Just a week after we got back from the South of England, our next trip out was by train from Manchester, to the East Yorkshire city of Hull. On the way into the city by train, we passed underneath the incredible Humber Bridge, crossing the River Humber between Yorkshire & Lincolnshire. Find out more in my dedicated post here.
Status: Kingston-upon-Hull Unitary District, East Yorkshire, City, England
Travel: First Transpennine Expresss (Manchester Piccadilly – Hull)
Eating & Sleeping: Greggs, Hull Station Shop
Attractions: The Deep Aquarium, City Hall, War Memorial, Marina, Humber Bridge, Guildhall, Wilberforce Column, Holy Trinity Church, Marina, Docks, Spurn Lightship, Yorkshire Water Museum, Queen Victoria Square, Cream Telephone Boxes, Humber Dock, Princes Quay Shopping Centre, Queens Dock etc
Stepping out of the station building, you will come across the War Memorial, sat directly over the road. This particular one was first dedicated to the South African War, and was unveiled in 1904. It stands in an area known as Paragon Square, and the white stone reflects the sun perfectly. The plinth it stands on was added later, as it originally stood on a large unshaped piece of rock.
Heading past here, you will enter the pedestrianised sections of the city, and pass some of the smaller shopping centres, namely the Prospect Centre and St Stephens Centre. At the other end of these, you will enter the main public space in the city, a focal point for the community…
This is the first half of the Queen Victoria square in Hull, which contains many of the cities most fabulous buildings. On the left you can see the Hull Maritime Museum, as the position of the city on the estuary of the River Humber has made it an important port and cruise ships regularly sail to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Zebrugge in Belgium from here.
The first museum opened in 1912, and moved into the current building in 1974, known as the Dock Offices Building (built in 1872). Its name derives from the fact that the Hull Dock Company once had its headquarters here and was in charge of all the docks until 1893. We did visit the museum, and there were lots of nautical themed exhibits inside, all telling fascinating stories about the history of the city.
In the centre of the square, as per it’s name, there is a statue of Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) the longest serving monarch in British History (although Queen Elizabeth II, incumbent, is fast approaching her record). She has presided over the square since she was sculpted by H. C. Fehr in 1903. Unusually for a statue like this, there are also public toilets directly beneath it, although I think the chance of a royal flush is quite rare!
The other half of Queen Victoria Square is marked by the impressive City Hall, built in the first decade of the 1900’s. The City Council don’t actually meet here and it has no official function, but it does play host to various civic functions, concerts and performances, and hosts the Tourist Information Centre on the ground floor. The Council actually meet in the Guild Hall, but more on that later.
Behind the Maritime Museum likes one particular site of historical importance. Hull is widely regarded as being the place where the 1st proper conflict of the English Civil War occurred. The two sides were known as Royalists (supporters of King Charles I) and Parliamentarians (supporters of Oliver Cromwell and Parliament). The Royalists already controlled most major cities in England, from London to Hull, so the Parliamentarians moved to take Hull and prevent the Royalists using their garrison there.
Charles I himself arrived later that year, but was denied access to the city by Sir John Hotham (1589 – 1645) who had been sent by Parliament to hold the city. Charles departed to fetch more soldiers, and quickly returned, only to be denied a 2nd time. The King was outraged, and the war began. The 1st full battle occurred on the 23rd October 1642, over in Warwickshire, however there was no clear victor and the campaigns continued.
This spot in Hull is where Hotham denied access to the King, and is probably one of the most important sites in England, especially with regards to the history of democracy in the country. It was known as Beverly Gate, originally part of the 14th century city walls. It was later demolished in 1776, but the site remains open and you can walk in freely to explore the ruins.
If you move past the Beverly Gate, you will find the start of Queen’s Gardens, which contains a beautiful arrangement of flowers, and a fountain. The whole area that now constitutes the park was once underwater, as it was the site of Queens Dock, the 1st of many docks to be built in the city, back in 1778, although it wasn’t officially designated as Queens Dock until 1855.
The Dock stretched from Beverly Gate through to the River Hull, which flows South down through the city to join the Humber. The Dock remained in use until the 1930’s, when it was filled in and replaced by the gardens.
Running parallel with Queens Gardens is the Guildhall, which is by far the most impressive building I have seen for some time. It takes up a whole block, and is the current seat of Hull City Council.
In 1907 the first part of the building was finished, being the West end pictured above. It contains the Courts, Council Chambers and Offices. At the other end was the original Town Hall, but this was demolished and turned into the east entrance for the Guildhall, completed by 1916. There are a few impressive statues on the roof, and a statue of King Edward I stands in the east entrance hall.
