Friday, 20 April 2018

This month in Hull: April

One of the resources we offer free access to here at the History Centre is the British Newspaper Archive. This is a massive project to digitise millions of pages of British newspapers, and several Hull papers are available covering 1794-1950. The huge benefit of having newspapers digitised is that you can easily search them by date or keyword, which really opens them up for research.

It’s not always the big events that tell you the most about a certain point in history; the day to day goings-on also have stories to tell. So for this post I decided to choose an April date more or less at random and, using the British Newspaper Archive collections, see what was happening in Hull.

The date I chose is 20 April 1925, and the newspaper I looked at is the Hull Daily Mail. All images in this post are copyright Local World Limited/Trinity Mirror and were created and used courtesy of the British Library Board.

Browsing through the pages, the first thing that catches the eye is of course the adverts.


The Costello clothing store is luring in lady shoppers with their Fashion Corner advert: “Here you are with MAY peeping at you, and you are still without your SPRING outfit… ARE YOU READY FOR THE WARMER DAYS?” If only it were still around, I would be down to Costello’s for a smart two piece costume in an instant.

Elsewhere on the page, we learn that “Hull has the unique distinction of having more wireless listeners per thousand than any other town in the United Kingdom,” although sadly figures are not given.


Two men and a woman were remanded for further enquiries to be carried out after a police constable found them asleep at 2am in a furniture van in a yard. This really seems to raise questions about what the constable was doing peering into vans in the early hours, but presumably he had his reasons.


A story of a lucky escape features in “Preparing for bed. Exciting burning rescue in New George Street.” Harriet Markham, 19, accidentally set her clothes on fire with a candle she was holding and was rescued by two brothers. This kind of accident was not uncommon in the days of open fires and candlelight, but luckily on this occasion the victim survived.


There is also a fascinating glimpse into both shell shock and unemployment in the piece “Explosion brings speech.” The story tells us that “Shock has cured a Hull ex-soldier who stuttered seriously as a result of the war.” He was thrown to the ground by an explosion in Falkirk and found that his speech had returned. He was in Falkirk having walked from Hull “in search of work,” a distance of some 240 miles. Unusually, the man’s name is not given; perhaps this indicates the stigma which attached to both mental health problems and unemployment?


The British Newspaper Archive is a subscription website but you can access it for free in any Hull library, including the History Centre. Why not have a look and see what you can discover?

Monday, 9 April 2018

A new way to visualise our land and estate records

Here at the History Centre we hold an excellent set of collections relating to the landed families and estates of East Yorkshire. Families represented within our holdings include the Sykes of Sledmere, the Hothams of Scorborough and South Dalton, and the Stapletons of Carlton Towers. The collections are large and varied, and contain records useful to all kinds of researchers.

Each family and estate collection has its own strengths and weaknesses, but what they all have in common is land records. Title deeds, leases, and manorial records appear throughout these families’ records, relating to villages and parishes all over East Yorkshire and further afield.

These records can be rather daunting for researchers, as the sheer number of them and the collections' complex catalogues can make them initially tricky to navigate. We wanted to make it easier to get an idea of the areas our collections cover and to be able to visualise which areas had more than one family’s interests represented. So, we used Google Maps to create a map showing the locations of records held in our ten largest family and estate collections.

The Family and Estates Collections map

You can browse the map, or search for a specific place. Clicking on a pin brings up a link to that series in the catalogue, so users can click straight through and view the items we have for that place in that collection.

Clicking on the pin for Sledmere brings up catalogue links on the left

Another interesting function of the map is that it gives a visual representation of how landed families’ property was distributed. For instance, we can see that the Sykes family’s property was concentrated in the East Yorkshire area:

Most of the Sykes family's property is in East Yorkshire, with just a few pins elsewhere in England

while the Stapleton family held much less property in East Yorkshire, but more in North Yorkshire and up towards Newcastle:

The Stapleton family's property is mainly in North Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales and the north east, with a few pins elsewhere in England

The most far-flung properties are in the West Indies:

Pins show property in Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands

The purple pin on the right leads us to U DDCA2/46/1, a conveyance of a sugar plantation called Strawberry Hill, which was sold for 96,500 pieces of eight in 1795. 

The green pin on the left leads us to a series of records including U DDCV/198/1, a conveyance of plantations called Hampstead and Retreat, Mount Lebanon, and Coxheath or Lagoon Penn, along with 328 slaves, stock and implements.

Why not browse the map and see what you find? 

For more information about our family and estate collections, have a look at our research guide.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Unicorns in Towthorpe?

