Monday, 26 June 2017

King George Dock, Hull Port

On 26th June 1914, King George Dock was officially opened to much fanfare by King George V and Queen Mary.

Invitation to Mr & Mrs G. H. Smith for the opening ceremony
The Dock was funded by two former rivals – the North Eastern and Hull and Barnsley Railway Companies – using powers obtained under the Hull Joint Dock Act (1899). It was built by S. Pearson and Sons over the course of eight years, and was the first dock in the UK which utilised electric motive power throughout. This included modern coaling appliances (capable of loading up to six vessels simultaneously), electric belts and hoists for handling grain, fifty-three electric cranes of between one and a half and ten tons capacity, and a floating crane capable of lifting eighty tons. 

In terms of storage the new Dock included six ferro-concrete warehouses, and 200 acres was set aside outdoors for the storage of durable goods such as timber. A grain silo of 40,000 tons capacity was under construction at the time of opening (completed in 1919), and a site had been set aside for the provision of cold storage.

Plan of the opening ceremony
The new Dock was large having a capacity of fifty-three acres and an entrance lock eighty-five feet wide and 750 feet long. The lock was positioned so as to reduce the risk to vessels entering from the Humber during a strong tide. It included two gravelling docks (or dry docks) for maintenance and repairs. When opened the King George Dock was the largest dock on the East Coast north of London, and could handle some of the largest vessels of the day.


Detail from illustration of the King George Dock showing the gravelling docks

Originally the Dock was dominated by coal exports. However, as these declined the northern quays were increasingly used for wool, meat, fruit, and vegetables. The southern quays were generally used for metals, ores, machinery, and timber.

The King George Dock operated successfully, largely in its original form for forty-five years. However, in 1959 expenditure of £4,750,000 was authorised by the British Transport Commission for an improvement programme. This would herald dramatic changes for the Dock: all the coaling facilities were removed, its quays were adapted for general and bulk shipping, six transit sheds were constructed, and the capacity of the grain silo was increased by fifty percent. Investment was also made in new cranes and grain handling equipment.


Illustration showing coaling appliances
The 1960s onwards would see the opening of a number of new ferry terminals. These terminals were established to accommodate increasing roll-on roll-off ferry traffic between the UK, Scandinavia, and the European mainland. This was facilitated by the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Dock Extension in 1969, which enabled the establishment of facilities for container traffic. An all-weather terminal was established over one of the gravelling docks in 1997, and a new biomass storage facility was opened in 2014.

The King George Dock, and its extension the Queen Elizabeth Dock, remains in use today and is operated by Associated British Ports.

Robert Astin, Project Archivist

Friday, 23 June 2017

Our Criminal Ancestors

New Project to Shed Light on Hull’s Historic Criminal Culture

Skeleton in your closet? Black sheep in the family? Sinister secret hiding in your family tree?

An exciting new project in Hull will help local people find the answers and explore the criminal past of their own families, through a series of free workshops at the Hull History Centre. 

The project, led by Dr Helen Johnston (University of Hull) and Dr Heather Shore (Leeds Beckett University), will for the first time bring world-renowned experts to Hull to help the public gain greater understanding not only of their own family history, but also the history of the communities, the city and the East Yorkshire region in which they live and work.

“Our criminal ancestors were often just ordinary people, and it’s their stories from the past that can change who we think we are in the present”, said Dr Johnston. “Not only that, they can change the way we think about the history of our streets, our city and our region.

“Children often fell into crime as a dire consequence of being born into poverty, such as twelve-year-old John Hines, of Cleveland Street, who in 1891 stole a 4lb bag of almonds to feed himself and his widowed mother, receiving a five year reformatory sentence.

“For those who believe their ancestors may have encountered the criminal justice system, whether they’re the accused, victims, witnesses, prisoners, police and prison officers, these workshops will help them to  use historical crime, policing and punishment records in searching for their relatives.”


