Monday, 13 August 2018

Just popping down the allotment...

The 13th to the 19th of August 2018 is National Allotments Week. As an active 'allomenteer' I thought a quick look at the development of allotments in the area might make for an interesting blog, so I had a look to see what records we have here at Hull History Centre.

Most allotments today are owned or maintained by local authorities, although by no means all are, and the first municipal allotments in Hull can be traced back to 1895. In this year, two sites were established to support the unemployed in the town. One was located near to the depot on Sculcoates Lane, whilst the other was on land by the prison on Hedon Road. In 1909, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act was passed, and this led the Hull Council to establish a Smallholding and Allotments Committee. The purpose of the committee was draw up specific rules and regulations and to issue tenancy agreements regarding the letting of allotments.

c.1909 [C TCSM/1/1/1]

But it wasn't only Council run allotments that were available to aspiring 'allotmenteers'. The following tenancy agreement relates to a plot of land in Garton which formed part of the Sledmere Estate owned by the Sykes family of the East Riding. The pro-forma printing of tenancy agreements with the name 'Tatton', in conjunction with the manual replacement of that name with his successor's name 'Mark', demonstrates that the practice of renting private land was a well established one on the Sykes estate. This tenancy agreement also demonstrates the traditional measure used to define and allotment area, that of rods (also known as poles or perches) which was a length equating to approximately 5 ½ yards.

1915 [U DDSY/23/348]

A number of local associations were established which sort to bring like-minded gardeners together and to help manage individual allotments. The Golf Links Allotments on Hall Road in Hull had their own such association, the Golf Links Floral and Horticultural Society.

1934, [L DSGL/1]

The Hull and East Yorkshire Allotment Council was set up in 1949. This organisation wasn't linked to a specific allotment, but rather sought to offer advice to growers as well as to promote details of upcoming outings, events and general news from around the area through the publication of a quarterly journal. It offered practical tips for the coming months, and you will see from the following images that some of these tasks are familiar although methods have certainly changed. Notice, in particular, the heavy use of chemical products such as DDT, the devastating impact on the environment of which was yet to be recognized.


1955 [L.635]

The growth of allotment culture meant that more people could take part in flower and horticultural shows. These events had become very popular in the Victorian period, although entrants tended to be gardeners working on large estates for the landed gentry. With land for cultivation more readily available, the ordinary 'allotmenteer' could now take part. The following is a programme for the twenty-second Chrysanthemum Show held at Hull City Hall in 1913. Programmes for events such as these included advertisements for businesses selling seeds and plants and so help us to understand the commercial side of allotment keeping.

1913 [C DSCH/1]

The adverts in this programme prompt a short aside: although the head office for the Fish and Manure Company was on the High Street, it’s main works were at one time on Maxwell Street, along with the Hull Hide, Skin and Fat Company, two cod oil manufacturers and two manure manufacturers as well the Milestones Chemical Works. This must surely have been one of Hull’s more aromatic areas!

If you are interested in the history of your allotment site, or allotment history in Hull more generally, then come and see us at the Hull History Centre. But for now I will leave all of you green fingered people with the following challenge; can you produce a display as impressive as this one taken found in the records of the Hull and East Riding Chrysanthemum Society?

c.1900s [C DSCH/3]

Paul Leaver, Archivist (Hull City Archives)

Monday, 30 July 2018

Yorkshire Day 2018

The 1st August is Yorkshire Day, which was founded in 1975 by the Yorkshire Ridings Society to celebrate and campaign to restore the ancient administrative divisions of the County of the Broad Acres, in the wake of the local government reorganisation which had seen their abolition. There were of course three Ridings historically, North, East and West – the word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The East Riding of Yorkshire was revived as a unitary authority in 1996, albeit with slightly altered boundaries, in 1996.

However here at Hull History Centre we know that there was a Fourth Riding, created by novelist and feminist Winifred Holtby (1898–1935). The fictional South Riding of Yorkshire lends its name to and is the setting for Holtby’s great, posthumous novel published in 1936.

Photograph of Winifred Holtby [L WH/9.9.1.03.01g]

Holtby’s archive was given to the City after her early death by her literary executor and great friend Vera Brittain. Among the archive is a manuscript map of the South Riding. Even in rough outline it presents a familiar landscape; only the names are not what we expect.

Map of the South Riding [L WH/8.8.6.01a]

Holtby’s South Riding lies on the north bank of the great Leam Estuary. At the heart of the estuary is the City of Kingsport – “blank cliffs of warehouses, stores and offices…powdered from the fine white dust of flour-mills and cement works.” Beyond Kingsport stretches the “bare level plain” of the South Riding, miles of “patterned country, the corn ripening to gold, the arsenic green of turnip tops, the tawny dun-colour of the sun-baked grass” – not too different from what we see in Holderness this summer.