You never know what you’ll find amongst the documents in an archive. While working on one of our family and estate collections recently I came across an inventory which seemed to have gone unremarked since it was originally catalogued many years ago.

Inventory of the goods and chattels of John Taylor of Towthorpe
U DDLG/52/81, inventory of John Taylor

Inventories were taken after someone died, listing all their goods and property in order to value their estate. Inventories included things like money and personal possessions, but also household goods and animals.

This inventory records the goods and chattels of John Taylor of Towthorpe, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire a few miles from Driffield. It was taken on 20 March 1688 and records the few valuable possessions John left: money, a chest and a coffer, and some livestock.

Extract from U DDLG/52/81, Inventory of John Taylor

This entry records “54 unicorn, wintered abroad [i.e. fed and sheltered on someone else’s land]”. This small herd of unicorns was worth £10 “over and above about £4 paid for their wintering.” It is not recorded where they spent the winter, or what they ate.

This is the first mythical creature I’ve located amongst our documents, but there may be more. If you’ve found any, please let us know!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

This Month in Hull: March

This is the first in a new series of blogs, which we will be posting regularly. The series will highlight some of the city's interesting historical happenings for a given month. So today, Verity launches our 'This Month in Hull' blog with some historical happenings from March 1915/16.  

On 5 March 1916, Hull came under attack from the air. Having failed to reach Scotland because of bad weather, two German zeppelins bombed Hull. The bombs, which included both incendiaries and explosive bombs, fell on the city centre, damaging parts of Paragon Station, Hull Grammar School and Holy Trinity Church. Seventeen people were killed and 52 injured. This, however, was not the first such raid on Hull. The first zeppelin raid had been on the 6 and 7 June 1915 and had resulted in the deaths of 24 people. During the First World War, Hull was bombed on at least 8 separate occasions, the courses of the Humber and River Hull making navigation to the city easy for the zeppelin pilots. 

A Zeppelin visiting the North East Coast, 1915

The raid of 5-6 March was terrifying for the inhabitants of Hull and many first-hand accounts of the devastation wreaked by the bombs were related in the local papers in the days following the attack. Shortly afterwards, details of the inquests held for those who died were also printed in the newspapers. The tragic stories were ones of family members seeing their loved ones killed but also ones of heroic rescue attempts.

Midnight raid on Market Place, Hull, by Zeppelin, 1915

The attack heightened calls for greater air raid defences and the provision of anti-aircraft guns for Hull. Since the first air raids, Hull had established their own warning system, using steam whistles (‘buzzers’) to alert the city’s inhabitants to the imminent threat. The largest buzzer in the country was made in Hull and was known affectionately as ‘Big Lizzie’. The city had also established air raid drills and following the raising of the alarm, 3000 volunteer Special Constables would walk the streets to ensure citizens were adhering to blackout rules. Like the Blitz during the Second World War, messengers, dispatch riders and stretcher bearers were also recruited and first aid stations were created. However, Hull had no means of retaliating against the bombardment and people could only look on helplessly as parts of the city were destroyed and neighbours were killed. Subsequent angry protests, however, quickly led to authorities providing mobile guns and searchlights for Hull’s defence.

Zeppelin damage in Queen Street, Hull, 1916

The attack in March 1916 was not the last. Hull suffered a further two attacks in 1916, one in 1917 and another two in 1918. Over the course of the First World War, there were 160 casualties in Hull from air raids. If you would like to learn more about the zeppelin raids on Hull during the First World War, please see Arthur Credland’s book The Hull Zeppelin Raids 1916-1918 [L 9.7083].

Verity, Archives Assistant

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Out with the old in with the new catalogues

Staff kept calm and carried on despite operating under a restricted service for the last six weeks, and have been working hard to improve access to our collections whilst continuing to offer a limited public service.

We may not have been able to access the collections themselves whilst the building work was on-going, but we did have access to the old catalogues typed many years ago and to standards we no longer recognise. A process, known as retro-conversion enables us to take an old list and re-key the data into our database ensuring that they adhere to the modern standards of cataloguing and allowing us to create an on line searchable catalogue.

Collections which will be available to search on our on-line catalogue shortly include:

C DSMS - Records of the Hull Mission to Seafarers formerly known as the Mission to Seamen and associated records including Hull Mariners' Church and Sailors' Rest Society Records  1796-1977, Hull Sailors' Home Society Records 1858-1943, and Hull Mission to Seafarers/Seamen Records 1913-2002

C DDEY - East Yorkshire Deeds 1573-1826, Deeds of the Bacchus estate at Melton, Cottingham, Knottingley, 16th century-18th century; and of properties in Trippett 17th century; Whitefriargate 17th-18th century; Kendal 18th century.

