Saturday, September 14, 2013

Souvenir Saturday: Caithness at Cracknore Hard

James Caithness the Ferryman

Cracknore Hard 1831 (etching by David Charles Read)

A fine view of the ferry station at Cracknore Hard in Southampton estuary on the south bank of the River Test. From here the ferry would take passengers to West Quay, Southampton.

On 20 August 1815 at the baptism of his son James (Ramsey), James Caithness snr’s occupation is given as ‘waterman’ and his place of abode as Cracknore Hard. By 1820 when his daughter Mary Ann is baptized – like her elder brothers James and George (1818) at St Mary’s Church, Eling, Hampshire – James snr is ‘ferryman’. 

The coastal landscape at Cracknore Hard at that time would have looked much as shown in this etching. James was then an experienced mariner having served on various ships before being discharged from the Royal Navy at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Shockingly, he had also been a prisoner of war in France for nine years.

After surviving for nearly a decade enduring dreadful privations, if contemporary accounts are to be believed, James must have found a welcome sanctuary in the expansive, peaceful stretches of the estuary and the comforts of home and family.

Southampton Water   1831 (etching by David Charles Read)
A spacious impression of Southampton Water by the same artist. No doubt James Caithness was familiar with this vista. The broad horizon and low-lying land- and waterscape is reminiscent of Holland. It's also similar to the area alongside the Solway Firth, Cumberland, where William Bell (Mary Ann Caithness's husband-to-be) was learning to be a mariner at the beginning of the second decade of the 19th c.

The Book of Trades or Library of Useful Arts 1811 offers the following:

Watermen are such as row in boats and ply for fares on various rivers. A waterman requires but little to enable him to begin his business, viz. a boat, a pair of oars and a long pole with an iron point and hook at the lower end, the whole of which is not more than twenty pounds. The use of the pole is to push off the boat from land; the hook at one end enables him to draw his boat to shore, or close to another boat.

Tom Sheldon 

No comments: