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Rednesse c.1170. "Reedy headland". Old English hreod + næss

A Dictionary of English Place-Names, Oxford University Press

Reedness stretches over a couple of miles and contains many buildings, including a windmill, pub, post office, old folks home, red telephone box and a bus stop. The whole village is under sea-level and all the riverbanks were recently raised to provide long-term protection to the houses.

Like most of the riverside villages, it has a Wesleyan Chapel. John Wesley lived only thirteen miles away in Epworth, so the Ouse borderland formed his early preaching ground.

The local pub was once famous for its one-eyed cat and a landlord who would only serve you during the adverts. However, it was compensated for by the real ales. If you walk along the riverbank, you can just glimpse the Humber Bridge in the distance, and the night skies here are glorious, especially if you're lucky enough to see a shooting star or the Northern Lights.

Reedness and Ousefleet are indeed distinct townships with their own history. But their circumstances are so similar and their history so alike it seems right to deal with them together. The stranger to Marshland reading this needs to remember that Swinefleet, Reedness, Whitgift and Ousefleet all lie along the southern shore of the Ouse and - moving from west to east, from Goole to the Trent - in that order.

A "ness" is another Old Norse word and it means "a headland, a point of land, in the bend of a river". A "fleet" as we have seen can be an "inlet" but also can simply mean "a stretch of river". But as through the centuries the Ouse has meandered across these lands that are barely, if at all, above sea level, its course must have changed so often that it is now hardly possible to decide what it was about a particular "ness" or "fleet" that led people to use them for the naming and distinguishing of one small community from another.

The history of all these Marshland riverside communities is the history of the building - and sometimes alas the failure - of the defences that keep water and land separate. The earliest of these walls and banks takes us back before the beginnings of written records and when the records begin there is the constant complaint of "banks much broken and in decay" and comments about "grete inundations". The Economic Historian would tell us that one of the reasons that lay behind the generous gifts of Kings and Earls to the Abbeys of Selby, Thornton, Drax and St. Mary"s, York, were that these lands were uninhabitable and almost worthless until there had been this investment in drainage and defences. The early history of Reedness and Ousefleet is the story of that investment.

So we begin to find people living in these places - and sometimes people of sufficient importance and wealth to get into the history books and sometimes leave some trace of where they had lived for us to see. For a time the Usfleets of Ousefleet were very important people indeed. They were closely related to the Furnivals, Lords of Sheffield and Hallamshire. Their fortified Manor House, "Hall Garths", still shows the moats that surrounded it and some traces of the once-great house in which Sir John de Usfleet was licenced to have a Chaplain for his Chapel. The last of the line fought at the Battle of Agincourt, supported by nine lancers and thirty six archers.

Similarly the "de Redenesse" family flourished at Reedness. In 1287 a licence was given for the building of a Chapel in the Manor of Reedness. In 1346 "Sir William de Redenesse" was granted "pardon for his good service in the War of France for homicides, felonies, robberies and trespasses committed before September 4th last". (They must have been a wild lot at Reedness for in 1386 John Elmsall, a servant of Thomas de Redenesse, is pardoned for the murder of John Mundson of Swynflete). Traces of a mediaeval house can be seen at Mawgre, inland from Reedness, but this is first mentioned in the 15th Century and I would think that the villainous Sir William lived more at the centre of the village nearer to the river. Surprisingly, Redenesse pays more in the 1379 Poll Tax £2/13/6 than anywhere else in the neighbourhood except Snaith. Ousefleet escaped with 19/10.

Ousefleet was involved in the struggle between Adlingfleet and Selby for ecclesiastical control of the area. Sometime after 1164, Walter, Rector of Adlingfleet, had built a Chapel for those he claimed to be his parishioners at Ousefleet, and around 1200 it was ordered that it be "thrown down to the foundations".

There are some references to "The Church of Reedness" but it seems likely that this actually means "The Church at Whitgift". To this day the sign saying "Reedness" is within inches of Whitgift"s churchyard wall.

Reedness seems in later centuries to have had a continuing life as a small port. There was a price to be paid for this. In 1633 Lord Wentworth (who was to become Earl of Strafford and beheaded by Parliament"s command in 1641) wrote to tell London that "Pestilence has come into divers parts of Co. York. Redness and Airmin are furiously infected and 100 persons dead, this being brought out of Lincolnshire… it was brought into the suburbs of York by a lewd woman from Airmin… the passages from Lincolnshire have been stopped as much as possible."

The Civil Wars, despite the comings and goings of great persons and the importance of Hull in the struggle, have left few marks on the history of the neighbourhood. Parliament built a fort in 1643 at Whitgift to guard the river but that, I suspect, was a "nine days wonder". But tragedy came to Ousefleet. For Whitgift"s Registers tell us that John Hobson, who had been christened on 30 July, 1614, "was slaine in ye warre being taken prisoner for ye King, a boy came behind him and shot him with a pistoll". The Puritanism of the clergy suggest general support for Parliament. But the Empsons were in trouble with Parliament for their support of the Royal cause.

The Admiralty Court"s fining of Reedness in 1693 for not removing "the piles and stumps of an old staithe called King's Staithe in the Constablery of Rednesse" suggests that sometime between 1633 and 1693 the port had closed down. Perhaps it never recovered from the plague.

Through the centuries, fashions in generosity change. In the 12th Century there were many small gifts to the Abbeys. By the 15th Century it was the gifts of tenements and lands in "Rednez" and a "messuage" in "Uslytte" that endowed the "Guylde Preyst" in Whitgyfte Church. But by the 17th Century the major concern was for schools. In 1705 John Wressel bequeathed 70 acres of land to a minister at Whitgift and directed that £15 a year should go to a schoolmaster for the education of poor children at Reedness. In 1727, not to be outdone, Emmanuel Empson had set about the founding of a School at Ousefleet. And of course at much the same time the Grammar School at Fockerby had come into existence.

The 18th Century and early 19th Century too had seen the building of Methodist Chapels in the villages of Marshland. The nearness to Epworth encouraged the growth of Weslyan Methodists and the Trent was the road down which Primitive Methodists travelled north.

Rivers, Rectors and Abbots, David Lunn - Bishop of Sheffield, 1990


Visitor Comments

Posted by SG on 06/09/2006

Pub no longer has a one-eyed cat or telly-addict landlord, and the beer has improved - good on ya, Richard!

Posted by Lorraine on 03/10/2006

I agree with previous comment, Richard is doing a fab job. I heard of a comment recently from another pub landlord who will remain nameless (since I don't know it!) who said it wouldn't last as the new landlord didn't know anything about hospitality. Well sorry nameless landlord, the hospitality at the Half Moon as first class and the atmosphere and food great. A massive improvement on a one eyed cat!

Posted by Michael on 24/01/2011

Did you know that in 1861 the Half Moon Inn was occupied by Thomas Lazenby, a rat catcher by profession, together with his wife Mary, son John and daughter Selina? I stumbled upon this nugget while researching the Lazenby ancestry for my cousin in Canada.

Posted by Jean on 15/02/2007

My dad (Ron) and his brothers and sisters were raised in Reedness. My grandfather built his own house, with the help of my grandmother who laboured for him. The house was sold and I think it became the post office. My dad and his brothers played cricket for the village in the 1940s and 1950s. My dad went to the village school and was educated by Mr Butler, who taught the children all he knew!

Posted by Christine on 09/07/2007

My father came from Reedness. His father was a Walker and his mother a Hemingway. He and my mother started their married lives at Bank House. My Aunt Rose Walker (nee Leeman) and her husband, Thomas Hemingway Walker, kept a shop there. The most significant thing that I can remember about my visits there is that the lavatory was an earth closet. I hated it.

I have a photograph of children (probably infants) at Reedness school in about 1912.

Posted by Lisa on 07/11/2007

Do you have any idea of the children's names on the photo? Is there a copy on the web anywhere for us to look at?

