YOU may have noticed that there has been rather a lot of water about recently.

For some reason, that got us thinking about boats. And from boats, it is a short jump to barges on the River Ouse.

We did a quick search, and found some fantastic photographs on Explore York's wonderful Imagine York web archive of old photos. Some of them you may have seen before. Others we don't think you will have.

Our favourite must be the one from the 1890s showing sailing barges marooned by floodwater near the Bonding Warehouse on Skeldergate. Who ever thought riverboats might be immune to floods?

Despite regular, periodic flooding, the River Ouse has been a trading and transport route for centuries.

Excavations on the banks uncovered the remains of Roman jetties, wharves and warehouses, according to the History of York website. Viking York was at the centre of an international trading network, and the city continued to be an important trading port well into the medieval period.

By the late 16th century, however, larger sea-going ships could no longer navigate York’s rivers, partly due to their size and partly due to the increasing build-up of sediment in the Ouse.

Naburn Lock was built in 1757, and well into comparatively recent times barges continued to ply the waters of the Ouse, carrying everything from cement and gravel to illipe nuts for processing into oil and animal feed - and coca beans for the Rowntree and Terry factories.

Nevertheless, the arrival of the railways reduced the importance of York’s rivers as a trading route. One of the last products to be regularly delivered by barge was paper for printing The Press. These deliveries ended in the 1990s.These days, when we notice the river at all(and when it isn't flooded), it is mainly used by pleasure craft. But our photos today are a reminder of the river's final golden age as a commercial trading route, when barges ruled the waves. A couple of them also serve as a reminder of how important the Foss Basin at Castle Mills once was. how nice it would be tom see this brought back into full use as a proper mooring or marina for boats - barges or otherwise...

Our photos today show:

1. Sailing barges marooned by floodwater near the Bonding Warehouse on Skeldergate in the 1890s

2. The River Ouse near Marygate, which was a major landing. The building in the background to the right of the tower is the old public swimming baths at the bottom of Museum Gardens

3. Boats moored in Foss Basin near Castle Mills Lock in the 1910s

4. Barges are in the Foss Basin at Castle Mills Bridge in the early 1900s. The castle curtain walls at the back of what today is the castle Museum can be seen on the far left, while the old castle mills bridge can be seen right

5. Barges moored near Skeldergate Bridge, probably in the late 1890's. The clock tower belongs to the Law Courts and had been built in 1892. It is possible that some of the barges are awaiting repair as there was a shipyard and slipway to the left

6. Barges are moored at the wharf near Skeldergate Bridge, probably in the 1890s

7. Barges in front of Earle's cement dealers on Skeldergate in the 1950s

Stephen Lewis

All the photos on these pages, and thousands more, are held on Explore York’s Imagine York archive. You can browse it yourself at