Dr Heather Shore is eager to see what the people of Hull can uncover.
“We’re really looking forward to helping people dig into the past to find their black sheep ancestors,” she said. “Hull and East Yorkshire has a rich history when it comes to criminal justice, and people’s untold family stories can help us throw light into the shadowy corners of Hull’s criminal past.”

The three public workshops will run at the Hull History Centre during 2017 on:
Saturday 15th July - Introduction to Crime and Criminal Records
Saturday 23rd September - Prosecution and Policing
Saturday 21st October - Punishment

The project has been funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which means that all workshops are free to the public, who can attend any or all workshops.  The aim is to develop a website and a set of resources that will help others, both nationally and internationally, discover their criminal ancestry.

For more information or to sign up to one or all of the events please book online, contact the Hull History Centre on 01482 317500 or email Victoria Dawson victoria.dawson@hull.ac.uk

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Roots and Routes: Whaling - From Hull to the Arctic

Whaling has a long and important place in the history of Hull. Beginning around the 16th century, the trade involved hazardous journeys up to the Arctic regions where the whales were to be found. These journeys had to be undertaken in the summer when there was less ice around. In the early years ships only went as far as Greenland, but slowly as the Arctic regions were explored whaling crews ventured further and further north where they encountered more and more hazards. The majority of ships were not built for the whaling trade but were converted from other uses. The ships had to be specially adapted for the icy conditions and this was done by ‘planking’. Extra layers of wood had to be attached to the inside of the hold to strengthen them.

Map showing areas traversed by whaling crews sailing out of Hull [L WHA.639]

From the 18th century, the whaling trade had become a significant part of the country’s economy. In 1733 the British Government was offering a bounty of £1 per ton per ship to English merchants involved in whaling. By 1754 this had risen to £2 and, in that same year, four Hull whaling ships sailed to the Arctic. With the increase in profits to be made, so came an increase in the numbers of ships involved in the trade and by 1799 there were 34 whaling ships sailing out of Hull. Arguably though, the heyday of the trade came in the early decades of the 19th century, and by 1820 more than 60 of our city’s ships were involved in whaling. Hull became the largest whaling port in the country and the trade was an important part of the town’s economy. From catching the whales, to creating and using the by-products of the trade, Hull’s merchants and tradesmen became rich from the proceeds. Whalebone had a huge variety of uses and there were manufacturers at Hull who made ribs for umbrellas, hoops for crinolines, corsets and buttons amongst other things; the oil was also a valuable commodity.

Extract from the Neptune's log book, 1821 [L DMWH]

The Local Studies collection holds a number of journals kept by the crews of Hull based whaling ships, and these are available to read on microfilm. Reading the entries in the journals, you are made aware of problems faced by the men involved in the trade: From ships not being able to leave port because there was no wind; to them being blown off course because of too much wind. The biggest difficulties were encountered as the ships explored the territories further beyond the Arctic Circle, with the immense cold, snow and ice.  Melville Bay appears to have been notorious for bad weather and gales. The only means of navigation was by the sun and the stars and many of the journals include the comment ‘sun obscured’ instead of a latitude reading. If the ship drifted into the pack ice (known as being beset), it could only be a matter of time before the ship was squeezed so much it would break. 

Extract from the Neptune's log book, 1821 [L DMWH]

As conditions became more dangerous there were huge losses, including 9 ships lost in 1821. With these and similar disasters, added to the fact that whale oil was becoming less of a necessity, the trade began to decline. However the trade did carry on, and even witnessed a revival in the 1850s and 1860s. However, the revival was short lived and the last whaling ship, the Diana, sailed out of Hull in 1866. She was to spend the winter in the Arctic, unable to get home and when she finally arrived in Hull on 26 April 1867, she had lost her captain and 13 members of the crew.

If you want to find out more about Hull’s whaling heritage, why not come and look at the whaling log books? Just ask us in the library to point you in the right direction!


Elaine Moll, Librarian and Archivist

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Spurn Lifeboat Station 1908-1911: Three turbulent years

Today I would like to share a number of architectural plans – found amongst the un-catalogued Conservancy records in C DPD – illustrating the Victorian cottages, school, and lifeboat house built for the Humber Lifeboat Station at Spurn Point. Why are these plans among the records of the Humber Conservancy Board (HCB)?

