Monday 17 June 2024

Haunted Hull – the monks of Meaux Abbey

We enjoy a ghost story here at the History Centre (well, I do!) and one ghost story that always comes up are the reputed sightings of monks across the Bransholme Estate, and beyond! These hauntings are said to relate to the monks from Meaux Abbey. Meaux Abbey itself lies about a mile or so to the north of Wawne. It was here in 1150 that the Earl of Holderness, William le Gros (the fat), Count of Aumale founded Meaux Abbey. William founded the abbey to atone for not going on crusade. William was also responsible for Thornton Abbey just across the Humber in Lincolnshire. It is here that William was laid to rest.

Meaux Abbey’s first buildings were made from the wooden castle captured at Birdsall by William. The castles timbers were removed and transported to Meaux; its timbers used to construct its first buildings. Later it would be rebuilt in stone. You may well be thinking what has this got to do with the ghosts of monks seen on Bransholme? After all, Meaux Abbey was around two miles north of today’s Bransholme Estate where many of the reputed ghostly sightings/ apparitions have been reported.

The ruins of Meaux Abbey, late 18th century
[Ref: Lp.726.7(64) M/2]

The monks of Meaux Abbey didn’t rest on their laurels. Being of the Cistercian order, they led a somewhat harsher life than other monastic orders. They were advocates of manual labour. This ideology meant they busily set to work improving the surrounding landscape. They started draining the land by creating a network of drains, ditches, and dikes, some of which are still in existence today. By doing this they could grow crops, but more importantly create pasture for perhaps their greatest commodity – sheep. Well, more precisely the wool that sheep produced. Wool very much underpinned England’s medieval economy. Wool was transported to Europe, particularly with Low Countries. In fact Flemingate in Beverley takes its name from the Flemish weavers that settled in the town in the middle-ages. To transport wool to Europe, Meaux Abbey was directly connected to the river Hull by the Eschedike. From here it would be sent to Wyke and later Hull to be sent to Europe. When Richard I was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria on return from the Third Crusade, wool was sent from Wyke to help pay for the release of Richard.

Bower's 1781 drainage plan of Holderness. Note the Foredyke Stream (centre) running what is south-west. The later stream or drain that turns south-east was constructed in 1764 (marked as Main Drain] and therefore post-dates the monks of Meaux Abbey
[Ref: L MAPS/1/4]

The Foredyke Stream which ran through Bransholme, and has been the location of numerous reputed sightings, was also linked to Meaux Abbey. The later Foredyke Stream, that is the section than turns south just before Bude Road is man made. Constructed in 1764 the route is still visible, lined by small trees and bushes, whilst the route from Sutton Road now forms the cycle track that runs to Holborn Street, just outside the City Centre. The earlier Foredyke stream, like the Eschedike was used by the monks of Meaux Abbey to reach Hull. This route skirts North Bransholme’s southern tip, along Bude Road and John Newton Way to its outflow at the river Hull just beside what is Today Hollywood Bowl. Today the part that runs along Bude and John Newton Way is better known as Wawne Drain, but in the Middle-Ages monks would have walked its length, perhaps using oxen or horses that pulled small craft laden will wool. Think of these waterways as the medieval version of the A63, A1165 or A1079. Whether it be creating drains and dikes, tending to the crops or livestock the monks of Meaux Abbey left their imprint across this landscape and beyond. This may explain to those who believe why the apparitions of monks have been seen across the area.

The Foredyke Stream, constructed in 1764 running by Howard's Row, Chapman Street
[Ref: L THP/1323]

For those that believe in ghosts, it is said ‘violent’ or ‘sudden deaths’ are to explain why ghosts are seen. They spirits haven’t passed to the spirit world, and therefore remain trapped in the living world. One monk whose spirit perhaps remains is that of its first abbot, Adam. Adam was chosen as Meaux’s first abbot. Adam relocated to Meaux from Fountains Abbey. Meaux was a daughter house to Fountains. Adam could have remained at the already established Fountains Abbey, one of Yorkshire’s great monastic houses and lived out his days there. But for whatever reason, Adam chose to take up the offer of its founder, William le Gros. As the abbeys first abbot, could the spirit of Adam still be present, wandering the landscape keeping a close eye on what was then the new project to God and Christ?

