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The town of Goole is fighting hard to gain the respect it deserves

PUBLISHED: 18:59 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:04 20 February 2013

Goole docks

Goole docks

The town of Goole is fighting hard to gain the respect it deserves as Heather Dixon reports

Search for Goole on your computer and the worlds most commonly used search engine muscles in, assuming youve made a spelling error. But there is no mistake: Goole has earned its place on the web as a town which has switched from boring to burgeoning thanks to major investment and an industrial renaissance.

You only have to see its rugged skyline from the M62, the ports cranes spiking the horizon and the famous salt and pepper pot water towers rising over the rooftops, to recognise the significance of the UKs most inland port within the regions industrial landscape.




Goole - derived from the word goule, meaning stream or channel owes its existence indirectly to the 17th century Dutch civil engineer Cornelius Vermuyden, who dug the Dutch River that provided a direct route from the River Don to the River Ouse at Goole.

It wasnt until the Aire and Calder Navigation Company took this a stage further in the 1820s, building a canal from Leeds to Goole, establishing the docks where the community grew into the town it is today. The port is now capable of handling nearly three million tonnes of cargo per annum.

Despite its industrial weight, however, Goole has struggled with its public image. With its 19,000 residents fondly known as goolies and a national newspaper once voting it the most boring town in Britain, Goole has had to fight hard to gain the respect it deserves. It even applied to become one of High Street super-woman Mary Portass chosen twelve towns which would benefit from a share of a 1 million Government investment to help turn around their unused and unloved centres. But in vain.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other movers and shakers who recognise the towns potential and have been doing their bit to breathe new life into its streets.

Local historian and author Susan Butler, who has written a series of books describing Goole in old pictures, says: Goole inspires great affection, even today when times have changed.

The port is less busy and the vast shunting yards have gone, but the nearby M62 has brought new life to the town and these modern transport connections have brought new business.

In recent years the central shopping area has been pedestrianised and lined with trees; the old market building has been transformed into a busy, vibrant and multi-award winning theatre, cinema, caf bar and workshop called Junction, and major industries including a glass manufacturing plant and a supermarket distribution centre - have developed new sites on the outskirts of the town.

Goole High School was recently awarded up to 8 million for the restoration of its magnificent main Edwardian building as part of a 15 million transformation programme, and one of the towns most famous landmarks the Lowther Hotel has been splendidly restored by a family of entrepreneurs, who have even revived a series of beautiful wall paintings that had been hidden for years.

Major retailers and supermarkets have also invested in the town to complement the lively market and local specialist shops; 53 streets have had face lifts, and the station has benefitted from a modern new frontage to reflect the growing number of rail passengers travelling to and from the town.

But one of the most significant plans in the pipeline for the next few years will focus on Gooles relationship with water, its identity as an inland port and the development of waterside amenities. It seems as though every way you turn, something is being rejuvenated, regenerated and revitalised in a bid to give Goole the overhaul it deserves.

Even the towns tourist trade yes, it has one - is getting a boost: West Park, home to a spectacular annual fireworks display, is benefitting from a 1 million cash injection under the Parks for People programme, which will see the pavilion transformed into a caf and a general upgrading of facilities. Add to this the Yorkshire Waterways Museum collection at the Sobriety Project and Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve, Englands largest tidal reed bed and a must-visit for bird-watchers, and you begin to understand why so many people in Goole objected vociferously to its boring label.

Goole is a friendly town willing to embrace fresh faces and cultures, says Susan Butler. As I talk to older Goole people they have wonderful memories of how the community pulled together in bad times, when ships sank often taking fathers and sons, uncles and cousins all from the same crew, of when Goole was bombed in the war and when trade was bad. But its perhaps the aptly titled Renaissance Manager of Goole, Helen Hoult, who can best explain the attraction of the town where she has worked for the past 25 years.

Although Goole is a town it has a village atmosphere and a very close community, she says. No matter how hard times are, the people of Goole always seem to dust themselves down and get on with it.

They dont pretend to be something they are not, but they are proud of what they have. And rightly so. Goole is developing in so many different ways that its become known as A Haven of Opportunity where the sands are shifting all the time and the future looks increasingly promising.

The renaissance of Goole is changing the town for the better and giving it an exciting new identity. In my view, its well deserved.

Did you know?


In 1963 the late Beatle George Harrison made an appearance at Goole court for driving without due care and attention.


Goole was once home to Last of the Summer Wine writer Roy Clarke and football star of Norwich City and Leicester, Robbie Ullathorne.


Goole Docks make a (very) brief appearance in the film The Dambusters.

Goole was the subject of the short Peter Greenway film call Goole by Numbers.


Act Two of the hit comedy Noises Off is set in the Theatre Royal, Goole.

The Swap-Shop Roadshow, hosted by Noel Edmonds, once came to the leisure centre.


Goole has been referred to as a Port in Green Fields because of its location so far inland from the sea.


Millions of tons of coal, mined from the once vast coalfields in Yorkshire, were transported to Goole through the canal network on small linked barges called Tom Puddings. A coal hoist was then used to offload the coal by lifting the whole Tom Pudding and emptying it into the hold of a waiting ship. Today the main cargos passing through the port are wood and imported cars.


Artist Reuben Chappell was born in Goole in 1870. In order to support his family, he sketched ships as they arrived at the docks and used them to persuade the crew to buy paintings of the ships as souvenirs.


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