The HCB was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1907. The Act replaced the Humber Conservancy Commissioners, and also transferred all responsibilities connected with navigation on the River Humber from Hull Trinity House to the new Board. This inheritance included the Lifeboat Station at Spurn Point, which had been established in 1810. This transfer would lead to three years of uncertainty and difficulty for the Lifeboat Station and its crew.
Detail from plan no.2 of proposed cottages at Spurn Point
The chief difficulty was the fact that the Humber Station was manned by a paid full time crew, a situation which was unique at the time and remains so to this day; the isolated nature of Spurn Point makes a full-time crew a necessity. The Conservancy Board members saw themselves as primarily running a commercial operation, and were unhappy about expending a large sum of money on what they considered to be a philanthropic concern. They therefore decided that they would either close the Station, or pass responsibility for it on to another body. The 1907 Conservancy Act had made the HCB responsible for the Humber Lifeboat Station, but had not included any legal compulsion for the Board to maintain it. Thus its future was placed in jeopardy!

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) was approached by the HCB as the appropriate body to operate the Station. However, the RNLI was reluctant to assume responsibility for a full-time paid lifeboat crew. Many bitter arguments would follow with the Conservancy often threatening to abandon the station!


Detail from plan no.3 of proposed cottages for Spurn Point
In May 1910 the situation reached a critical point when Constable Settled Estates issued Trinity House with one year’s notice to quit Spurn Point. Trinity House leased the land for the Lifeboat Station at a nominal rent for lifesaving purposes on a yearly rolling basis, but had permitted the Admiralty and Lloyd’s to utilise some of this land for other purposes. Constable Settle Estates had not been informed of this arrangement, and once made aware of the fact issued notice to quit. Following the 1907 Act the HCB was effectively sub-letting from Trinity House. If the HCB desired to continue to operate the Station a new lease would need to be negotiated.  This development provided the pretext for the HCB to announce its intention to close the station; the Board could now claim legitimately to have no choice in the matter.

Plan of proposed Lifeboat House, 23 October 1854

The potential loss of the Lifeboat Station, and the impact this could have on shipping in the Humber was a serious concern to shipping interests. The Board of Trade, which had for some time been attempting to mediate between the HCB and the RNLI, stepped up its efforts to find a solution.

Finally, after three difficult years it was agreed that the RNLI would take over the station on 1 May 1911. The future of the Humber Lifeboat Station was assured, and the HCB’s brief involvement with lifeboat operations came to a close. Over one-hundred years later, the RNLI continues to operate this Station for the purpose of saving lives at sea.


Detail from plan for proposed school at Spurn, October 1890
Further reading:
Roy Benfell Spurn Lifeboat Station–The First Hundred Years (Hull, 1994)
Barry Herbert Lifeboats of the Humber (Hutton Press, 1991)
Nicholas Leach Lifeboats of the Humber: Two centuries of gallantry (Amberley Publishing, 2010)

All of these titles can be consulted here at the History Centre, and are available to be borrowed by library members - see details on how to apply for library membership.

Robert Astin, Project Archivist

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Roots and Routes: Settlement, Removal and the Parish

Settlement and removal were court settled processes that formed part of the Old Poor Law system which operated in the UK from the early modern period until 1834. Under the Poor Law system, each person had a parish of settlement which was usually determined by the following considerations: where you were born; where your husband or father was born or had served an apprenticeship; or where you husband or father rented property worth £10 a year. 

A person who had moved away from their parish of settlement could be sent back (removed), if they ever fell on hard times and had to apply for parish relief. Removal was ordered for those who had become, or were likely to become, a liability on the parish such as unmarried pregnant women. Vagrancy was also a problem that fell to the parish to deal with, so vagrants were also widely subject to removal orders. Such orders were issued through the Quarter Sessions courts, whose Justices of the Peace (or magistrates) would first determine the proper parish of settlement for an individual by issuing a settlement order, before then issuing an order for their removal to that parish. Removal could be ordered to anywhere in the country, or it could be to the next parish.  

