the north east, and obtained a fleet of 140 tonne dumb barges and a tug, to operate mainly between the Humber Ports and Rotherham.  This company transferred its operations to the River Thames and some Directors formed the present Humber Barges Ltd in order to continue in the north east.  The company leased two 250 tonne capacity motor barges (ex the BOCM Selby fleet) and these, 'Selby Ellen' and 'Selby Linda', were completely overhauled and put into service in 1999 carrying general cargoes such as fertiliser, and then into regular service carrying aggregates from Rampton to Leeds.

   With the trend to larger carrying craft the opportunity was taken to purchase two tank craft from Whitakers and the first, 'Fusedale H' , was completely refurbished and placed into service around 2003, generally carrying up to 450 tonnes aggregates, and the two 250 tonne vessels were disposed of.  The second craft, 'Humber Enterprise' was laid up pending overhaul.


Our Present Craft

   'Fusedale H' was built at the Knottingley shipyard of John Harker Ltd and launched in 1968.  She was built  175ft 6 in long, 18 feet 6 in beam, with a maximum carrying capacity of about 520 tonnes (450 tonnes on 8 feet draft -  to the (then) maximum dimensions of the newly enlarged Aire & Calder Navigation), principally to carry petroleum product from the Humber to the Esso and Fina Depots in Leeds. 

   'Humber Enterprise' was also  built in 1968, but at the Yorkshire Dry Dock Hull for J. H. Whitaker & Co, to virtually the same dimensions as 'Fusedale H' and also to carry petroleum product to Leeds.  The other barges built at the same time for the same contract were:  'Fossdale H', 'Farndale H' (Harkers), 'Humber Renown' (Whitakers) plus 'Battlestone' (Cory Tank Craft).  Both of our craft have Kelvin T8 diesel engines of 240 bhp.

   In 1976 Whitakers took over the Humber based operations of Harkers and Cory's.  By 1980 the Aire & Calder Navigation had been further enlarged to take craft nearly 200ft long by 20 feet beam, so new craft were built.  These gradually supplanted the 450 tonners which were put on to other contracts and, following loss of the Esso and Fina contracts (in 1982 and 1988),  eventually laid up pending disposal - Humber Enterprise in 1995, and Fusedale H in 1997. Fusedale H is again working, albeit as a dry cargo carrier while 'Humber Enterprise' will brought back into use when traffic warrants.



Fusedale H being launched at Harkers in 1968 (John Harker Ltd)

     Fusedale H approaching Leeds as a tanker in 1975 (Peter L Smith)

Humber Enterprise as a tanker in the newly lengthened Aire & Calder Navigation lock around 1980 (Mike Taylor)

An early cargo contract - coal from Castleford to Skipton, April 1973 - in Bingley Five-Rise Locks, David Lowe at the tiller (David Lowe)

Grain from Liverpool being unloaded in Manchester Docks 1974 with a rather younger David Lowe looking on (Manchester News Service)

Approaching Newlay on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, loaded with effluent for Knostrop, 1979 (Geoff Wheat)

Sand from the Trent at Shipley wharf 1982 (David Lowe)

Aggregate on the River Soar 1994 (Geoff Wheat)

Selby Ellen (250 tonnes) at speed on the Aire & Calder Navigation en route for Leeds around 1999 (David Lowe)

Contact Us

For more information on any aspect of Humber Barges please contact us on:


 Christine Oatway, Managing Director:     0757 2847006 (24 hrs)
 David Lowe, Director:                             07785 502478 (24 hrs)
 Gerald Whiteley, Director:                     01282 812456

Email:     Humber Barges

Humber Barges Ltd:
95 Denby Dale Road, Wakefield, WF2 8DJ

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