Review: Kingston Upon Hull
City of Culture 2017
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It is several years since we last went to Hull. As it has been recently declared as European City of Culture 2017, I decided it was time I went back. Hull has a lot going for it. Where else could you find a street named Land of Green Ginger?
I have made three trips in the last month, each time bouncing there on the bus which goes by the scenic route via the villages and dropped me off in the centre of Hull at the interchange at the Railway Station.
Hull is a major shopping centre although you have to know where you want to be as the shopping streets cover a large area. There are three shopping centres – Princes Quay, St Stephen’s Centre and the Prospect Centre. Some of the old Victorian arcades still survive like the Paragon Arcade between Paragon Street and Carr Lane with its cast iron and glass ceiling and small boutique shops. Trinity Market still has a thriving greengrocers, fish shop as well as butchers.
In the 14thC Kingston upon Hull was one of the major town in the region and the second largest port on the east coast. It was part of the Hanseatic trading league. Maritime history is covered in the excellent Maritime Museum in the old Hull Dock Company building.
The first quays were along the tidal River Hull, which was known as the Haven. A modern tidal surge barrier can be lowered when there are very high tides forecast.
The early docks were small and built to the west of the river. Princes Dock, Railway Dock and Humber Dock are still there. Queen’s Dock has been filled in and is now gardens. The large modern docks are downstream from the city.
The old town of Hull grew up on the patch of land between the River Hull and the town docks. It had been a walled town surrounded by a ditch, bank and walls with four gates. Extra defences were built in 1642 as Hull was held by the Parliamentarians against the crown. The walls and gates were demolished in the 18thC as they were hindering the growth of the town and a nuisance to traffic.
In the 19thC Hull was still a major port and there were many splendid buildings in the city centre. You only have to look above the modern shop fronts on Paragon Street to see the splendid 19thC frontages. The City Hall and the Guildhall rank equal with buildings in other major cities.
Hull can also boast the largest parish church in England with Holy Trinity. Just a short distance from it on Lowgate is the smaller but still impressive St Mary’s Church. The Old Town is a rabbit warren of narrow streets still paved with granite setts with narrow alleys, staithes leading down to private wharf along the river. High Street with its large brick houses, eg Maister House belonging to wealthy merchants was the heart of the City. Wilberforce House dating from 1600 is one of the oldest houses in Hull. Birthplace of William Wilberforce, it is now a museum covering the history of slavery and its abolition. There is no evidence that Hull was involved in the slave trade or that slave ships visited but it did grow rich on the products of slavery.
The workmen lived in the crowded courtyards behind. As the city grew away from the docks, this is now by-passed by the traffic. The maritime heritage can be seen in the name of the Sailmaker’s Arms and Ye Olde Black Boy pub. Men drinking in the pubs were vulnerable to local press gangs.
Princes Dock is still there with its lock gates but is no longer used and is ‘landscaped’ with two fountains. Beyond is Humber Dock which is now a marina full of pleasure craft. The iron rings used to tie up the cargo ships can still be seen along the side of the quay. The mouth of the dock is still ‘guarded’ by a cannon and gun.
The Spurn Lightship is anchored here.
Victoria Pier is between Humber Dock and the River Hull. This used to be the pier for the Humber Ferry to South Holland across the river before the Humber Bridge was opened. There was no access to the pier on the day I visited. Opposite are the once splendid tiled toilets, kept spotlessly clean and with hot water.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get as far as Scale Lane Bridge, the new swing footbridge linking Hull Old Town with the east bank of the River Hull and The Deep. It is the first bridge of its kind in the UK.
Hull is remembered as being the birthplace of the English Civil War. The excavated remains of the Beverley Gate can be seen at the junction of Whitefriar Gate and Victoria Square.
Sir John Hotham had been appointed by Parliament to control Hull and had over 1000 troops at his command. The town had a stockpile of guns and ammunition and was a key port for receiving aid from abroad and was an important target for the King to control.
Sir John had been given instructions from Parliament not to deliver up the town. When the King arrived at Hull, Hotham refused him entry, the first act of open defiance of the King. The king promptly declared Hotham guilty of high Treason. A couple of months later, civil war broke out in earnest. Hull suffered heavy bombardment from the Royalist guns but never surrendered.
The Museum quarter in the Old town houses the Hull and East Yorkshire Museum which is the archaeology museum from the Stone Age to the Normans. Next door is the Streetlife Museum of Transport with the transport exhibits.
The Hands on History Museum in the Old Grammar School has some 19/20thC social history.
For culture there is the Ferens Art Gallery which is regarded as one of the better provincial art galleries.
For those wanting live entertainment, there is Hull New Theatre as well as the Hull Truck Theatre which is a popular touring company.
Hull City Hall hosts a variety of comedians and concerts from pop to local choirs.
The Museum of Club Culture is described on its website as "spearheading the establishment of a creative and cultural quarter in Hull’s idiosyncratic and historic Fruitmarket." This isn’t for me, and I’ll leave others to review it.
The iconic KC stadium, is a multi purpose venue and home of Hull City Football Club as well the rugby club, Hull FC. It is also used for large open air concerts. Hull also boasts another first class rugby team, Hull Kingston Rovers, based at Craven Park.
Hull Arena has an olympic size skating rink, ice hockey games as well as rock and pop concerts.
KC stadium is named after its sponsors Kingston Communications, the only private telephone provider in the country who provides a very cheap the telephone service for Hull and surrounding areas with its distinctive cream coloured telephone boxes.
There is also The Deep, described as one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world with an under water viewing tunnel.
For visitors to Hull, Tourist Information Centre on Carr Lane is the first port of call. They have maps and information about Hull and the surrounding area. They also have information about Fish and Ale Trails around the city.
Hull declined from the 1960s with the decline of the fishing fleet. It had very much an end of the line feel to it. Attaining City of Culture status has made locals evaluate just what Hull has to offer. It is a surprising amount. Hull, again is a city that is proud of its heritage and is ready to make its mark again. It is definitely worth a visit.
56 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.