Settlement and removal was a significant tool of the Hull Bastardy Courts to rid the town of the 'financial drain' of single mothers and their illegitimate offspring. Removals in the early nineteenth century were mainly of pregnant single women. Illegitimacy was increasing in the early nineteenth century and was regarded as a social and moral problem. There was a belief that the Old Poor Law encouraged single women to bear illegitimate children in order to gain increasing amounts of parish relief. They were considered by the officers of the parish to be ‘immoral’ and 'costly' women. 

The records of the Hull Quarter Sessions can tell us much about this process, not least the names of individuals who were unfortunate enough to be part of it. Pregnant and single, Ann Whiteley was removed to Otley, West Yorkshire, in July 1813 [CQB]. Single mother Sarah Hilton, along with her illegitimate 7 week old child James, was removed to Bowby, Lincolnshire, in October 1816 [C CQB]. The story of Hannah Taylor is interesting, and shows that prevalent beliefs about such women were not necessarily true. Finding herself a single mother, Hannah had managed to support herself and her illegitimate child Mary for a few years. She then became a mother to a second illegitimate child, William. At this point she couldn't cope and had to apply for parish relief. She was ordered to be removed from Hull to Leeds, along with her children Mary (now 5 years old) and William (now 6 months). 

Settlement and Removal Order [C CQB]

Not all removals were of a longer distance, indeed some were for the removal of individuals over very short distances, often from one Hull parish to another. This can be seen in the case of Ruth Griswood who, unmarried and pregnant, was removed from Holy Trinity to Sculcoates in 1808. Such instances illustrate the infighting between parishes over who was to foot the bill for the welfare of the poor. In 1834 the Poor Law was revised, becoming known as the New Poor Law, and the same practices were occasionally carried on. For example, in 1851 the Hull Magistrates Court removed single woman Ann Gardener (a pauper) and her child.

When looking at settlement and removal under the Old Poor Law, there are high incidences of removal of women in general. Such cases involved not only women with illegitimate children or pregnant single women, but also other ‘problem’ women. These women might be widows or deserted wives who had become chargeable to the parish after the loss of husbands who had previously supported them and their children. Women classed as 'lunatics' were also removed as they required care under the system. Thus, in one respect, the process of settlement and removal can be considered as a way of getting rid of social undesirables, or those causing financial strain on the parish. In this analysis, vulnerable women in poverty were treated as social outcasts to be moved on.

To find out more, why not visit us to have a look through the Quarter Sessions records [C CQB] here at the History Centre.

Joanne Chilman, Archive Assistant

Friday, 19 May 2017

Experimenting with Digital Collections with the British Library

Last Friday we travelled to Sheffield Hallam University’s Art & Design Research Centre, who are working in partnership with the British Library Labs. This workshop focused on how the British Library’s digital collections team is making their data accessible to researchers, and the opportunities and challenges involved.

So far in this traineeship our focus has been on how to preserve the data, but recently we have been thinking about what to do with the data once it’s been stored. Archive records aren’t much use if nobody can read them, so how do you allow researchers to access these digital records, and what tools will they need to use it? For the British Library, the solution was to make datasets on the collections freely available through BL Labs, and allow researchers, developers and artists to reinterpret the collections in new ways.

A mixture of archivists, librarians, designers and artists at the start of the workshop.
A lot of the research has been in finding ways to automate the process of identifying what is in each collection. One starting concept was to take an ordinary face-recognition algorithm and pass it over scanned pages from 19th Century books to find drawings of people. This simple concept has been developed and expanded into the Mechanical Curator, a program which automatically identifies illustrations within the text, identifies the content and posts a random selection of pictures online. Similar algorithms can perform similar functions, such as teaching an Optical Character Recognition program to spot long-forgotten Victorian poetry in digitised journals.

The biggest point that came from this was less the technical aspect, but the human aspect. It is important to ask questions about exactly what researchers want to find, and how to help them find it. Digital collections can easily contain thousands or millions of files, and good search tools are key to letting users filter through stacks of data to get to what they want.