The new version of the list (right) follows modern standards with a clean layout to make it easy to read 

Some of the collections were too large to complete during the six weeks so work is on-going on the following:

C DDO - a set of historical documents relating to Hull and District and old deeds covering the period 1392-1842.  Within this set is a document dated 1694 stating that one Elizabeth Crake of Lelay was to pay William Crake £3, being the amount she owed him since time began! How this was calculated we’ll never know but it would be interesting to know when William thought that time began!

C SBH - Hull School Board, 1871-1903. This vast collection contains over 1500 individual items and includes Election papers 1871-1901; minutes of the Board and the various committee papers 1871-1903; reports 1871-1903 and Letter books and correspondence 1877-1903.

C BRA – Title deeds of properties acquired by the Borough of Kingston upon Hull, 1300-1835. Originally produced as part of a Calendar of Ancient Deeds, Letters, and Miscellaneous Old Documents in the Archives of the Corporation, this collection gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the Corporation over 535 years.

L WH – The Winifred Holtby archive consists of over 9000 items and includes the original manuscript of South Riding. Although this collection can be accessed online, the absence of a hard copy list meant that it was impossible to browse a catalogue in the searchroom. The list is now well under way and will be available to read in the searchroom in the near future.

Work on Theatre Programmes continues as programmes from the Theatre Royal and the Grand Theatre are added to the 3000+ New Theatre programmes already available to search on-line.

Additions to the book stock have continued including Hull City: the Boothferry Park Years by Nicholas Turner and new OS maps have been added to our stock to replace those that were worn out through heavy use!

As we return to normal service we can reflect that the last six weeks may have had their challenges but that throughout we have managed to offer a public service and worked on collections to improve access in the future.

Carol Tanner
Access and Collections Manager, Hull City Archives

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Medieval women in the archives

March is Women’s History Month and so I thought it would be interesting to look at how women appear in some of the earliest records held here at Hull History Centre – deeds recording property transactions. We hold deeds covering nearly a thousand years, from the 12th century up to the 20th.

Studying the lives of medieval women can seem a daunting task, and it’s true that men appear more often than women in medieval records, but that doesn’t mean that women are invisible. We can use deeds to get a glimpse into the lives of some medieval women.

All the deeds featured here are written in Latin, so don’t worry if you can’t read them! The women’s names are highlighted to help you spot them.

Gift of Breithive, daughter of Norman de Elretona

In this 12th-century gift Breithive, daughter of Norman de Ellerton, and Adam, her nephew, give to Ellerton Priory all their land in Ellerton beyond Whitebec to the east and Ruedic to the west. No reason is given for Breithive’s gift, but often priories were given property in remembrance of a deceased family member. (U DDCA2/17/1)

Gift of Agatha de Cleseby

This gift from Agatha de Cleseby to the priory of St Andrew, made in the early 13th century, includes a toft and croft in Manfield along with other property, and was given for the soul of Robert, her son. (U DDCA2/29/43)

Gift of Juliana, widow of Ralph Pilkat

Interestingly, in this 13th-century gift both the parties are women, as Juliana, widow of Ralph Pilkat of Everingham, gives a half part of her house to her daughter Alice. The property given to Alice was 15 feet long and 15 feet wide. (U DDEV/9/4)

Gift of Robert de Sywardby

Finally, another 13th-century document records a demise of a toft in Sywardby from Thomas, son of Robert de Sywardby, to his mother Lady Beatrice for her life, as long as she remains lay (i.e. does not enter a convent). From this it appears that Lady Beatrice was a widow, as it was not uncommon for widows to become nuns. (U DDLG/30/27)

In the Middle Ages women could also witness deeds, but I haven’t yet found a deed in our collections where a woman appears in the witness list. If you know of one please get in touch!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Hull's Woolly Zoo is here!!!

Gertrude the Goat
Well, it’s finally here, Hull’s very own Woolly Zoo is now open for visitors here at the History Centre. A year in the planning, we’ve had exhibits sent in from all over Hull and the surrounding area. Way back in January 2017, when we set people the challenge of helping us to create a zoo made entirely out of wool, we had no idea how enthusiastic everyone would be. So we would just like to say a huge ‘thank you’ for making this project a great success, and we hope you have enjoyed being involved. But your part in this story isn’t over yet, at least not before you have come to see what your combined efforts have achieved. The exhibition runs from 1 February until 7 April and entry is free, although our hungry polar bear will welcome any donations towards the Centre’s outreach work.

