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The River Freshney ~ Then & Now

A River Trip
It doesn’t quite have the breathlessness of a trip down the Nile to find the source but today I set out to find a spot on a local river with only a postcard as a guide, a 100 year old postcard prompted the hunt . . .

If ever a man had an easier or more pleasant task than mine today I’ve never met him. The sun shone gloriously and all I had to do was walk along the River Freshney in Grimsby until I found a likely looking spot which conformed to this wonderful scene . . .

The River Freshney in Grimsby Lincolnshire ~ 1907

It’s a truly wonderful image, thanks Neville, of a place only minutes from my house and a place I’ve walked and enjoyed more times than I dare imagine.
Apart from the sheer joy of the card a couple of things struck me, firstly the bridge and secondly the annotation,
River Freshney, Little Coates, near Grimsby

I’m not sure Little Coates is right, I fancied Great Coates, possibly even straying towards Laceby of Aylesby area.
The problem is, of course, quite a lot changes in a 100 years, trees certainly, meanders in rivers probably, though I’d just expect them to be more pronounced today if anything.

Well, I did wander in the sun, equipped only with binoculars and a camera it was truly glorious, a day to appreciate not only what a joy it is to be alive and healthy but also to realise just how much difference the sun makes to both day and demeanour.
The Reed Warbler chattered invisibly in the rushes by the lake and a pair of Sparrowhawks languidly patrolled in the sky above, just lovely.

I think I found the rough area though it was not possible to quite stand in the right spot to get a shot, the vegetation meant the river itself was blocked from the shot . . .

The River Freshney in Grimsby Lincolnshire ~ 2014

Ideally I would have preferred to be further forward and perhaps on the other bank and I suspect that the bridge may have been where those leaning trees are in the background, the river bends there just out of shot.
I’m not fully convinced though, I may need to take another look at it, especially if the Little Coates tag is correct.

It’s been another day which has been far from earth-shattering, I’ve not advanced the lot of man, nor indeed my own, very much but it’s been a joy.
Perhaps that’s all you need in life, a simple day . . .

Any thoughts or opinions most welcome.
Yours, a contented,


  1. v said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed your day.

    This post is both interesting and amusing because a few weeks back, I did exactly the same thing. Mon Ami, Neville, had sent me some old postcards of my locality and when I got a rare free day, off I went, pictures in hand to see if I could find the locations. The entire activity made me smile and I felt almost determined and empowered as though I was on a mission; checking the shape of walls, the number of windows on houses, chimneys and comparing to the pictures . Local history at its finest.

    It highlights though just how much Neville brings to us and does for us. Thanks Mon Ami . Becca xx

  2. Rod said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

    it’s quite an interesting thing to do, I may do more of it I think.
    Every month on this site 1,000s of people, and I do mean 1,000s, read the ‘guest articles’ which Neville has contributed to the site and that’s before we even consider the learned comments ad countless inspirational ideas and foundation stones such as this

  3. Ariadne said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

    And what are we to think about the wrong year under the second picture? That there was actually more sun than you can take, that it could refer to a previous life of yours, or that you’re unbearably retro even for your standards? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy as many sunny days as possible.

    Both the card and the picture are superb.


  4. DavidE said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    Based on the 1908 map I can only find one footbridge over the river in the Little Coates area. I think the footbridge in the distance is on the footpath which now goes from the Willows to Yarrow Road, but the bridge is over what is now called the New Cut Drain which at that time was the new course of the Freshney, which has since been straightened again to give the current course.

  5. Amiguru said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

    R & V,

    Many thanks for the laudatory comments. As I always maintain, it is the sum of all of our efforts that make this site so special.

    I had already come to the same conclusion as David E and was preparing a map edit to demonstrate this. I’ll pop it in the post Rod, if you would be so kind…

    The direction of view, i.e. the arrow, is roughly N.E. ‘A’ marks the footpath and bridge and ‘B’ the location of the leaning tree.