After the coffee break, professors from Sheffield Hallam’s ADRC shared some projects they have worked on, using new technology in new ways to display data and curate exhibitions. We saw some work by the meSch project into new concepts for presenting information. It can be all too easy for the presentation to overtake the content - the meSch project aims to develop museums technology which doesn’t interfere with the visitor experience.

A prototype guide for Sheffield General Cemetery, resembling a memorial book.
Visitors use the bookmarks to play audio recordings on different themes.
Throughout the workshop, we saw how not just how new technology can be used to engage with the museums and archive sector, but the importance of working directly with users to provide the tools they want or need to use. We’ll be keeping these lessons in mind as we continue to develop the Hull History Centre’s digital collections.

Tom & Francisco, Transforming Archive Trainees

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Roots and Routes: They Come and Go...

This issue of the City of Culture: Roots and Routes blog looks at Hull as a route to a new life following the experience of WWII.

Theodor Plaut (1898-1948) is representative of one of the many academics fleeing Nazi oppression during WWII. He fled to England and came to work at Hull’s University College for a time. During this period he was helped by the Academic Assistance Council (AAC), later the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (SPSL). This image, part of a form held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library (reference number MS. SPSL 237/2, fol. 33), is from the records of the SPSL. This sort of information was collected by the society when trying to find academics like Plaut a post. It records that he had been dismissed from his post in Germany because he was 'not considered politically reliable as of Jewish faith’. 

Part of the application form of Theodor Plaut, 1935 [C DJC/4/1/11]

The work of the former SPSL continues today as CARA, the Council for At-Risk Academics. It helps academics around the world who are being persecuted or who are caught up in conflict, for example those in Syria and Iraq.

In the late 1930s, meetings were held in the UK to protest against what was happening in Germany. Consideration was given to how best to help those wishing to leave the country at a time when extra restrictions were being put into place by the UK government. One of the biggest and latest projects was that of the Kindertransports. This was a scheme to bring to Britain by boat some 10,000 Jewish children without their parents, many of whom would later die in the gas chambers. The local Jewish community in Hull, as well as fund raising for the scheme, provided homes to some of these children.

Robert Rosner and Rudolph Wesseley were two such children. Rosner escaped from Vienna and was adopted by Leo Schultz (later a Lord Mayor of the city) and his wife, Kitty. Wesseley was born in Prague and was sent out on the last Kindertransport. Coming to Hull, he attended Riley High School, and would later fight for his newly adopted country in the Royal Navy.

Rudolph in service with the Royal Navy, c.1943-1945 [C DJC/4/1/11]

Just a few months after their escape from Germany, many of these children were rounded up and, along with adults, interned as enemy aliens on places such as the Isle of Man, although most were released after a few months. Two Jewish trainee midwives working in Hull were required to leave the area and return to London. They were classified as aliens and were therefore unable to stay in Hull, which was considered to be a restricted zone.

Hull City Council Reports, 1939 [C TCR/1/9/5]

The end of the war saw further arrivals in Hull, more people using the city as a route to a new life. With the headline ‘Frauleins meet ex-soldier sweethearts in Hull’, the Hull Daily Mail on Friday 14th March, 1947, reported on the arrival of 46 German women at the Alexandra Dock. Sailing on the SS Bury, these young women were to become the brides of British ex-servicemen whom they had met whilst the servicemen were on active service.

German brides arriving by boat, 14 Mar 1947 [Hull Daily Mail]

If these stories have piqued your interest, you can delve further here at the History Centre and uncover more stories, perhaps as yet undiscovered...

Paul Leaver, Archivist (Hull City Archives)

Friday, 5 May 2017

Into the Unknown: Exploring the un-catalogued records of the Humber Ports

The best part about exploring an un-catalogued collection for the first time is that you never know what you are going to find next. The downside is also that you never know what you are going to find next. The Records of the Humber Ports can be divided into two parts: a catalogued part and an un-catalogued part. We cannot provide access to the collection without a comprehensive catalogue, so it is very inaccessible in its present state.  My task over the next fourteen months will therefore be to bring the catalogue into line with modern professional standards while incorporating this additional material.

