New Holland today has under 900 people or 350 households in the village, yet it had up to 1500 people when it was a railway centre. The Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction railway first thought of a railway to the river here, but these plans were finalised by the amalgamated company, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. This is why there is Manchester Square in New Holland, for in Grimsby there was the (now demolished) Sheffield Square.
Before 1803 there wasn't even a New Holland, but just the creek somewhat opposite Hull at the south bank of the Humber about Oxmarsh, part of Barrow, in the North Yarborough wapentake. Tommy Dent occupied land belonging to the churchwardens of Barrow (and a Billy Dent uses land next to Manchester Square now!)and with an assistant he started a small ferry service from the creek. He built a house and a shed, and the ferry operation was a front for smuggling goods, especially gin, and it was Hollands gin that gave impetus to the naming of the place. The name really caught on when the New Holland Proprieters set about producing a ferry service.
So in 1825 a small ferry operated from New Holland and in 1826 the Yarborough Arms was built. A stage coach service began in 1828 but it was with improving the road and buying the Magna Charta ferry in 1832 that mail stage coaches came in ernest to New Holland.
New Holland's success as a ferry port came about because of competition in Barton. From 1316 the public authorities had gained the right to operate a ferry from Hull to Barton. In September 1831 Joseph Acland started a rival ferry, and although it lasted only until December he had weakened the more expensive public service. Acland supported the New Holland scheme so that in 1832 the Magna Charta started three round trips a day and one extra on market days. A horse boat was added for animal transportation. When in 1836 the London Mail coach transferred from Barton to New Holland, New Holland became the superior crossing point. There had already been principal services to Boston, Lincoln and Nottingham.
The turnpikes did well although goods stayed on the waterways until the coming of the railway.
In 1845 the directors of the Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction Railway paid £10000 for the Barrow and New Holland ferries, the jetty, the Yarborough Arms and more, and sold these to their company nine months later for £21000, and so caused a scandal. The collapsed reputation of George Hudson, the "Railway King", led to enquiries into the railway financing, and the MS&L was known as the Money, Sunk and Lost. Between New Holland, Lincoln and Grimsby the fabric of the lines was built for £36000 and the line up to New Holland was opened on 1st March 1848 with a through service from Louth. From the beginning the trains went along the 1375 feet long New Holland pier built by John Fowler (it had two tracks, a carriageway and a footpath) and a year later passengers disembarked on to the floating pontoon that eased the passage on to the ferries. Goods now transferred from waterways to the railways, and passengers and mail came from the stage coaches.
New Holland was busy, although it was never the major railway junction that some had forseen. There was a suggestion of building custom facilities, which would have been a cuious development given the oprigins of the place. In 1847 the railway company built a school for the railway children (and others, paying the teacher's salary), in 1850 it opened a three acre dock and timber pod, warehouses, cattle sheds and coal wharves, in 1851 a rebuilt Yarborough Arms was opened. Most construction work was complete then, including around eighty houses. The schoolroom was licensed by the Bishop of Lincoln for services and the church was opened in 1901, built by C. Hodgson Fowler.
Forty five houses were in Manchester Square (there are fewer now because in the 1970's renovation of the somewhat rundown or derelict houses included making two of the terraced cottages at a time into one house. Number 13 is one of those that was formed from two residences.
If New Holland began with smuggling and the railway was born in corruption, the railway operation was no better when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway fell out with the Great Northern Railway which ran services from Louth. Ferries would sometimes leave just before the Great Northern Trains arrived at New Holland Pier station. Also the library in New Holland was financed by fines on railway employees east of Retford.
Being by the river, there was occasional boat building at New Holland. The Barton Clay Pits run along the Humber bank to New Holland, where it is now a nature reserve, and at one point 15 concerns went all along the bank producing bricks, tiles and related products. The railway in fact carried fewer of these heavy products than the waterways and coastal traffic. Today there are a number of importing related employers, with Howarth Timber and Howarth Windows and Doors, and also New Holland Bulk Services Limited and the dock is still busy. A bypass that seems to go nowhere (and has a silly 30 miles per hour speed liit) keeps lorries out of the village's main Barrow Road, but rail tracks still run up the pier (the ferry service ended in 1981 when the Humber Bridge was opened) and more bulk goods seem to be using the railway again.
Somehow the passenger railway has survived, providing a public transport link with bus connections over the Humber Bridge and to Grimsby. In the early days Humberlink was seen as a means by which Humberside gained identity. That county has now gone, and a two hourly service still needs subsidy, competing now with even occasional free buses to the new supermarket in Barton at the end of the line. The New Holland Town station was moved from the branch to the pier south, being now just a platform and simple shelter, so that one or two carriage length trains can pass through without a need to reverse.
However, the Humber Bridge has had 20 of its 100 years life span, after which there will have to be some other means of getting over the water. Perhaps by then all vehicles will optionally fly or skate over the river.
Wright, Neil R.(1982), Lincolnshire Towns and Industry: 1700-1914, History of Lincolnshire XI, Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee for the Society of Lincolnshire History and Archaeology.
Ludlam, A. J. (1996), Railways to New Holland and the Humber Ferries, Oxford: Oakwood Press