Posted by Graham on 15/11/2007

My dad, Brian Ward, was evacuated to Reedness during the war. He was from Hull. A Mr and Mrs Yule brought him up after his mum was killed by a bomb at the hospital where she worked.

I am trying to trace a family tree, and if anyone knew my dad, can they get in touch. Thanks.

Posted by Corby on 25/02/2008

Does anyone know of a family who lived in Reedness? The head was Herbert Hewson Harrison (b. 1870 in Gainsborough). He married Lucy Ellen Lawman in 1905 and had a son Herbert Ronald (b. 1910 at Bank House). What I need to know is when H.H. Harrison died and possibly also his wife. I would appreciate any info on this family. Thanks.

Posted by Patricia on 19/09/2008

I have ancestors who lived in the Reedness area (Reedness Common). Does anyone remember Solhearns farm or Solhearns cottage? Thanks.

Posted by John on 05/05/2009

I was born in Reedness in 1963 and what a stunningly beautiful place it is. As I got older I met the girl got wed and moved away but the pull was far too great to keep away and was lucky enough to buy the little council house I was born in which my parents lived in for 40 odd years. Trust me life does not get any better than this, especially since Rich and Ann took over the pub.

Posted by Susan on 13/08/2009

I have BELL ancestors from Reedness and Whitgift. Does anyone else out there have them? Thanks.

Posted by Raymond & Marie on 05/12/2009

St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Whitgift, (just near the Ousefleet village border sign): This church has (or had) three bells and the second or middle one had/has on the name "Tho[mas] Ella, Ch[urch] Warden, year 1792".

Posted by Raymond & Marie on 11/09/2010

From "West Riding [of Yorkshire] Election", year 1841 (a poll to elect two knights of the shire):

Whitgift Township: Including other residents, the poll also included Thomas Ella of Whitgift, William Ella of Adlingfleet Grange and John Ella of Adlingfleet Grange.

Posted by Jan on 14/11/2010

My first teaching post was at Reedness school in 1969. I used to travel there on a scooter. I remember taking my class to see the goats at a local farm. I was called Mrs Roffey then.

Posted by Michael on 02/01/2011

I was born in the house in 1943 opposite the farm known as Ivy House farm owned by the Cowling family. My family was the Clark family. My grandfather was the local builder and built the house himself.

I went to Reedness school. In those days the school had only four classrooms and was large enough to accommodate all the children in Reedness, Whitgift and the common. Just the last two years of my schooling were spent going to the Goole Modern School.

Reedness was a nice place to live. I never went on holidays, I was always told Reedness is where people like to come on holiday.

Posted by Linda on 10/07/2011

My grandfather, Herbert Barley Cooper, was born in Reedness in 1894, his mother was Maria Cooper, her father Edward Bell Cooper. I cannot find an address on the census forms, would be pleased if anyone can help. Thanks,

Posted by Josephine on 14/09/2011

Linda, I may be able to help you with Maria Cooper and Herbert Barley. Maria's parents were my husband's great- great-uncle and aunt.

Posted by Simon on 20/11/2011

Herbert Barley, husband of Maria Cooper, is my great-grandfather, Tom Edwin Barley's brother. I have a photo of him before his early death. I assume that Herbert is Herbert Barley Cooper's father.

Posted by Jill on 16/08/2011

My ancestor Thomas Clark was master corn miller in Reedness according to the 1881 census. His two younger children Alfred and George were born there and there were at least six older children, Walter (my great-great grandfather), Thomas, Henry, Annie, Theodore, and Agnes (who had moved there from Swinefleet).

Thomas senior was born in Keyingham. I believe their mother was London-born. Walter also went on to become a miller. Does anyone know if there are any school or church records which might fill out my picture of their lives there? Is the windmill pictured the only mill in the village as if so that must be where they lived? Thanks.

Posted by Peter on 28/11/2011

My great-great-grandmother came from Reedness and was the eldest daughter of John Cornelius Sheppard, the wheelwright and Hannah Ellis. I would like to contact any other descendants.

Posted by DS on 21/05/2016

My great(x3)-grandad was John Cornelius Sheppard, the wheelwright who married Hannah Ellis.

