Monday, 31 July 2017

Freedom: Yorkshire Day

This History Centre City of Culture blog explores the anniversary of 'Yorkshire Day'... 

Created by the Yorkshire Ridings Society, it was first celebrated in Beverley in 1975. Yorkshire Day was initially conceived as a protest against the Local Government reorganisation of 1974, during which the county of Humberside was created. Humberside was never universally popular and many believed that the name change did not recognise the cultural, social and economic differences between the opposite banks of the Humber. In short, both sides felt that the creation of Humberside removed the areas's ancient and historic associations with Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The East Yorkshire Action Group (EYAG) was formed in 1974 and campaigned for the return of the East Riding of Yorkshire and the abolition of Humberside. 

Morden's map showing the East Riding of Yorkshire, 1695

The date of 1st August was chosen to celebrate Yorkshire Day because it is the anniversary of the Battle of Minden (1759) and the end of slavery within the British Empire (1834). With these things in mind its easy to see how Yorkshire Day can also be conceived of as a celebration of freedom: freedom of expression; freedom of identity; and freedom of person. 

Battle of Minden

The Battle of Minden was a military engagement in the Seven Years War, fought between the French and an allied force comprised of Prussians, Hanoverians and British regiments. One of the five British infantry regiments involved in the battle was the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. As the story goes, whilst marching to battle the British soldiers passed through rose gardens and stopped to place white roses on their headdresses and coats. The allied army was victorious and so, in commemoration of the victory and to remember the fallen, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, now part of the Yorkshire Regiment, wear a white rose in their caps on 1st August.

Emancipation of Slaves

The emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834 was the culmination of a decades long struggle for which Yorkshire MP, William Wilberforce, had campaigned tirelessly. The British slave trade had been abolished in 1807, but Wilberforce and his fellow campaigners had to fight another 27 years to see the end of slavery within the British Empire. Wilberforce died only three days after hearing that the Slavery Abolition Act had been passed by Parliament. William Wilberforce was born in Hull and many items relating to him and the abolition movement are now displayed at his family home, Wilberforce House, on High Street in Hull. The Hull History Centre also maintains a Special Collection of books relating to Wilberforce, slavery and the abolition movement. Many of the books in the collection can be borrowed using a Hull Libraries card.

Recent Yorkshire Day Celebrations

The county of Humberside was eventually abolished in 1995, returning Hull and the surrounding area to Yorkshire proper. However, this didn't mean the end to Yorkshire Day. In recent years, the Yorkshire Society has organised an annual gathering on 1st August of Lord Mayors, Mayors and other civic notables from across Yorkshire for parades and other festivities. The host town or city changes each year and Hull has played host twice, in 1999 and 2007. The unveiling of the Yorkshire flag as an official emblem, recognised by the Flag Institute, was also conducted in Hull on 29 July 2008. 

Hull History Centre's Yorkshire Collections

Pamphlet produced by the East Yorkshire Action Group [U DEY]

The History Centre holds various books and archival collections relating to Yorkshire and its history. We provide free access to many Yorkshire newspapers via our microfilm collections and through access to the British Newspaper Archive Online website. Our local studies book collection contains many titles on the history of Yorkshire. Amongst our Yorkshire-related archival material, the East Yorkshire Action Group Records [U DEY] are a key collection documenting protest against the creation of Humberside and the loss of identity this was seen to cause. All this material and much more, can be accessed for free here at the History Centre.  


From all of us here at the Hull History Centre, we hope you have a very happy Yorkshire Day!

Verity Minniti, Archives Assistant (HUA)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Freedom: Hypocrite - The Real Story?

This contribution to the History Centre's City of Culture blog marks the first in our 'Freedom' series.....

Earlier this year you may have seen Richard Bean’s play The Hypocrite at Hull Truck Theatre (or our more far-flung readers may have seen its transfer to the RSC at Stratford upon Avon). The play is a farce telling the highly fictionalised story of Sir John Hotham, Governor of Hull at the start of the English Civil War. The Sir John of The Hypocrite is a rather hapless figure, bullied by a harridan of a wife and acting out of craven self-interest, before meeting his end on the executioner’s block.

Hollar's plan of Hull showing how the town looked during the 1640s

Our current exhibition at the History Centre, Plots, Intrigue and Treason: Hull in the Civil War, tries to show something of the real story of Hull and Sir John Hotham using some of the documents held here. We’ve also borrowed Sir John and Lady Hotham’s costumes from The Hypocrite, and we have an incredible model of Beverley Gate which you can also see on display.

