Wednesday, 23 September 2015

An Exhibition Celebrating Hull's Jewish Community

This fascinating exhibition was launched at the History Centre on Friday 18th September 2015 by the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Hull and Admiral of the Humber, Councillor Anita Harrison. 
Attended by members of the Jewish community and those of us that contributed to the project, the launch was a huge success. Hull training provided excellent catering and, where possible, used kosher ingredients and traditional Jewish recipes.

In April 2014 we secured external funding of £18,000 in order to enhance, promote and make more accessible the records relating to Hull’s Jewry held within the City and Hull University collections.  
I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of two Archivists to work one a day a week on the project until the end of March 2015. We were assisted by Dr Nicholas Evans from the Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) who conducted interviews with members of the Hull Jewish community. 

We have succeeded in capturing and preserving individual stories, some of which have completed gaps in our collections. The interviews were transcribed by a team of 5 dedicated volunteers.

The Jewish community in Hull dates back to 1780 with the first recorded synagogue in Posterngate. The Jewish population in Hull reached its hiatus during the period 1900-1965 and then slowly dwindled.  In the Hull of 1901, for example, out of a total population of 240,000 the Jewish population was approximately 2,000. By 2011 that figure had dropt to under 500. 

The exhibition explores the migration of Jews from Europe through Hull to North America. Only a small percentage remained in the United Kingdom with very few choosing to stay in Hull. A whole community then developed around the Osborne Street area of the City. Many went into business, formed societies and charitable organisations, built places of worship and secured burial grounds for their deceased. They also took pride in educating themselves and their children and became valued members of Hull’s community. 
I have researched individuals who have left a lasting impact on the City, for example, Alderman John Symons and Sir Leo Schultz. Together we have also studied the challenges and prejudices that the Jewish community faced as well as analysing some of the reasons for the decline of the Jewish community in Hull.

The exhibition promotes and makes more accessible our records relating to Hull’s Jewry. We have produced a glossy source guide that accompanies the exhibition and will hopefully aid future research.

Due to its portable nature the exhibition will eventually be offered to synagogues, local libraries and schools around Hull for display as we are keen to celebrate and raise greater awareness of the impact of this community on the City for future generations.

For those of you interested to find out what records we hold that relate specifically to the Jewish Community in Hull, please take a look at our 'Records of the Hull Jewish Community' catalogue or pop into the History Centre to pick up a free source guide and look at the exhibition for yourselves. The exhibition will run until 20th November 2015.

Elspeth Bower

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

From Town Dock to Green Space: 80 Years of Queen's Gardens

You might have seen or heard in the local media this week that on Saturday 19th September 2015 it was 80 years since the opening of Hull’s very own Queen’s Gardens.  Their history is as fascinating and as colourful as the gardens look today.
To many of you the gardens will evoke memories of lazy summer days or perhaps as a meeting place for friends. Some of you will have attended music festivals, play days and other events held there.
What some of you will not remember or know is that in its place for over 150 years was once was a working dock-yes in the centre of town! 

Pictorial Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock into Queen's
1935 [Ref No. DMX/39]

Opened on 22nd September 1778, the dock became known as Queen’s Dock after Queen Victoria visited the City in 1854.
By 1930, the emergence of larger docks like St Andrews, Alexandra, King George and Albert docks really meant that Queen’s dock was not worth maintaining.
It was Sir Alfred Gelder who had the vision to fill the dock in and create a green space. Hull Corporation purchased the dock from the London and North Eastern Railway Company for just over £100,000 in 1930. 

Pictorial Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock into Queen's Gardens, 
1935 [Ref No. DMX/39]

It took 4 years to fill it in. 50 tons of material was tipped in each day. Materials included dredgings from other docks and the River Humber as well bricks and rubble from demolished buildings, particularly from the Ferensway area which was being redeveloped at the same time. The process provided work for hundreds of men and cost £200,000, far in excess of the £30,000 anticipated! Where ships once used to berth, spacious lawns, flowerbeds, rock gardens and fountains were eventually created.

