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River Trent

Gainsborough's riverside plays an important part in the past life of the town. From the end of the 16th century boats carried coal from the Nottinghamshire pits. The 18th century saw the transportation of goods of all kinds, including iron products, ale and linen and woollen goods to London. During the Napoleonic War, ammunition passed through Gainsborough's port.


Trent bridge dates from 1791, although pedestrians were allowed to cross it in 1790. In 1825 Gainsborough shipyards began to build steamboats and by 1826 there was a daily passenger steamboat service between Gainsborough and Hull.

Richard has told me:
When I was small she (Grandma) was a widow, Grandad having died relatively young even for those days. He and one of his sons, James worked on one or maybe both of the two small screw driven steamers that plied the Trent from Hull, to I think Nottingham with passengers, the names are interesting the Cilla and the Charibdis. They may have carried light freight also. I imagine these are Greek goddesses names?* Uncle Jim told a fine tale of having been paid off on a Friday night in Hull, when he was unfortunate enough to fall victim to a hold up, by a then notorious gang of foot pads, as they were then known. The several strong gang knew he had his paypacket and coveted it, whilst he was reluctant to cough up! Jim knew he didn't have much chance, but he put up his fists, and then to his great relief a good old British bobby hove in sight upon which the felons fled, leaving Jim with pay intact!

*These are not, in fact Greek goddesses, but monsters which are mentioned in many places, most famous of all 'The Odyssey'. Cilla, or Scylla is a terrible, multi-headed beast who prays on passing sailors. Charybdis is a terrible whirlpool which is brought alive whenever a ship passes that particular spot. Heaven only knows why someone would name boats such things. . . Charlotte.


In 1881 the port closed, due partly to the competition from the railway and partly to a deterioration in the state of the river. Fluctuations in the depth of the Trent due to silting and wrecks in the channel below Gainsborough, with no-one in authority to clear them away, meant that boats had to lighten their loads to clear the bottom of the river.

Looking over towards Gainsborough from the Nottinghamshire bank.