To this end I have spent the last couple of weeks creating a box list for this material. This is essential for planning just how this collection is to be processed, and for providing me with an idea of the scale of the challenge I have in store. It is time consuming work, but the excitement of exploring the collection for the first time more than makes up for this. 

Box listing in progress: photograph and technical drawing of the original Hull Docks grab dredger.
The vast majority of the un-catalogued papers consist of the records of the Humber Conservancy Commissioners and Board, and a large proportion of this is made up of papers from the Conservancy Engineer’s Office. We therefore have a great deal of material relating to navigational aids (e.g. buoys, lanterns, and lightships) and improvements to the Humber; a mass of correspondence, charts, and technical drawings. We are particularly lucky to have a fairly comprehensive set of correspondence files from the Engineer’s Office.


Blueprint of new Conservancy lightship showing optical apparatus. 1919.
There is however still a fair amount of material related to the Humber Ports, including maps, plans, and illustrations. This includes records from the Hull Docks Company, the North Eastern Railway (later the London and North Eastern Railway), and the Aire and Calder Navigation. However, I have to admit that I was expecting to find more. In particular, I was hoping to find more records from the original dock company. This does illustrate the fundamental importance of cataloguing.


Illustration from a souvenir guide from the opening of King George Dock in 1914
I hope to share more highlights from the collection as the project progresses, so keep an eye on this blog for future updates.

The box listing is just a first step on the road to producing a comprehensive catalogue for the entire collection. The next step will be to begin sorting and arranging some of the key record groups identified from this work.

Robert Astin, Project Archivist

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

World Press Freedom Day at Hull History Centre

The 3rd of May marks World Press Freedom Day, an international day of awareness instigated by the UN in 1993. It is held to raise awareness of free press issues and the duty of governments to uphold Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (relating to the right to freedom of expression). The 3 May was chosen as it marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles issued by African newspaper journalists in 1991.

Each year UNESCO marks the day by organizing a conference of media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to discuss press freedom issues, solutions and challenges. The first was held in London in 1998 on ‘Press Freedom is a Cornerstone of Human Rights’. This year the UNESCO conference is being held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

We thought we would take this opportunity to give you a taster of some of our collections that champion the principles of free speech and civil rights.

A recently catalogued example comes from the records of former University of Hull graduate, Chris Mullin. A retired Labour MP, author and journalist, he joined the Labour Party in 1967, in part as a reaction against the Vietnam War. After university, he worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent in Asia, during which time he met and interviewed the Dalai Lama. He visited and reported on human rights issues in Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, Cambodia and China. He was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, and editor of the socialist journal Tribune. Throughout his political career he was not afraid to speak out against even members of his own party in pursuit of truth and justice, he also served as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He pursued a successful campaign to prove that there had been a miscarriage of justice in the case of the Birmingham Six. He was also outspoken on the British Governments position on various international issues including military support for the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Throughout his career Mullin campaigned for a free press, without the influence of media barons and conglomerates.

Photograph showing Mullin and Arthur Scargill with others at a Tribune rally, 1983 [U DMU/1/61]

Another of the collections held at Hull History Centre records the activities of pressure group Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties). The very foundation of the organisation was predicated on the use of media, press and their own publications to raise public awareness of infringements to civil liberties. Within the collection there are many files relating to issues of freedom of speech and censorship.

Press cutting re censorship of appeals to help Spanish civilians [U DCL/4/4]

The Campaign for Academic Freedom and Democracy CAFD), formed in 1970 by a ground of left-wing academics including John Saville, is also amongst our collections. Since its inception, CAFD has championed the rights to academic freedom and free speech. As well as advising on individual cases, the organisation promotes is work through the use of media and publicity work to highlight cases of injustice.
  