Perhaps, the spirit of another one of Meaux's abbot's still lingers - Michael de Brun. Michael was a monk at Meaux before his election as its abbot. Getting the top job, he must have been held in high regards by his peers. As a monk at the abbey, Michael may well have been local to Holderness, perhaps growing up in the vicinity so had close connection to not only to the abbey, but also the wider landscape. Highly regarded, he was consulted on his death bed on a dispute with St. Mary’s, York, on matters of fishing at Hornsea and whether to cut down a small wood in the possession of the abbey. Michael gave his advice, but in all three cases his brethren acted against it. Could Michael de Brun still haunt Meaux Abbey and the area, angry that his advice wasn’t taken?

Perhaps adding further credibility to such a theory is a reputed sighting of a monk in the early 1930s. A man was making a delivery to a farm close to the ruins of Meaux Abbey. As he walked towards the farm a monk is said to have appeared before him. Understandably full of fear the man continued walking, probably rather hastily from this point. But upon turning the corner, the monk he said, ‘had disappeared’. Around one hundred years earlier a human skeleton in a stone coffin was unearthed beneath what was once the abbey’s floor, whilst on another occasion a skeleton was discovered beneath a long floor stone on the abbey’s site. Do these remains add some credibility to such stories of monks seen in the area? Could one of these skeleton’s be one of the former abbot’s disturbed from their eternal rest. Perhaps wondering the landscape unable to pass into the afterlife?

Aerial view of the site of Meaux Abbey today
[copyright Google Maps]

Meaux Abbey was the spiritual centre of Holderness. The abbey’s biggest tragedy struck in August 1349 at the height of the Black Death. The abbey had 42 monks and 7 lay brethren at that time. During that month 22 monks and 6 lay brethren perished. On one day alone the abbot and 5 monks succumb to the pestilence. Just 10 monks survived meaning that almost 4 out of every 5 were dead. Even God couldn’t save their souls. Multiply deaths at the abbey over four centuries and perhaps hundreds of monks were buried at the abbey. Not all monks would have met their maker holed up in their dormitory, surrounded by their brethren who chanted prayers for their souls. In case of those struck down by the plague it possible their brethren kept away from the dying altogether. It is however also plausible that some died in violent, sudden, tragic or more sinister circumstances.

We do know that one of the Lords of Sutton, Sayer II was the thorn in the side of the monks of Meaux Abbey the early thirteenth century. He ordered for the Meaux Abbey’s monks to be thrown out of the West Marsh, using the violet hands of his men to do this. It was during this encounter one of Sayer’s men was killed. Sayer had found out that his father left gifts of land to the abbey. Sayer, probably fuming took real beef with the abbey which resulted in the death of one of his men. The abbey did compensate Sayer for his losses. However, Sayer appears to be a rather violet and nasty chap. For example, he ordered a ship to be seized on the river Hull, even if it meant killing the crew, which he happily disposed of. Could Sayer have taken revenge for the murder of one of his men? An eye for an eye so to speak. Could Sayer have prayed on a lonely monk who had wondered off from his brethren? Perhaps picking apples from an orchard on a lovely summers’ day. Isolated from his fellow monks, perhaps Sayer struck, murdering the monk in cold blood as revenge. The body disposed of as to not implicate Sayer or his men. Searching, the monks may have been presumed their brother had either absconded or succumb marshes and swamps. It is quite an accusation, but knowing the type of character Sayer was, it is plausible.

Just like today in which we have workplace accidents and deaths, we'd call them industrial accidents today, accidents too occurred in medieval times, particularly with no health and safety! Imagine how may souls were lost in the construction of the country’s great cathedrals and castles for example. During the construction of the abbey from wood to stone it is plausible to assume one or two monks were perhaps killed or died as result of their injuries in during its construction. In a landscape which still had to be tamed, sudden, extreme weather, or prolonged periods of bad weather posed a danger to life. A heavy down poor could result in flash floods in which a monk or two could easily be carried off to meet their watery fate. A dike, ditch or drain may have collapsed during construction, burying one or more monks who were involved in the construction. Then there were the marshes, meres, and swamps to contend with daily. Without knowledge of the area, a wrong turn, or a slight stray from a safe route and just like King John’s treasures, individuals or groups could succumb to land, sinking or drowning without a hope in hells chance of rescue. Back in the medieval period, the area in which the Bransholme Estate sits was low lying. It still is low-lying today. To the north was an expanse of water known as the North Carr, whilst to the south was a sheet of saltmarsh known as Stanmer, which fed into the rivers Hull and Humber. Working this land was perilous. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a monk or two lost their lives in what was a hostile environment and unforgiving environment, particularly without local knowledge. This may explain why reputed apparitions of monks have seen across Bransholme and beyond.

