Saltfleet Haven Boat Club
Saltfleet Haven, once called Saltfluet, Saltcoteholm, and up till 1356 it was called Saltfleetby, has been a port as long as man has occupied the fens of Lincolnshire and it has seen much trade. Salt was worked near the Haven back in the Iron Age but the original haven may have started near Rimac prior to the12th century. Salt and the local salt beds, as the name suggests has been important to Saltfleet for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The ancient ridgeway which follows county boundaries between Appleby and Austrey is perhaps one of the oldest trade routes in the Midlands. In eighteenth-century enclosure maps it is marked as ‘Salt Street’, which lends support to the suggestion that it originated as a prehistoric saltway giving access to the Cheshire salt pans.
Another ancient ridgeway, the highway from Tamworth to Ashby de la Zouch, passes through the top half of Appleby parish to intersect Salt Street. It is considered that this is part of the ‘Upper Saltway’ which according to archaeologists "connected the trading port of Saltfleet to the Droitwich salt pans". It is known that salt was also "shipped" out of the port to the rest of the country. Mentioned in the Doomsday book as a port, it expanded and by 1268 during the reign of King Henry III the Haven changed ownership a number of times, usually by theft or confusion over boundaries.
Saltfleet was claimed by the "Crown" as a Royal Port in 1281 and was at it's busiest during the fifteenth century. The Haven altered course when the River Eau was diverted in 1347 to assist cleansing the salt workings and it is known that Smugglers were very active at Saltfleet, the old green road leading up to the church of St.Clements got the name "Brandy Road".In 1301 Saltfleet Haven and Wainfleet were required to provide ships to attack the Scots and in 1359 Saltfleet was ordered by King Edward III to provide 2 ships and 49 men for the invasion of Brittany The dissolution of the monasteries caused Saltfleet problems as most traders were wealthy church men and the persecution of the Catholics caused great harm to the trade of the port.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries trade expanded once more with the need for timber and other goods from abroad to cope with the increased need for housing. The roads being so poor at the time sea transport was considered much quicker and Baltic timber was transported by sea from Boston to Saltfleet by the large fleet of sloops. A great deal of British goods including coal, came down the Humber from the Midlands and then the coast to arrive at Saltfleet. This renaissance period brought goods such as corn, beans, wool, fish, coal, wine, fertilizer and many other items with a certain amount of export being handled there in cluding farm produce, livestock and even 'Elixir's' A sizeable fleet of ships were based there including vessels with such local names as "Prussian Queen" the " Rimac" with others such as the "Try" and the "Lutha".
In the 19th century became a "member of the port of Boston" and brought timber up from that port . The port never seemed to have a fishing fleet of any size but certainly there was a coast guard as the two images below show.
Eventually time passed by Salfleet Haven and the port fell into decline and being quick to silt up would require much work to keep it in a usable state. When the Louth Navigation Canal was built the trade at the Haven almost ceased but it continued to be used by the local fishermen and a few pleasure boaters. Still, today boats can be seen coming and going with the coming of the Salfleet Haven Boat Club and there are even a couple of fishing boats based at the haven.
The Haven has also had it's share of disaster too. February 2007 marks the 125th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies of the time for a Knottingley family. Like many other families in Knottingley at that time, the Adams family had close connections with the waterways of England. Through marriage they had close connections with other seafaring families of the area. The families of Coward, Rhodes and Atkinson were all connected with Knottingley’s maritime trade. John Adams through trading from Knottingley on his father’s boats had met and married Harriet Harvey, the daughter of a Louth mariner.
By 1882 the family had settled at Saltfleet in Lincolnshire and had five children ranging in age from one year to seven years. On Saturday 18th February 1882, the 39ft sloop 'Try', owned by Edward Adams of Low Green, Knottingley, was entering Saltfleet Haven with a cargo of coal from Rotherham. On board were Captain John (Jack) Adams, his wife Harriet, and their three youngest children; Louise aged one year, Hermia aged three years and Robert aged four years. Also on board was Ships Mate, Robert Adams, the 17-year-old brother of "Captain Jack". The Adams’ two elder children, John and Jane, both aged seven years were staying with Harriet’s parents in Louth
With the weather starting to deteriorate they took on board a pilot and five other crew to assist the passage up the Haven, but by the end of that night’s tide they had only managed to sail part way so they decided to anchor overnight until the morning "flood tide". At 2:15am on Sunday 19th February 1882, as the incoming tide reached the Try it was noticed that the boat had been holed and was taking on water rapidly. Arrangements were put in place to abandon the boat, but by working the pumps and bailing out the water they were able to maintain stability and buoyancy.
Despite the worsening weather the decision was made to continue up the Haven. As they started to weigh anchor at 4:00am the chain broke and with the wind strengthening, in order to stabilise the boat the second anchor was let off. At 4:45am, the Try was seen by the coastguard and a rescue mission was ordered, but while trying to reach the Try, the weather conditions were so severe that the rudder of their boat broke and for some considerable time they were unable to make any headway. By 5:00am the sea was so severe that the second chain parted.
The Try began drifting south out of the Haven and was becoming more unmanageable. As another wave crashed over the beam the lifeboats broke loose and were washed away. As the weather deteriorated further and waves started to break over the boat’s beam and bows to "half a mast high". The young children were brought from their bunks for safety and held in the arms of the men to stop them from being washed overboard. The crew were repeatedly washed off their feet and the vessel was unable to turn stern to the gale. The sea’s repeated barrage over the broadside resulted in the hatches being damaged, and the Try soon became waterlogged.
Due to the severity of the storm the crew were unable to send out any distress signals and by now the situation was critical. One by one the young children died from exposure to the cold and wet. By the time the coastguard eventually reached the Try between 7am-8am, they found a crew member holding one of the lifeless girls. John Adams held the body of his other daughter. His son’s body was pinned to the deck where the boom had broken and fallen across his body and face. Johns brother, Robert Adams, was found dead aft of the boat while Harriet lay floating in the hold. At first apparently lifeless, she was seen to have moved by the coastguard and Harriet was lifted from the water wrapped in a large coat and carried off the Try. Captain John Adams, although completely exhausted, was able to leave the vessel with some assistance and board the coastguard’s boat.
Photos of the Try wreck
The crew and injured members were taken ashore between 9am-10am where despite medical assistance Harriet sadly died. Although some said she died of a broken heart, the reality was probably of complete exhaustion and hypothermia. On Thursday 23rd February 1882, Harriet Adams aged 27, daughter’s Louise, aged one year eight months, Hermia aged three years, son Robert aged four years and John’s brother Robert Adams aged 17 years, were buried in Louth in the presence of about one thousand people, such was the popularity of this family.
A poem entitled The Saltfleet Shipwreck, was put to music and sold for one penny per copy to raise money for the family. John Adams, the only member of the family to survive the disaster, remained in Saltfleet with his remaining son and daughter, eventually remarrying and raising a further nine children.
His descendants still live in the area to this day. John Adams died in 1927. The Try was salvaged and put back to work but was eventually wrecked in 1900, almost in the same location at Saltfleet where at low tide she can sometimes still be seen.