Minutes from AGM of CAFD [U DAF/1/1]

If you would like further information about any of these collections please see our online catalogue for details.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

2017 Quarterly Update from the History Centre

Over the past three months our City of Culture blog here at the History Centre has explored the theme ‘Made in Hull’, a theme chosen by the City of Culture team to launch the 2017 year of celebrations. With the advent of April, we have moved into the second quarter of 2017, which is dedicated to the theme ‘Roots and Routes’. As a result, our History Centre City of Culture blog now changes focus. From April to June we embark on a ‘Roots and Routes’ blog series.


This quarter’s theme is all about travelling, migration and settlement. Our blogs in this series will cover themes such parades around the city’s public spaces, as well as immigration and movement through the city resulting from the Second World War. We will be exploring 19th century cases of settlement heard by the Quarter Sessions magistrates in the city. And, because of Hull’s important maritime heritage, we won’t be focusing solely on land. The ways in which the citizens of Hull have traversed the waves will be explored as we look at 19th century whaling journeys, and the many ways in which we have attempted to bridge the River Humber over the last millennium.

Postcard showing New Riverside Quay and the River Humber, late 19th cent. [L RH]

To kick off this quarter we are playing host to an exhibition of paintings exploring the Old Town area of the city. This fabulous series of paintings, titled ‘A family’s Journey through Hull’s Old Town’, have been created by Cottingham based artist Shirley Goodsell. The exhibition is free to all and will run from 5th-27th April.

Postcard showing Whitefriargate, the entrance to Hull's Old Town, pre-1900 [L RH]

The quarter will conclude with another exhibition, this time a photographic display, compiled by Alec Gill and titled ‘Hessle Roaders’. This will again be free to all and will run from 1st-29th June.

Postcard showing Hessle Road, 1906 [L RH]

In other news, our History Makers programme for the quarter kicked off on 1st April with a great turnout to the ‘Science in the Archives’ session, which took a whistle-stop tour around the city’s scientific discoveries. The ‘Full Steam Ahead’ session, on 6th May, will look at Hull’s railway history as we build train stations and steam engines to transport us around the city. Whilst the final History Makers of the quarter, ‘Fish and Ships’, will be a celebration of our fishing past.

Just a few hints to keep you intrigued, for more information you will have to read our ‘Roots and Routes’ posts…

History Centre Team

Friday, 7 April 2017

From Dock Company to Humber Ports

Robert in our map room looking at a Humber Conservancy plan
This week marks the beginning of a project which will see the records of the Humber Ports of the British Transport Docks Board, later known as Associated British Ports, fully catalogued and made available to the public for the first time.

To enable us to catalogue the collection we have secured funding from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives which has allowed us to employ a Project Archivist for 15 months to work on the collection. 

On Monday we welcomed Robert to our team and he will be keeping you up to date on how the project is progressing.

The importance of these records
After the creation of the Hull Dock Board in 1774 Hull’s dock network expanded rapidly and these records allow us to build a comprehensive picture of the workings of the various organisations at work in the Humber region during this period and how they combined to make the area a maritime success. 


Important for the understanding of the history and development of Hull and the wider Humber region, this collection, which covers the period 1772-1982, includes records relating to:

  • The Hull Dock Company
  • The Humber Conservancy Commissioners and Board
  • The ports of Goole, Grimsby and Immingham
  • The Aire and Calder Navigation
  • The Dock and Harbour Authorities Association
  • Hull and Barnsley Railway
  • Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
  • North Eastern Railway/London & North Eastern Railway/Waterways and Ports

Carol Tanner

Access and Collections Manager

Monday, 27 March 2017

Made in Hull: Women in the Pursuit of Perfection

To celebrate the end of Women's History Month 2017 and the City of Culture’s Women of the World Festival, we thought we would take a look at the lives of some of our unsung women, all of whom we have records on at the History Centre if you want to find out more. Winifred Holtby, wrote an article for the Yorkshire Post in October 1929 entitled, Women in the pursuit of perfection [L WH/2/2.25/05/10B]. In it she separated women into two groups: those who are satisfied with their lot and are happy to compromise; and those who strive for something better, for perfection. Holtby, along with the rest of the women in this blog, falls into the second category. These are women that deserve to be celebrated for their contribution to the life of the City and those within it. 