Monk carvings close to the Foredyke Stream. This is one of the locations of reputed monk sightings 
[copyright Google Maps]

Although we often associate monks for their piety and religious devotion, monks were only human, susceptible to human urges. We don’t know for certain whether any Meaux’s monks absconded, perhaps to elope with young maiden down the road, say from Wawne, Sutton, Beverley, Hedon or Hull. Elsewhere cases weren’t uncommon. For example, it was common for abbots to have mistresses; some would visit the abbot whilst others would live with the abbot as an unofficial girlfriend or mistress. During Henry VIII dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century, it was reported back that some abbots did not hide the fact they had mistresses. At Fountains the abbot was said to have kept six women at his house. At the Priory of Swine just down the road from Meaux, Elizabeth Copley, presumably a nun, was said to have had a child to a priest. One Bishop even claimed that houses of nuns were found ‘almost all with child’.

Illustration of Cistercian Nun of the Priory of Swine from Thompson's History of the Church and Priory of Swine, published 1824
[Ref: L.9.64 SW]

For individuals who strayed from a good, pious life devoted to the almighty things could be dangerous. It is reputed that a nun of Swine eloped with a local man. Caught, the nun was returned to the priory whilst the chap in question, her lover, was said to have been killed. Could a monk or two from Meaux have gone AWOL in the search of lust or love, but with it have met an unfortunate end? Could the families have found out about a forbidden affair between a monk and their daughter or son and sought retribution, perhaps even murder?

In most cases monks were men of God, religious and pious folk. They looked after the ill and infirm, devoted their life to God and Christ whilst devoting prayers to the dying and dead. As noted, some were fallible to the flesh. And there is no reason not to believe some were fallible to the coin. Bribery and corruption weren’t unheard of among monastic orders. In 1399 Robert Leconfield misappropriated money and fled Meaux Abbey. Whether other individuals from the abbey were up no good, we simply don’t know. Had bribery, corruption or theft gone on, could one or two seemly innocent deaths or accidents be more sinister? For example, had a good, honest monk uncovered a fellow brothers’ shady dealings? Perhaps a few choice words were spoken before a struggle or fight ensued. Could the dishonest brother wanting to maintain his secret dispatched his fellow brethren, but made it look like an accident, hid the body, or disposed of it secretly?

Whilst this blog doesn’t prove the existence of ghosts (this is down to personal beliefs) all we've done here is simply use the material held at the History Centre to offer possible explanations why sightings of monks have been reported over the decades, probably centuries, and why in particular, Bransholme and its residents have been subject to such reputed sightings.

Log out for our next blog in July when we look at the reputed sightings of Cavillers, which like the monks of Meaux Abbey are said to have been seen on Bransholme.

Neil Chadwick


Tuesday 21 May 2024

Lost Streets of Hull – Part two

In part one we left off with Lyle Street, which is now Mytongate. In this second part we explore more of Hull's lost streets.

Milk Street

In existence during the early years of Hull's being established, according to Charles Frost's 14th century plan of Hull Milk Street ran just beyond the town walls. How it acquired the name Milk Street is uncertain. The most plausible suggestion is like that of London's Milk Street, it was here that Hull's inhabitants purchased their milk. In subsequent centuries the area just beyond the walls and Milk Street was the location of Hull's 'Beast' or 'Cattle Market', further implying that it may have been here that milk was indeed purchased. If you follow the line of Milk Street today it would be located somewhere between Dock Street and roughly the edge of the Princes Dock, running north to Whitefriargate, then know as Aldgate.

