Saxilby and District History Group

Saxilby Swing Bridge Keepers

The Group receives many family history enquiries over the course of the year.

We received such an enquiry recently from a lady who's 90 year old mother wished to visit the village, as her father, Bertie Fox, was born at Bridge House (pictured above right) in 1905.

His father, Edward, was the swing bridge keeper at the time.

The swing bridge over the canal was built in 1823 for the canal leaseholder Richard Ellison. It closed to traffic in 1937 following building of the -pass.

Bridge House had three bedrooms and two reception rooms; it was accessed by steps from the bridge. It was demolished in 1957.

The first bridge keeper was Michael Pilley, born in Lincoln in 1773.

Following his marriage to Ann Staniland of Thorne in 1796, he moved to Thorne where he set up business as a mercer, trading in cloth and fine silks.

Nine of their ten children were born in Thorne; the tenth, Amy, was born in Kettlethorpe in 1820.

By 1803, Michael was in extreme financial difficulty and declared bankrupt.

His father, also Michael, had worked with the Foss leaseholder, and evidently persuaded Ellison to employ him.

First employed at Torksey Lock, he moved to Saxilby when the swing bridge opened.

Michael died in 1829, and is buried in Saxilby.

His wife, Ann, continued to be employed as the bridge keeper.

In 1849, at the age of 74, she also ran the first post office from Bridge House. She is additionally recorded on the 1851 census as 'a teacher of young ladies'. Ann died in 1864, and is buried in Saxilby.

Edward Fox, born in London, was orphaned and apprenticed in an iron foundry in Dudley. In an industrial accident, he lost his hand. In 1881 he was a railway guard living in Carlton, Nottingham, and had moved to Lincoln ten years later where he worked as a toll collector on the Foss. He later moved to Bridge House.

Since the 1850's, all canal workers were employed by the railway companies, which had taken over the running of the canals.

Edward was followed as bridge man by George Knight Blow.

George Knight Blow and Family

In an undated newspaper article, Mr Blow suffered a broken leg and arm when a fast running barge struck the swing bridge which had not been fully opened. The bridge handle struck Mr Blow which threw him some distance. First aid was rendered first by the local vet, David Cooper, and later by Dr Rainbird, who sent him to Lincoln Hospital.

In the style of the day, the newspaper concludes the article with 'much sympathy is felt for Mrs Blow, who has been ill in bed, and quite unable to get out at present to visit her husband at the above institution'.

The last bridge keeper was Harry Britt, who was employed as a porter at Saxilby station following the closure of the swing bridge.