Pictorial Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock into Queen's Gardens, 
1935 [Ref No. DMX/39]

The gardens were opened by the then leader of the London County Council, the Right Honourable Herbert  Morrison. In his speech he thanked Sir Alfred Gelder for conceiving the idea and for supervising the scheme to transform the dock into a green space. He also paid Hull a great tribute comparing it favourably with London and adding that he wished those who had been responsible for the government of London over the years had had the vision that the City fathers of Hull have had for a good many years.
Of course there were critics of the scheme who, in particular, objected to the amount of money spent with little reward. There was even an argument played out in the Hull Times about whether or not the illuminated fountain should be lit up on a Sunday, traditionally a day of rest!

Pictorial Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock into Queen's Gardens,
1935 [Ref No. DMX/39]

Pictorial Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock into
Queen's Gardens, 
1935 [Ref No. DMX/39]
The creation of Queen’s Gardens went hand in hand with the movement of the Wilberforce statue from Monument Bridge. More about the cost, rededication and those responsible for moving this massive 600ton, 102ft high monument can be found by visiting the History Centre.
There are more plans afoot to improve the gardens ahead of the 2017 City of Culture year and to illuminate the Wilberforce statue. Indeed, if the statue of our great emancipator could speak, I am sure he would have some fascinating stories to tell us. Not only has he seen many changes in the landscape around him but he has seen society change as well. Come and find out for yourselves at the Hull History Centre how the City’s history has shaped his view at the top of that plinth today!

Elspeth Bower

Friday, 18 September 2015

Hull's Great Educator - Sir Brynmor Jones (1903-1989)

You might have seen in the local media that this week saw the official opening of the University’s newly refurbished Brynmor Jones Library at the University campus on Cottingham Road. For the next month you can discover the history of the library and the famous names associated with its development (including Philip Larkin). The exhibition is on display at the Brynmor Jones Library and is free to anyone who wishes to see it.

Original layout of the Brynmor Jones Library, 1930s

In light of the occasion I thought there might be a captive audience for all things Brynmor Jones based – Or you can take this as a tenuous excuse for me to tell you what we are currently cataloguing at the History Centre! So here goes...

In 1990 (yes that is 25 years ago...) we received the papers of Sir Brynmor Jones, formerly the Vice-Chancellor of the University, and a strong advocate of education, research and learning. Recently, we have been revisiting existing collections as part of our master plan to tackle the backlog of un-catalogued material.

Sir Brynmor Jones (right) and Sir Roy Marshall, Vice-Chancellor, at the party to celebrate Sir Brynmor’s 80th birthday, photographed byAlan Marshall, 1983

One strand of this is to make the university’s own institutional records and associated collections available for research use. Amongst the 7 boxes of records we hold from Sir Brynmor Jones [U DBJ], we have so far found publications, degree certificates, correspondence and speeches.

The publications highlight Jones’ close association with another name you should now be familiar (and for whom we also hold records), that of George William Gray, Professor in the chemistry department from 1946 to 1990. The publications show that Jones and Gray worked very closely in the early days, co-authoring papers documenting their shared research findings.

The degree certificates are helping us to trace Sir Brynmor Jones’ academic career as well as the many honorary degrees he received over the years.

Teaching Certificate of Brynmor Jones, 1926 [U DBJ]

In relation to the speeches, I would not have thought it possible for one man to make so many in one lifetime. This is in spite of constant references we are finding, in Jones’ own words, that this was an aspect of his work that he did not find comfortable. One of the highlights so far is the typescript text of the speech he gave as Vice-Chancellor on the occasion of the Queen Mother’s visit to open the new library in 1960.

Speech given by Sir Brynmor Jones on the occasion of the Queen Mother's visit, 1960 [U DBJ]

I have yet to tackle the correspondence files (3 boxes full) so that is next. Watch this space for further updates when the whole collection is fully catalogued and available for general access.

Claire Weatherall
Assistant Archivist, HUA