Posted by Brian on 06/05/2012

My father's uncle (full name John George Hermon Lefley!) married Alice Ann Shipley in 1904. He was a "market gardener" and the extended family lived at Amcotts, Pasture Lane and in Scunthorpe. He died in Goole 1953. Does anybody have any clue?? Thanks.

Posted by Lorraine on 29/11/2012

I have found a reference in a new book on Reedness.

It mentions a Mr Jack Lefley and daughter Ivy occupying a property on land in Reedness which is now occupied by Parkin's Patch, near the school. There used to be a mill there so I think it was probably referring to Mill House.

Posted by Brian on 12/12/2012

Thanks for the info Lorraine! I went to a Family history day at Goole library recently and met some members of the Marshland Local History Group. One of them knew John (Jack) Lefley as a young girl. He lived at the house near the Windmill at the Carroll. The society has an excellent little book called "the Marshland Trail" with interesting local photos.

Have found the book you refer to. It is "Memories of Reedness" published by the Marshlands Local History Group at £9.95. Excellent read - available via their website.

Posted by Brian on 11/10/2012

Does anybody know where "Carol House", Reedness was (or is)? Thanks.

Posted by Jackie on 16/10/2013

My mum's great-grandfather was George William Thornton Middlebrook of Reedness Hall. My grandad and his sisters had a privileged upbringing with a governess, their father is recorded as a gentleman and landowner. He had married a May Jane Mapples a farmer's daughter from the area.

I am looking into the family tree and it's very interesting. In the lawn of Reedness Hall is buried a barrel of brandy placed there when my grandad was born and to be opened on his 21st birthday but by then the house had been lost to gambling.

Posted by Vicky on 24/03/2015

My mum's mum was from the Middlebrook family of Reedness - George William Thornton Middlebrook is my great(x3)-grandfather. According to my nan, his son John Robert Martin Middlebrook was a "bit of a rogue" who wore gold hoop earrings and rode a penny farthing. Who knows how true that is!

Posted by Trevor on 12/12/2017

John Robert Martin Middlebrook was my grandfather and I have a lot of history about him, including his school details. My mum was one of his seven daughters and also two brothers. I have the family register together with photographs.

Posted by Fiona on 30/01/2018

My grandmother on my mother's side was related to the Middlebrook family of Reedness. Elsie Ann Middlebrook was my great grandmother. I believe she was the eldest of eight children. I'm wanting to find out more about this side of the family.

Posted by John on 30/11/2013

Can anyone throw any light on the reason the road takes a loop around the back of Reedness School? The playground surface forms a straight line which logically would have been the line of the road before the school was built.

Posted by Christine on 12/12/2013

My family originate from Reedness. My grandad and grandma were Mr and Mrs Joseph Dixon, they lived at Woodgarth House. My granddad was the joiner there. I remember he used to do funerals and made the coffins. My dad was Stanley, he had a brother called Ronald and three sisters Mavis, Doreen and Glenys. I have happy memories of Reedness.

Posted by Alan on 27/03/2015

My grandad lived opposite school and was the caretaker at the school. The house was a farmhouse with a hand pump in the front garden (got a photo of it with grandma). We used to go and play there. He died on a foggy night the same night that a ship ran aground.

Posted by Karlie on 13/07/2015

My parents live at Parkin Patch in Reedness and it is built on the land where the old mill used to stand. They still have an original mill stone in the garden which is now used as a lovely feature and table.

Posted by Patricia on 18/11/2017

Does anyone know of a coal merchant from Reedness called Herbert or Joseph Penistone? He originally had a business in Mariners Street, Goole but was moved when they built the POW camp there in World War II.

Posted by Clive on 19/02/2020

My great-great-grandfather Anthony Drury was born at Reedness Hall but not much is known about his father Benjamin Drury (b. about 1745) or how they became residents of the Hall. I know he married Ursula Duckles and many Drurys were buried at Whitgift churchyard. Can anyone oblige me with further details? Thanks.

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