Old Kirk Lane/Posterngate

Before the town walls were constructed from the 1330s, Posterngate was known as Old Kirk Lane Postern means a back gate or entrance. At that time Hull's main gates were North Gate, Whitefriargate, Mytongate and Hessle Gate. Sorties, secret escapes and daring attacks were often carried out from postern's, typically located in a castles walls but also present in urban defences, like town walls. Hull's Postern was no doubt placed for the exact same reason. We do not know for certain whether the postern was an original feature or added at a later point which eventually lead to the renaming of Old Kirk Lane.

Old Beverley Street

Image walking from the Marina along Fish Street, King Street, Trinity House Lane, and the Land of Green Ginger for a pint in Burlington Tavern (perhaps stopping off at Bonny Boat and The George along with way) but none of those streets are known by todays names. In the 14th century if you lived in Hull this stretch was simply know as Old Beverley Street and perhaps for a couple of centuries. Fish Street was in use by the 17th century. It was here that Hull's fish market was held. King Street was developed during the reign of George III. Trinity House Lane was in use by the mid-18th century suggesting Old Beverley Street had ceased to exist in name and size by perhaps at least by the 17th century, more so if The Land of Green Ginger had acquired its name perhaps as early as the 15th or 16th century.

Old Beverley Street from Charles Frost's 14th century plan of Hull

Patrick Ground Lane

The name may have gone but its route is still in existence. Taking its name from Patrick, a tanner who had a tan-yard in the vicinity it followed the line of old Hessle Road, now the A63. Its length ran from junction with Waverley Street and Pinfold Lane to around a quarter of mile west of Coltman Street. By 1834 it was known as Hessle Road.

Patrick Ground Lane today is now the A63/Hessle Road - Google Maps 2024

Pest-house Lane

In the 19th century Pest-house Lane went by the more delightful name, Park Street. Park Street was described as tastefully laid out with elegant houses. However, before this it was rather less delightful. This once a rural lane acquired several names due to its reputation. One of those names was Cuttthroat Lane! At night it was said women should not venture its length unescorted.

Smeaton Street

Smeaton Street ran from Silvester Street to Saville Street. The street was laid out in in 1829 and was named in honour of Admiral Medley of Little Smeaton (or so they say!). It is reputed the street was to be called Sneaton Street, presumably after Sneaton near Whitby but an error was made. It was too late to alter its name and it remained as Smeaton Street.

The route of what is once Smeaton Street - Google Maps 2024

Sutton Trod

Whilst not officially a street, and for centuries lay beyond the Hull in the parish of Sutton, Sutton Trod, or parts of are still in existence today. ‘Trod’ is Scandinavian suggesting its origins are 11th century, or earlier. The route of Sutton Trod linked Sutton with land to its south. Prior to the river crossing at Stoneferry, the only way to cross what became the lower part of the river Hull from High Flags at Wincolmlee from the mid-13th century was at Drypool. One of the Lords of Sutton, Sayer III had a ferry crossing at what was Sayer Creek, now the lower part of the river Hull at Drypool. 

Linking Sutton with Hull and the area between, the route of Sutton Trod begins at Sutton-on-Hull, more precisely Chamberlain Street, though the track may have started just north on Church Street. From here it runs south to Tweendykes. Crossing Tweendykes it joins up with what is Woodleigh Drive today. From here the the route is still in existence beyond to Sutton Road. Crossing Sutton Road, it runs through the Lambwath estate between the area of Corona Drive, Burbage Avenue and Hathersage Road. At Moffat Close it turns roughly southwest, crossing the former Hull/Hornsea railway linking up with what is today Rockford Green. From here the track is lost. But we know from Ariel maps that it continued southwest across Rockford Green and Rockford Avenue, crossing Chamberlain Road somewhere close to Brendon Avenue. From here is crossed the old Reckitt’s sports ground, again running southwest before joining up with Woodhall Street. Whilst Sutton Trod ends at Woodhall Street the route beyond continued. Turning south at the junction of what is today Stoneferry Road the route to Hull continued south, closely following the course of the river Hull, probably linking into what is today Lime Street before joining up close to what is today Hull’s North Bridge. From here the route may have perhaps continued along what is today Great Union Street on to Drypool. Presumably it was here that it would have linked up with Sayer’s ferry crossing. If you recall from part one the ferry crossed to here, possibly to Aldgate (now Scale Lane) allowing the onward journey to the west and beyond.   