The story of Hull in the English Civil War (now more properly known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms) sits rather nicely within the Freedom strand of the City of Culture year. Ideas of freedom run throughout the wars. The Scottish church fought for its freedom when the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to reform it in 1637-1640. The Irish Confederate Wars began in 1640 as the Irish people tried to free themselves from the English policy of plantation, whereby Irish Catholics’ land was confiscated and given to English or Scottish Protestants to settle. In England, Parliamentarians fought for freedom from a tyrannical monarch, while Royalists fought for freedom from a Parliament overreaching its bounds.

Illustration of Sir John Hotham on horseback [LP.920 HOT]

In Hull, Sir John Hotham famously refused to allow King Charles I to enter the town of Hull on St George’s Day 1642, closing Beverley Gate against him. Was this an expression of freedom against a despotic king, or an act of political self-interest?

Illustration of Charles I [L CWT/1]


Charles proclaimed Sir John a traitor, but Parliament backed his actions. Just 14 months later, though, Sir John was arrested on charges of treason against Parliament. After a court martial, he was executed in 1645. How did this happen? Why not visit the exhibition to find out!

Sarah Pymer, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Alexandra Dock

On 16 July 1885, the Alexandra Dock was opened for traffic. It was constructed by the Hull, Barnsley, and West Riding Junction Railway (H&BR) using powers obtained by Act of Parliament in 1880. It was named after Princess Alexandra, wife of the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII). Sadly both were unable to attend the opening ceremony. James Abernethy had been appointed to design the Dock. It was constructed by the Hull firm of Oldham and Bohn, and A. C. Hurtiz was appointed Resident Engineer. Despite financial problems the Dock was built in the space of four and a half years. 

Fresh water from the Holderness Drain was used to fill the Dock. The hope being that this would reduce the need for expensive dredging operations. While this measure may have slowed the process of silting, this hope was dashed and the H&BR would acquire three dredgers for clearing the Dock. 

The formation of the H&BR was prompted by a shortage of dock and railway accommodation for handling imports and exports. Prior to the construction of Alexandra Dock, all the docks were in the hands of the Hull Dock Company, and all the railways connected with Hull were controlled by the North Eastern Railway (NER). These companies were viewed by many – whether fairly or not – as not being responsive enough to the needs of the City. The opening of this Dock, and its associated railway, broke both of these monopolies; it was thus a source of rejoicing to many.
Illustration of proposed Alexandra Dock, 1880.
When built it was the largest dock on the East Coast. This was no vain attempt to impress, but a response to a pressing need for larger dock accommodation at Hull; the late nineteenth century saw the widespread adoption of steam motive power at sea, and this had resulted in the advent of much larger ships.

Alexandra Dock was instrumental in the development of Hull as a coal port. The H&BR Railway was well connected to the developing coal fields of South Yorkshire, and the expansion of this industry called for additional distribution facilities. The coaling facilities established at Alexandra Dock facilitated this growth.

Illustration of Alexandra Dock.
The dock was very successful with its modern facilities. By the twentieth century shipping links had been established with Australia; Egypt; India; Cuba; the West Indies; Russia; and North, South, and Central America.

Not all was rosy for the H&BR however, for the company would find itself engaged in a ruinous price war with both the NER and the Hull Docks Company. This price war would lead to the amalgamation of the NER and the Hull Docks Company in 1893. It would not be until the end of the 1890s that an understanding was reached with the NER, and the two companies would collaborate towards the construction of King George Dock.

On 25 July 1899 a small extension of seven acres was opened. Despite its small size, it managed to increase the amount of quay space by thirty percent and added four additional coal hoists to the Dock. In 1911 dock accommodation was further increased by the addition of a pier, which was built to handle perishable goods, general goods, and passengers. The Pier included electric cranes, two additional coal hoists, and two transit warehouses were provided for storage.

Alexandra Dock became the property of the NER when the H&BR was merged with its rival in 1922, which brought all the Hull docks and railways under the control of a single company once again. The following year it became part of the London and North Eastern Railway, which remained in control of the Port of Hull until nationalisation in 1948.  On the 30 September 1982, the Port closed to commercial traffic. However, following demands for additional dock accommodation it was re-opened in 1991 with the rail connection having been removed. 

Alexandra Dock remains in use to this day and is operated by Associated British Ports. The last few years have seen the establishment of offshore wind turbine manufacturing facility as part of Green Port Hull.


Robert Astin, Project Archivist

Thursday, 6 July 2017

City status

6th July 2017 is the one hundred and twentieth anniversary of Hull being awarded the title and status of a City. On 6th July 1897, in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee, Queen Victoria granted by Letters Patent that “Our said Town and County of Kingston upon Hull shall henceforth for the future and for ever hereafter be a City and shall be called and styled “The City and County of Kingston upon Hull.”


Letter Patent conferring City Status, 1897 (ref C BRC/32) 
The new title was in response to a petition from the Lord Mayor and Hull’s three MPs. In it, they pointed out to the Queen-Empress that Hull had a population estimated at 225,000; that it had a rich and honourable history; and that it was “the only great town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and it ranks as a port next to London and Liverpool.”

Portrait of Queen Victoria to commemorate her visit to Hull
in 1854 by George Pycock Everett Green, in the Guildhall.

The Queen and her Prime Minister Lord Salisbury were persuaded, and a document, Letters Patent, was issued granting the new title. The whole process cost £1, five shillings and sixpence.

The 1897 Letters Patent may have stipulated that Hull should be a City for ever, but this continuity was interrupted at the reorganisation of local government in 1974. Between the implementation of the 1972 Local Government Act on 1 April 1974, and a re-grant of the status of City by the current Queen on 18 March 1975, Hull was a Borough once again; a second tier local authority in the County of Humberside.

In 2012, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, Hull City Council petitioned for the re-creation of the ancient offices of High Steward and Sheriff of Hull, which had also been abolished in 1974. As a result of the petition, and to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, Her Majesty revived both offices, which are now held by Lord (Peter) Mandelson as High Steward, and Lady (Virginia) Bottomley as Sheriff.

Martin Taylor
City Archivist

Monday, 3 July 2017

Roots and Routes:Crossing the Humber

In this last instalment of our 'Roots and Routes' quarter of the History Centre's City of Culture blog, we take a look at how people have attempted to cross the Humber. As we explore this topic, we 'bridge' our way into the 'Freedom' quarter of 2017...

The Humber has long being a natural barrier and has defined the north. It once separated the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria from those of the south, whilst today it separates East Yorkshire from Northern Lincolnshire. This, however, has not prevented people from crossing the river, which has been traversed by boat and foot. 

The Romans were thought to have crossed the Humber on foot between Wintringham and Brough, this being possible because the river used to be wider and its flow, therefore, slower than present. However, the crossing was more likely made by boat, from a possible Roman jetty near Wintringham, which would have been revealed by low tide. Some of the earliest documented evidence of boat crossings can be found in an Edward II charter (1315), which states that a ‘ferry be established and forever maintained from Kyngeston upon Hull across the water of Humbre unto the County of Lincoln… for conveying and carrying… men horses, carts, corn and other things’. 

Barton Ferry, Waterside, 1801 [L.386/6(92)/2]

In the 18th century, the journey was 5-6 miles and, if the wind and tides were favourable, took around 1.5 hours. Conditions were not always favourable however, and in 1787 Charles Dibdin recalled his journey from Barton to Hull which took four hours and saw a customs officer fall overboard: ‘I am sure I shall endure nothing in my voyage to India that will exceed what I then experienced’. The last official ferry service across the Humber ceased at 16.30 on 24 June 1981, when the paddle steamer ‘Faringford’ made a final return journey from New Holland to Hull.

The Industrial Revolution enabled the Victorians to develop their own ideas of how to connect the north and south banks. In 1872 a railway tunnel under the Humber costing £960,000 was proposed but got nowhere. 

OS Map showing proposed rail link between Hull and North Lincolnshire, 1914 [C DMX/153]

Another railway tunnel was later suggested to connect Welton and South Ferriby. Like the earlier proposal, this came to nothing. With the drive of the industrial revolution, railways became the most convenient method of transporting goods, so in 1914 a railway link was again proposed, this time from Paull to Northern Lincolnshire. 

Whilst some Victorian engineers believed tunnelling to be the way to go, others proposed constructing a bridge. In 1883, the first ideas for a bridge were proposed. It was to be 5900ft long and 900ft high. It would be almost century later before the Humber was finally bridged. Opening on 24 June 1981 the Humber Bridge was, at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world. It held this title for almost 17 years before being eclipsed by the Akashi Kaiky┼Ź Bridge in Japan in 1998. Today it is the world’s eighth longest suspension bridge.

Humber Bridge proposed design, 1931 [L.624.1/84]

For some, the Humber has provided an opportunity to test human ability and endurance. Among this group was Irwin Hales. He swam the estuary three times whilst taking part in the ‘championship crossing’ held from 1906-1913. The course ran from New Holland to Hull pier, and his 1913 swim was done in a then record-breaking one hour and one minute. Pete Winchester, known as ‘King of the Humber’ for his record breaking 68 swims, is said to be the only man to have completed a swim from Hessle Foreshore to Grimsby Dock Basin. 

The Humber may have been one of the last of the UK’s great estuaries to be bridged, but efforts to cross have been made for almost 1000 years. And so, even without a bridge, enthusiasm alone has been connecting the north and south banks for centuries.

Neil Chadwick, Archives Assistant