    The trees seen on the left of the postcard can be identified as the tree symbols along the west bank on the map. In my opinion, the trees, particularly the leaning one, are probably alders.


  6. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 6:49 am

    well spotted and duly corrected, rainy and gloomy today so no fear of too much sun here :(

  7. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 6:52 am

    thanks for this, really appreciated - this is what makes me think the Little Coates tag on the card is incorrect

  8. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 6:56 am

    that’s superb, many thanks indeed. I think my photograph is pretty much in the same place.
    The footpath is a great indicator as it’s very much in place today.
    What a result

  9. Jordan said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 9:41 am


    LOVE the 1st picture (thank you Neville)



  10. Peter Mullins said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

    Actually, perhaps pedantically, the river (the original line of the river) forms the boundary between Great Coates and Little Coates (the parish boundary is exactly what the dotted line is showing in the map extract) so I suppose it would depend on which bank one was standing or across into which side you were looking whether you’d say ‘the River Freshney, Great Coates’ or ‘The River Freshney, Little Coates’. If Amiguru has identified the correct spot (and his venture looks convincing to me) then the only bit of Little Coates in the picture is the bank on the right while everything on the left and in the far distance is Great Coates.

  11. v said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    Apologies for this but just so I understand the map a bit better…

    is FP …foot path and FB …. field boundary ? farm boundary ?

  12. Peter Mullins said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

    Foot-path and foot-bridge.

    I’ve just had a walk. Amiguru’s suggestion doesn’t look right on the ground. But I’d make a strong alternative suggestion that you stand on the Little Coates bank looking back westwards towards where Great Coates Road crosses the river.

  13. DavidE said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

    FB = foot bridge

  14. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

    it’s absolutely fabulous isn’t it.
    Pleased I’m not boring people (well, hopefully not too many) with things like this as well

  15. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    firstly, it’s impossible to be pedantic on points such as this - the minutia and every refinement is like gold dust to me.
    As to the boundary, that bridge is then the bridge which spans Little Coates and Great Coates - fantastic!

    I like the shape of the river in the photo you sent Peter, it’s just the road etc, certainly the bend in the river loos more like it.

    I do like the area I photographed and it’s bang in Neville’s suggested spot, that said, as you mention, I doesn’t feel quite right when you stand there - you can’t seem to get into a spot which feels quite right, hence my slight hesitation in the OP.

    I wonder how much time has changed it?
    I certainly looks different depending on how high on the bank you stand for instance.
    I don’t think this one’s quite finished yet . . .

  16. v said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    I don’t know how relevant or interesting this is. My geography isn’t my best thing and I know neither the location nor how many rivers run through Little Coates.

    But I did find that in 1889, it was suggested by a minority on Grimsby Council that as there was a broad stream of water flowing down from Welbeck Hill Springs towards Grimsby docks, that when it was going through Little Coates parish, it was contemplated to form a boulevard and promenade of trees along the banks of the stream as it ran through Little Coates. This would be inexpensive and improve the frontage in that place.

  17. Amiguru said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 5:56 pm


    I don’t have the advantage of ‘on-sight’ inspections but try as I might using all resources available, (Google Earth Professional, the ‘Old Maps’ website and ‘Britain from Above’(1939 image)), I cannot correlate “…. stand on the Little Coates bank looking back westwards towards where Great Coates Road” with the 1908 1:2500 map. The bridge at that time was seemingly, already a road bridge and the river veered right, (westwards by the sheepwash), immediately beyond the bridge rather than slightly left as in the postcard image.

    We have to bear in mind what DavidE states above about the re-routing of the river since then. As can be seen on ‘Google Satellite’, the River Freshney’s 1908 course is now labelled ‘New Cut Drain’ and that which is now labelled ‘River Freshney’ was in 1908 just a fairly straight subsidiary drain.

    Another factor which makes me doubt the Great Coates Road bridge location is that, on the 1908 map and the 1939 aerial photo, this spot was devoid of any trees on either the east or west banks.

    What think you?