Over the last few days, staff at the History Centre have been busy constructing enclosures, making sure the animals are well looked after and neatly turned out, and dressing the arcade so it looks its very best for the grand opening gala. At the last count we had over 220 animals, lovingly created by staff, volunteers and the general public. We’ve received a huge range of submissions. Our smallest exhibit is Gertrude, a 6cm needle-felted goat made by our very own Pete Dixie, whilst our largest animal is a 6ft giraffe named Daphne-Geraldine, brought to life by a creative team effort at St Barnabas Church.

Geraldine-Daphne the Giraffe
The experience of undertaking this exhibition has been quite different to those we have done previously at the History Centre. The stories we tell are usually explained using archives from our collections, selected by ourselves, and displayed alongside text panels. This time, we’ve been inspired by those archives to select our subject, but have sought input from the whole community to help us create an exhibition to tell our story in a fun and child-friendly way.

Constructing this exhibition physically has also been a new experience for us. We’ve had to become carpenters, painters and decorators, wire sculptors and seamstresses! Trips to DIY stores, craft suppliers and fabric shops have been necessary, and we’ve spent many a lunch break pompom-making in order to decorate the arcade space where we will be staging the exhibition.

Alongside the exhibition, we will be running a number of additional events. We will also be auctioning off exhibits that don’t have a home to go back to. You can bid on any animals with a green star on their name tags, and all proceeds from the auction will go to charities supported by the History Centre. On 3 February 9.30-12.30 we have our zoo themed History Makers session, when we will be reconstructing the Spring Bank Zoological Gardens in Lego, making animal masks, and creating cute pompom animals. On 13 February 12.30-13.30 our regular Lunchtime Club lecture aimed at adults will be on the story of Spring Bank Zoological Gardens, the inspiration behind our exhibition. Join us on 7 March for a ‘Knit and Natter’ at the History Centre when you can listen to a short talk about the Centre and our work, followed by a friendly knitting session where you can chat to fellow attendees and ask staff any questions you might have about using the Centre. Finally, on 28 March we will be holding a Teddy Bears’ Picnic for our young zoo enthusiasts. Pack a cold lunch, grab your favourite soft toy and come take part in our zoo trail before having lunch at the zoo.

All of our events are free, however the Knit and Natter and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic have limited places. Please call us or drop in to book a place. All children must be accompanied by a guardian during the History Makers and Teddy Bears’ Picnic events. With so much going on for children and adults alike, we are sure you will find something for you!

To give you a sneak peak, here's what we've been up to...

Exhibits in their temporary 'enclosures'...

Some late arrivals...

Stringing window hangings...


Preparing the exhibition panels...

Getting Daphne the Giraffe in place...

Verity and Claire, Hull University Archives

Monday, 8 January 2018

Hull's Woolly Zoo 2018 Extravaganza

A very Happy New Year to you all as we resume our normal activities following Christmas here at the History Centre. And whilst 2017 might be over, we are by no means any less busy as our first exhibition is just three weeks away!


Throughout 2017, those of you who are regular visitors to our Facebook page will have noticed hundreds of pictures of amazing woolly creations made by yourselves and staff here at the History Centre. These were sent in as a response to a year-long social media campaign. Through this campaign, we aimed to highlight a largely forgotten piece of Hull's history. During the 19th century, Hull was home to a regionally famous zoo full of animals, including polar bears and elephants. Whilst the Hull Zoological Gardens were open daily to the public, every year the Hull Zoological Society put together a season of extravagant galas. These galas were held at the Zoological Gardens and always ended with a grand display of fireworks (probably not great for the animals!). 


This story has long intrigued a number of us here at the History Centre, so we decided to make it our first exhibition of 2018. But we wanted to make this exhibition a little bit different, out of the ordinary - much like the Zoological Gardens were. So, we decided to try and recreate the zoo out of wool... The response to our social media appeal for exhibits was overwhelming, and we now have all the components for what will hopefully be a fantastic exhibition. 


The exhibition will be free to enter! It opens on the 1 February, and will run until the 7 April. During this time, we will be holding a number of free events aimed at both children and adults. Events programmes are available to pick up at the History Centre, and you can contact us for further information at hullhistorycentre@hcandl.co.uk or on 01482 317500. Keep an eye on the History Centre’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, and of course here on the blog, for further updates over the coming weeks…
Verity and Claire, Hull University Archives staff