The route with existing sections of Sutton Trod - Google Maps 2024

Waverley Street

Waverley Street is now all but gone. The Castle Street upgrade has taken away its last remnants. It was however originally a lane leading from Lover Lane to the fields on each side. Waverley Street was built on the site of the town Gallows. The last man to be public executed in Hull on the site of the gallows was John Rogerson on 19th August 1772. He was executed for counterfeiting coin. An account of his execution together with his last words is available to view here at the Hull History Centre [Ref L SP/66]

The red cross marks the location of the once town gallows - Google Maps 2024

If this is your first time viewing the Hull History Centre blog, we have a two-part blog on the Streets of Hull available. Or why not discover something new among the rest of our blogs. If you have yet to read part one click here!

Part one - Streets of Hull 

Part two - Streets of Hull

Neil Chadwick


Tuesday 14 May 2024

Lost Streets of Hull - Part one


Over the centuries streets in Hull and come and gone. Some retain their original names whilst others have seen their names changed. Some are within living memory, whilst others may have disappeared long ago. Some of these street you may never heard of or knew never existed and unknowingly travel along, whilst others have been superseded by a new street or layout altogether. Some of these streets may have reverted to carparks or green spaces, with others are now occupied by buildings. In this first of a two-part blog, we look at some of Hull's lost streets.


Though technically not lost as such (just renamed) was Aldgate. The reason for mentioning Aldgate is it is possibly Hull’s oldest street. 'Aldgate' is Saxon in origin and means Old-gate. It could be that Aldgate pre-dates the Norman Conquest of 1066. Aldgate, now Whitefriargate was an ancient thoroughfare meaning 'public gate' or 'open to all'.

It is probable that Aldgate was in use at least a century before Hull. There was a ferry crossing at Drypool in the 13th century before Hull was acquired by Edward I. This crossing may have disembarked on the west side of the river Hull by what was Aldgate, (today Scale Lane). Aldgate ran the route of what we know today as Scale Lane, Silver Street and Whitefriargate, linking up with Carr Lane. From here travellers could continue west. Aldgate would perhaps have been used as a route to Wyke, the settlement around 1 km west of Hull’s old town. Aldgate named changed to Whitefriargate when the White Friars settled here.

Bowling Green Court

Taking its name from the bowling green situated there in 1791, Bowling Green Court was at the end of Waltham Street. The sites history is believed to go back centuries - if believed 1,500 years! It is said that a 6th century hall once stood on its site, which would put this at the time of the early Angles and Saxons. By the mid-1820s the land was sold to the adjoining Waltham Street chapel and with it the name ceased.

The site of the Bowling Green Court was within the area marked ' site of hall or manor house... c.6th cent. [L SP/101]

Carlisle Street

Many of use still walk along what was once known as Carlisle Street. It was once a section of what we know today as Prospect Street from its junction with West Street, just by the former Woolworth’s store and ran to the intersection with Jameson Street. It was once originally part of the Beverley Road and named after the Lord Lieutenant of East Yorkshire, Frederic Earl of Carlisle. 

Carlisle Street [Goodwill and Lawson's plan of Hull, 1834]

Champagne Street

Despite thinking the obvious connection, Champagne Street didn’t take it name from the production of sparkling wines. It takes its name from Peter de Campania, a Royal Commissioner in Hull in 1293. Today the route of Champagne Street appears to be that of Dagger Lane today. Dagger Lane became the place in which daggers or knives were made, hence its name change from Champagne Street.

Collier Street

Yes. Collier Street is no more. For many of us it was at Collier Street that we hopped off the bus at the old bus station. However, Collier Street was no more with the building of St. Stephen’s shopping centre. The route of Collier Street now forms Margaret Moxon Way which is sandwiched between the shopping centre and the Paragon Interchange. Collier Street was once home to some of the worst housing conditions in Hull during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The image below is that of James Place, a court that ran off Collier Street. The walls were washed in white lime to give it a lighter feel as such courts tended to have little in the way of natural light. It was named after Joseph Collier who purchased a portion of the street in 1828.

James Place, Collier Street. Note the walls lime washed to give it a lighter feel [L THP/721]

Fetter Lane

Fetter Lane linked Market Place with High Street. Fetter Lane refers to a type of shackle for the feet. It may have taken its name from the House of Correction located there. It is said prisoners were held in ‘fetters’ outside. Today the Magistrate Courts by the A63 and Market Place occupy the site that was once Fetter Lane.