Apart from Kingsport being Hull there are other equivalencies: the county town of Flintonbridge is Beverley; Hardrascliffe is Bridlington; and the centre for much of the story, the insular seaside town of Kiplington, is Withernsea. Sunk Island inspired the bleak, decaying farming community Cold Harbour, and on the east coast of the South Riding sit the twin villages of Pidsea Buttock and Ledsea Buttock, with “ancient and honourable” names, whose inspiration were places like Hornsea and Skipsea.

Throughout the novel, the landscape of the real East Riding is reflected in the fictional South Riding. But it is not idealised; the South Riding isn’t a Shire or a Narnia. It feels like a real place, as it was in the 1930s and still recognisable today.

So if you want to mark Yorkshire Day with a good read or a good watch, you can borrow the novel and the DVD of the 1974 adaptation with Dorothy Tutin from the History Centre!

Martin Taylor, City Archivist

Monday, 23 July 2018

This Month in Hull: July

As people seemed to enjoy the format of June’s ‘This Month in Hull’ post, we have decided to go the same route for July. So, again, what follows is a random (though hopefully interesting) collection of historical facts about our city. This time our facts are inspired by Susanna O'Neill's 'The Hull Book of Days' (2014) [L.9.7], which is available to read and borrow from our Local Studies Library.

In 1836, on the 27th, Joseph Henry Fenner was christened at Brixton, Surrey. He would later become the founder of the Fenner Group in Hull.

Employment agreement and retirement bonus letter belonging to a long-term employee of Fenners [C DIFK]

In 1850, on the 3rd, Victoria Dock was formally opened by Mr T. Firbank, Chairman of Hull Dock Company, and was signalled to the town by the firing of a salute from a battery in the Citadel.

Postcard showing Victoria Dock, Late 18th cent. [L RH/2/68]

In 1908, on the 1st, Hull's Garden Village was officially opened. The building of Garden Village was a philanthropic venture devised by Sir James Reckitt for the benefit of his workers and retired workers. It was financed by Reckitt and another local philanthropist, Sir Thomas Ferens.

Postcard showing Garden Village, 1910 [L RH/2/344]

In 1915, on the 5th, a wooden dummy gun was installed on the roof of the premises that would later become Rose Downs and Thompson. It was intended to act as a deterrent to German zeppelins, and was manned from 8pm to 5am each night.

Copy tender for a wooden gun, c.1915 [C DBR/2509/118] 

In 1937, on the 25th, a trolleybus service opened to traffic two days after a ceremonial inauguration. The service replaced the existing tramway network, and used overhead electric wires but did not require tracks to run.

Trolleybus in operation in Victoria Square, 1939 [Lp.388.322.15]

In 1981, on the 17th, the Humber Bridge was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, and was then the longest single span suspension bridge in the world.

Visit of civic dignitaries from Sierra Leone during construction of the Humber Bridge, 1979 [C TDP/2/7/9]

If you want to find out more about any of these facts, drop in to the History Centre and see what else we have.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Material Girl: A fashionable end to the First World War

Inspired by the stunning garments currently brightening up our Arcade which were designed and handmade by students at the Hull College of Art and Design in response to their own research findings regarding trench warfare in the First World War, transposition fashion and British standard dress in 1918 and the rise of the Suffragette movement, I thought I’d delve into our collections to discover what fashionable delights can be found here at the History Centre.

After a quick search of our online catalogue and a speedy rifle through our information card index held in the library I discovered a variety of documents relating to clothing, dressmakers, and fashion. An article in the Hull Daily Mail (20th March 1965, p.4) highlights that in the not so distant past Hull was acknowledged as an important fashion centre. This was primarily due to Madam Clapham’s residence in the city. A world renowned dress-maker with a salon located in Kingston Square, now home to the Kingston Theatre Hotel, Madam Clapham took on apprentices and provided women with constant work during and after the First World War.

Indenture apprenticing Elsie Berry to Madam Clapham, 1929 [C DMC/5/79/1100]

At the end of the war new fashions were becoming popular, and long black cloaks for women were highly fashionable at the time. You can see some of the items in the exhibition have clearly taken inspiration from this trend. Although a few in Hull were seen to don the garment the fashion didn’t really take off. However, one Hull Daily Mail article (25th March 1965, p.6) notes an amusing episode in which a woman appeared in such a cloak at an East Riding resort and boasted that not only had it been made by Madam Clapham but that the material had been cut from the same roll as had been used for the making of a garment for the Queen of Norway - you can imagine her pride at such a claim.

The First World War greatly influenced women’s fashion. Just as women’s roles in society began to transform so did their clothing; restrictive corsets and hemlines were cast off and made way for a preference for loser fitted and more practical outfits as can be seen adverts and photographs from the time.

Advert for the latest fashions at Hammond's, Hull, c.1920 [C DIAL/2/2]
Philippa Burrell in new fashion bought by Virginia Taylor, Jun 1919 [U DBU/2/441]

Garments designed and handmade by students at the Hull College of Art and Design will remain on exhibition in the History Centre arcade until the end of July, why not pay us a visit and marvel at the interesting designs and quality garment-making on display.

Laura Wilson, Librarian/Archivist (Hull City Archives)