  18. Rod said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

    I’ve just got back from walking it again, from Great Coates Road to Aylesby Mill. On Town’s Holt itself I saw perhaps 3 spot were you could recreate the shot of the meandering, taking the shot from the Golf Course side of the Freshney.

    It still feels right to me to be much further along - near Morrison’s, the spot feels like it’s at the side of the coppiced Nature Reserve at Aylesby / Laceby just passed the Private Fishing pond. I walked it from the other side of the river this time and it feels right to me.

    The other big factor is the footbridge, it ties in perfectly with the footpath which surely it would if somebody where to build it . . .

  19. graham h said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 7:41 pm


    I remember as a child there being the remains of a bridge near the pond.If you imagine you are walking towards Laceby it was just past the woods. As kids we used to cross it but as I remember it had planks missing and the handrail had gone This was all more than 50 years ago. If you look on google maps this is a part of the river that meanders like the picture shows.


  20. Richard Oliver said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

    Looks like this one’s going to run and run!! Thanks everybody for an intriguing mystery.

    Two comments:

    If we’re going to be exact about map dates, then the 1:2500 map may have been published in 1908, but the actually fieldwork, and therefore the ‘ground truth date’, was 1905-6.

    Second, and more substantial: there seems to have been a lot of confusion about Great and Little Coates, and I don’t think that just because something is labelled ‘Little Coates’ it was necessarily in Little Coates parish! The original railway approach to Alexandra Dock was only in existence from 1879 to 1909, when it was known as the ‘Great Coates Branch’, although it was firmly either in the historic parish of Little Coates (where the junction was) or that of Grimsby! After the line was closed the course of it was used for The Boulvevard (probably not the same as the 1889 proposal mentioned by V). (The Great Coates Branch was replaced by the present line, branching off at Marsh Junction.)

    The 1889 proposal might have been for the section of the (rerouted) Freshney immediately west of where the Boulevard now runs - but it actually makes more sense for it to be to the east of where the Boulevard now runs, in the area that I see the 1900s OS map calls ‘Duke of York Gardens’.

  21. Peter Mullins said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

    My suggestion comes only from the uncanny closeness of the appearance. Perhaps Rod would like to insert the photo? (My 6″ to the mile 1908 does call it the River Freshney at this point.) But there may be other points with a similar match - I didn’t walk the whole river this afternoon!

  22. Rod said,

    April 25, 2014 @ 7:33 am

    that’s fantastic, really appreciated. I trod in your footsteps last night as I searched the bank looking, rather hopefully, for any traces or the hint of a long lost bridge.
    Thanks again Graham, hugely helpful

  23. Rod said,

    April 25, 2014 @ 7:36 am

    very good points, many thanks indeed.
    I’m always weary of taking anything as stated, if for no other reason than whoever notated something could simply have been wrong at the time.

  24. Lynne said,

    April 27, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

    I haven’t visited your site in awhile, but dropped in today on a whim….read this post and really enjoyed it as it’s just the kind of thing I like doing. Recently I got a job in a new city and I’m having an interesting time exploring the history and geography of the area. My latest adventure is finding an alleged pioneer cemetery; I’ve asked a number of people how to get to the general area where this cemetery is supposed to be, and they all have different answers, so it should be interesting getting there and I expect to get gloriously and hilariously lost several times….

    Also, I agree….sometimes all one needs is a simple day.

  25. Rod said,

    April 27, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

    thanks for the comment and welcome back :)
    Sounds like you’ve some interesting trips ahead, it’s not a bad way to spend your time I think

  26. Sam said,

    April 28, 2014 @ 10:02 am

    After looking at a number of old maps, I believe it could be due north from cottagers plot, where the river freshney gets close to Maidewell Way, laceby acres. There is a reference to a footbridge here in all maps and corresponds with the setting sun, westerly (assuming an artist doesn’t have his/her paints at the ready in the dark for a sunrise).

  27. Rod said,

    April 28, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

    that’s pretty much the spot I’ve been looking at, passed the private fishing pond and behind the small wood next to the pond more or less adjacent to Morrisons

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