Great Passage Street

Great Passage Street was probably ancient highway tracing its origins back to the 12th century, if not earlier. It was close to Great Passage Street that the ancient hamlet of Myton was located. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was merely a track to various properties that had been built there. By the beginning of the 19th century, it was once again an important road. In the second half of the 20th century, it made way for the A63, more precisely the Myongate roundabout, which has now been replaced by the new A63 improvement scheme, due to open in Spring 2025.

Great Passage Street followed the line of the hamlet of Myton from what was then Lyle Street (now Mytongate) [L.9.8 Blashill's Evidences relating to East Hull]

Hull Street

Hull Street was once the economic hub of the Town. Hull Street is now better known today as High Street. Hull Street or High Street appears to be built on land reclaimed from the much wider river. So had you been around before the 1250s this part of Hull was more than likely formed the very edge of the riverbank meaning everything to its east, including Hull's Museum Quarter was in fact river!

Love Lane

Perhaps it acquired its name from young lovers frequenting its stretch - it seems plausible. Love Lane was in the vicinity Kingston Street and ran north to southOriginally it was a lane leading to property in the neighbourhood which then contained a few scattered villas. A part of the old Love Lane now forms part of Cogan Street. 

Love Lane from Thomas Anderson's plan of Hull, 1814

Lyle Street

Lyle Street appears to have been a short-lived name in the history of Hull. Lyle Street is better known today as MytongateLyle Street was named after a Royal Commissioner, Roger de Insula in 1293. Also spelt Lisle, it is the Anglicised name of Roger de Insula. Whilst many of us have been sat in traffic on MytongateMytongate acquired the non-official name of La Belle Tour (a fine walk) when the town beyond its Medieval walls was open space.

Thanks for reading and keep a look out for part-two.

Neil Chadwick


Tuesday 27 February 2024

The Ye Olde White Harte and myth of the Plotting Parlour

The Ye Olde White Harte holds a special place in the fabric of Hull. Situated between Silver Street and Bowlalley Lane, and linked by a passage between the two, the unsuspecting visitor may easily walk past and not give it a second glance. For those who have frequented its premises it is a step back in time to when Hull remained confined to its medieval walls. At the time when no docks existed, ships would have fought for mooring space in the river Hull along the length of High Street waiting to load and unload their goods and cargos. The towns inhabitants of around 6,000 would have lived within the town walls. Beyond the walled town was open country. Many of those born in Hull would have lived, worked, and died in the town, perhaps never venturing far from its walls. For those that did leave, most were employed at sea, sailing to the Baltic, Northern Europe and beyond!

Whilst being well-known as favourite among Hull’s watering holes, a must if participating in Hull's famous ale trail, the Ye Olde White Harte has become known to many known as the place where in 1642, Sir John Hotham, the then governor of Hull was said to have hatched a plot in the ‘Plotting Parlour’ denying King Charles I entry into Hull. Charles returned to York before moving to Nottingham when on 22 August 1642 he raised his standard, sparking the English Civil War. And the rest they say is history!

Stop there. Whilst Sir John Hotham did indeed refuse Charles entry into Hull, the decision wasn’t taken in the Ye Olde White Harte. The Plotting Parlour in the Ye Olde White Harte has got somewhat confused with the actual plot hatched there some forty-six years later.

The Plotting Parlour in the Ye Olde White Harte takes its name from an event in 1688. In that year, on 3 December the Mayor, Aldermen along with leading figures of the town gathered at the then deputy governors house, now the Ye Olde White Harte. They hatched a plan to overthrow Hull’s Catholic governor. It is this plot that the Plotting Parlour takes its name from, not that of Sir John Hotham’s refusal to admit Charles I into Hull.

Despite this, some continue to believe, and indeed strongly argue that the Plotting Parlour is indeed where Sir John Hotham decided to refuse Charles I entry into Hull in 1642.

So, owing to this confusion, we’d thought we’d take a few minutes to put the record straight. Please note if you are one of those who strongly believes the Ye Olde White Harte is indeed the place where the plot was hatched to refuse King Charles I entry into Hull, you may want to look away now…

The myth

The myth about the Ye Old White Harte being the residence of Sir John Hotham appears to have originated in the 19th century. Despite many of its original features, the building underwent significant alterations in 1881. Features like its stained-glass windows, which include the depiction of Sir John only adds to the myth.