Ann Watson
On her death, Mrs Ann Watson provided for the creation of a trust, The Ann Watson Trust, under the terms of her will, dated 27th October 1720. We know little of Ann's life or family, except that she was married to the Reverend Abraham Watson, lived in Hedon and had four children. Three of her children, Hedon, Abraham, and a daughter married to Mr Alexander Hall, all died in her lifetime. Her fourth child, Isaac survived her and was the rector of South Ferriby. Her bequest provided for the accommodation and relief of poor women in need who were members of the Church of England. Preference was given to widows or unmarried daughters of clergymen of the Church of England. She also made provision to help those in need to gain an education. Through careful management her bequest has helped those less fortunate than herself for three centuries. Today, the objectives of the Charity remain fundamentally the same. They include providing for the advancement of education through the promotion of education amongst persons under 25 who are residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire or who attend a school in that area. You can find out more about Ann Watson and her legacy by exploring the trust's records [C DSAW].

Map showing the extent of the Trust's land ownership, 1770 [C DSAW/3/2]

Mrs Christiana Rose
Christiana Rose was a woman who forged her own way in a man’s world. In 1833 she inherited a business that would become known as Rose, Downs & Thompson Ltd. It was originally established in 1777 by John Todd as the Old Foundry in a location that would later become known as Canon Street. The business specialised in making windmill parts and casting canon and ship fittings. It also benefited from the lucrative seed crushing industry which required presses and windmills to operate. On the retirement of Mr Todd in 1824, the business passed to Christiana's father, Duncan Campbell. Christiana had a large hand in continuing the business and expanded it to such an extent that, between 1861 and 1863, the Old Foundry had built and installed over one hundred double presses, all of which bore the name C Rose. She died in December 1871 having steered the business through a transitional period which would see it become one of the leading exporters of oil mill machinery. To find out more, have a look at the records of Rose, Downs & Thompson [C DBR]. 

Photograph of female workers in the workshop, c.1920 [C DBR/2037]

Ada Hartley
Born in 1896 to Charles and Caroline Hartley, Ada was a woman who was to dedicate her life to the teaching profession and the children in her care. At the age of 17 she attended Hessle Church of England School as a student teacher. She would return to the school in 1928 as a teacher, and would remain there, working her way up the ranks to Headmistress in 1938, until her retirement in 1961. Outside of her teaching work, Ada served the community in other ways. By 1925 she had joined the Kingston Nursing Division of St. John’s Ambulance Association. She served in No. 6 District, the Hull Corps. In 1931 she was appointed a Lady Ambulance Officer and became a lady ambulance driver later the same year. As WWII approached, Ada attended courses in Chemical Warfare and became an instructor in anti-gas measures, before being appointed as a Lady Divisional Superintendent in June 1941. After the war she received The Order of St. John of Jerusalem in recognition of devoted service to the cause of humanity. Ada remained unmarried after the war, a fate many women experienced following the death of a generation of young men did not come home from the war. She died in 1980 having dedicated her whole life to helping others. You can find out more about Ada and her life in records at the History Centre [C DIMH].

Ada (1st on left) with The St John's Ambulence [C DIMH/1/4/1]

There are many more stories waiting to be told, many more exceptional Hull women to discover, here at the History Centre through our online catalogue. Mary Murdoch (1864-1916), Suffragist and Hull’s first female doctor [L.610]; Winifred Holtby (1898-1935), author, critic, journalist and political activist [L WH,  L.823]; Stevie Smith (1902-1971), poet and author [U DP/156, U DP/197, L. 821 (SMI)]; Amy Johnson (1903-1941), aviatrix and the first female to fly to Australia [L.920 (JOH), L DIAJ]; Lilian Bilocca (1929-1988), activist [L. Newspapers, L. Books]; Jean Hartley (1933-2011), founder of Marvell Press, Philip Larkin’s publisher [U DJE].

Carol Tanner, Collections Manager Hull City Archives