Ye Olde White Harte

Evidence reveals (Historic England) the building was not erected until after the Civil War. It was built by William Catlyn, for Alderman William Foxley, a wealthy grocer in 1660. Caytln was a bricklayer in Hull and responsible for several buildings in the town, including Wilberforce House and probably Crowle House. Catlyn himself is recorded in some of the documents here at the History Centre.

The Ye Olde White Harte today

Hollar’s plan of Hull, c.1640

A clue to whether the Ye Olde White Harte was around at the time of the English Civil War is perhaps revealed in Hollar’s plan of Hull of c.1640. Looking in the vicinity in which the Ye Olde White Harte is located (image below), there is a gap or space where the Ye Olde White Harte sits today. Firstly, this isn’t unusual. Gaps or spaces were common at this time in Hull. Despite being confined within its medieval walls, the town had open spaces, particularly close to its walls. There were even gardens! We must of course recognise not every building in Hollar’s plan is accurate and therefore allow for some form of artistic licence on his behalf.

Hollar's plan of Hull, c.1640 showing a section of Whitefriargate before it became known as Silver Street. The Ye Old White Harte is now located between here and what was Denton Lane, now Bowlalley Lane.
[Ref: L MAPS/4/12]

That said, Hollar appears to have had a knack to illustrate places from a viewpoint, impossible before flight. He must also have had some intimate knowledge of the town. Hollar depicts, for example, the busy river with most buildings lining Hight Street which for centuries was Hull’s commercial and economic hub. It was in the River Hull or 'Haven' that ships loaded and unload their goods and cargos whilst merchant houses and warehouses would have lined the river front and High Street. And Hollar knew this.

The Castle and Blockhouses on the eastern side of the river are shown in detail, whilst prominent landmarks such as Holy Trinity, the Suffolk Palace, the Guildhall all feature, though this is perhaps to be expected being the town’s most prominent buildings at the time. Lister House, the forerunner to Wilberforce House can also be identified. This begs the question, with Sir John Hotham being governor of Hull around 1640, had the ‘Governors House’ at the time been that of the Ye Olde White Harte, would Hollar have included this? It was after all it was one of the larger and impressive residences in the town back then.

The location of the old ferry crossing across the river just south of the original North Bridge is shown, whilst the cut on the eastern side of the river Hull, which is still there today, is also visible. Yet the same cut isn’t shown on Speed’s map of 1610. Nor is it shown on the Cotton plan of Hull of c.1530. Hollar must therefore have had some knowledge of the town. Whether he visited in person, we do not know.

Hollar had every reason to create accurate as possible maps and plans. The demand for detailed and accurate maps and plans was ever increasing. To military commanders their value would have been a huge benefit, especially during the English Civil War, particularly whilst employing sieges against a town, including that of Hull. Could the Earl of Newcastle, for example, have held in his possession a copy of Hollar’s plan whilst laying siege to Hull? There is no doubt the value of Hollar’s work is certainly in the detail. Hollar added a scale which is measured in feet further emphasising the need for accuracy.

‘Plot’ and refusal to admit Charles I into Hull

In terms of where the decision was made back in 1642 to refuse Charles I entry into Hull, such a decision would have likely have been made in the Guildhall. Not the Guildhall we see today, but the building that once stood at what is now the junction of Lowgate and Mytongate, close to the King William statue. Since at least 1333 the mayor, alderman and burgesses of the town met at the Guildhall. It was here that decisions were made concerning the governing of the town. Prisoners were tried and imprisoned here. High Street may have been the economic hub of Hull, but it was the Guildhall that was the political centre the town.

The Guildhall, or Old Jail, guardhouse, c.1780 was located at what is now the junction of Lowgate and Mytongate, the building originally dated from around 1333. Despite undergoing alterations over the centuries, it was here for centuries that Mayor, Aldermen met to discuss town business. It was more than likely here that Sir John Hotham along with the Mayor, Aldermen and senior figures of the town made the decision not to admit Charles I into Hull.
[Ref: Lp.365/1]

Was Sir John’s decision not to admit Charles a plot as such? Sir John was appointed governor by parliament and to act on behalf of and under parliament’s instruction. The decision to refuse Charles I entry into Hull was that of Parliament. Sir John was instructed not to admit any forces into the town without orders from Parliament. Sir John, the Mayor, the Aldermen together  with Parliament knew Charles wasn’t coming to Hull to sightsee, nor was he nipping in for a quick cuppa and a catch-up with friends. He coming to Hull to for one reason and one reason only. That was to secure the towns arsenal, which outside of London was the largest in the country. And being a trading port with connections to northern Europe and beyond, Hull provided Charles with a secure port to land supplies and men should war be declared against Parliament. 

Sir John had personal reason not to admit Charles. Beef and existed between the two going back to 1640 when Sir John was removed from his first post as Governor of Hull by Charles following repeated conflicts with Charles over ship money. Charles also threatened Sir John with hanging if he continued to oppose Second Bishops War with Scotland in late 1640. Mindful of this, Sir John knew the personal risk of admitting Charles into Hull, which could have easily ended with his execution. The feud between Sir John and Charles wasn’t exactly secret and this would have been known to Hull’s Mayor and Aldermen. This, along with Sir John’s orders from Parliament would have hardly been a secret as such. 

Knowing bad blood existed between the two, and the fact that Parliament appointed Sir John as governor with instruction not to surrender the town or its armoury without direct instruction from Parliament, the decision to refuse Charles entry may well have weighed somewhat on the minds of Hull’s townsfolk. Being declared at traitor by the King wasn't something to be taken lightly. But the idea of a ‘plot’ or ‘plotting’ indicates some sort of secrecy. Sir John’s feelings towards Charles must have been one of the factors which influenced Parliament to appoint Sir John as Hull’s Governor in the first place. This, and the fact Sir John was governor previously made Sir John the obvious choice. Parliament must have therefore been confident in Sir John securing the town for them. Had the town not been secured for Parliament then the outcome of the Civil War may have been very different!

Some may argue Sir John was somewhat undecided on this loyalty. He was after all ready to switch sides to the King in 1643 because of Sir John’s deteriorating relationship with Parliament due to Parliament’s reluctance to provide money to garrison Hull. However, there was little to suggest Sir John was sat on the fence in 1642.

In 1688 however things were different. The towns Catholic Governor was planning to arrest Hull's Protestant officers and soldiers. In order to the turn the tables against Hull's Catholic Governor a plot was hatched. This plot was devised in the Deputy Governors house (now the Ye Olde White Harte) by Hull's leading Protestant figures. But in order for it to succeed it had to be done in secrecy, whereas 46 years earlier, Sir John's intentions not to admit were arguably less of a secret hence the idea of a plot against Charles being less likely. 


The building we now know as the Ye Olde White Harte wasn’t built until after the Civil War. This should be enough to disprove the Ye Old White Harte as being the place where Sir John Hotham plotted to refuse Charles I entry into Hull. Everything therefore points to the ‘Plotting Parlour’ taking its name from plot conceived in 1688 to overthrow Hull’s Catholic governor. 

We must also question whether a plot was even devised in the first place knowing Sir John’s clear instructions from Parliament and the bad blood that existed between him and Charles. The town of Hull may have initially had some reluctance to accept Sir John as the Governor for second time in 1642 but yielded to Parliament wishes. Perhaps Hull’s townsfolk were hoping a last-minute intervention would reconcile Charles and Parliament. However, by this time Charles had relocated to Oxford, and with each passing day any reconciliation receded. Hull’s mayor and Aldermen must have realised the implications, and quite possibly what was to come.

Unlike Sir John who had clear orders, those conspiring to overthrow the Catholic governor in 1688 had every reason to act in secret. The Catholic governor was planning to arrest Protestant officers and soldiers of Hull’s garrison. And it was in the Plotting Parlour that the plan was hatched to turn the tables on Hull’s Catholic Governor and arrest him first. Secrecy was therefore the upmost for this to succeed. This, along with the fact the Ye Olde White Harte wasn’t built until 1660 but also being the deputy governors house in 1688 is more than enough to confirm that the Plotting Parlour relates to the plot 1688, rather than the alleged plot to refuse Charles I entry into Hull in 1642.

Neil Chadwick