The statues on the roof at either end of the building remind me a lot of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, with a rider atop his horses riding into battle.
This is the East entrance to the Guildhall, with a statue of Charles Henry Wilson (1833 – 1907, major ship owner of the time) stood outside. The site was originally occupied by the former Hull Town Hall, designed by Cuthbert Brodrick who also designed Leeds Town Hall. Just 30 years after it opened, Hull was officially granted City Status, and to reflect this the council decided to build a new, larger headquarters. This led to the West End of the Guildhall being built, and the Town Hall being demolished by 1913, to allow for the East End to be built.
The Guildhall itself is one in a long line of buildings to stand here throughout the centuries, from the Guildhalls of the 17th century, to the Alderman’s House (local leaders residence) of 1822.
The East End is noticeably different to the West End, as it is of course the main entrance. The Clock Tower is a stunning piece of architecture, one of many around the city. Moving off down the road to the right, we found the other end of Queens Gardens…
At the East end of the Gardens lies the William Wilberforce Memorial, dedicated to it’s namesake (1759 – 1833) who was a leading figure in the abolition of the slave trade. As Hull was a major port, various slaves were brought through the city before the trade was formally abolished across the Empire in 1834. William died 3 days after finding out that it was definitely going to pass into law, however he never saw it implemented.
As William was a proud son of Hull, it was fitting that a Memorial be erected here to commemorate the historic change he helped to bring about. Publicly funded, the Memorial, in the shape of a large doric column, was completed in 1840, and William stands 102 ft above the gardens, standing watch over the city.
Behind the Column lies Hull College, in the grounds of which the monument technically stands. The College was founded over a century ago, and is now one of the largest colleges in the country, with 28000 students. Just behind the College flows the River Humber, which is completing its long journey from Driffield in the North of East Yorkshire.
We made our way back towards Queen Victoria Square, deviating to follow the course of the Princes Quay Shopping Centre. It sits on top of another Dock area which has since closed, called Prince’s Dock.
Originally designated as Junction Dock, it lay between the Old Dock (which became Queen’s Dock) and the Humber Dock (1809), of which the Junction Dock was the newest when it was completed in 1829. 25 years later it became Prince’s Dock, and was finally closed to business in 1968, following Queens Dock 30 years prior. In 1991 the Princes Quay Shopping Centre was then built on stilts above it, becoming the largest shopping centre in the city.
Continuing past the shopping centre, we reached the Quays, and the Marina. You can see the Lightship at the back of the picture, in black. It is called the Spurn Lightship, and became a museum in 1987. Built in 1927, it spent 48 years as a mobile lighthouse guiding ships on the Humber. The Marina was once the Dock known as Humber Dock, the other of the 3 city centre docks. It is no longer joined to Princes Dock, as a main road separates the two.
We enjoyed looking around the marina, and it was the perfect weather to do so. It was over 30 degrees, blue skies and no wind. There are many things to find in the marina and quayside, such as the steam engine housed in a glass case, which originally pulled ships up the Humber so they could be repaired and refitted.
On the other side of the quays is an Anti-Submarine Gun, salvaged from the wreck of the SS Greltoria, a British Ship which was sunk on its maiden voyage in 1917 by the Germans out in the North Sea.
The quayside is also home to the World Trade Centre Hull, and a statue outside commemorates a family from Europe who came to Hull, travelled across to Liverpool and from there to America, as many people emigrated to the states. Over 2 million people passed through ports on the Humber as part of their journey, between 1836 and 1914.
A set of Locks are also present, that lead from the Marina, to a small passage and then into the Humber itself. An old Cannon watches over this part of the quays, pointing out to sea.
The newest attraction on the waterfront is the Deep, the worlds first underwater Aquarium, designed to look like a sinking ship. Opened in March 2002, there are a few thousand sea creatures inside, including 7 species of shark, and it is sat next to the river Hull, which flows through the city and meets the Humber at this point. It is one of the stand out landmarks in the Hull, and one of its most well known features. The view from the Banks of the Humber here is stunning, and you can look out to Lincolnshire on the South bank of the River.
In the distance, the towers of the Humber Bridge were also visible, beyond the various Docks which stretch up and down this area of the river.
There are many other things to see in Hull, such as a few museums (aside from the ones already mentioned):
1) The Arctic Corsair, the last sidewinder trawler in the city, which can be found on the banks of the river Hull.
2) Ferens Art Gallery
3) Yorkshire Water Museum
You can even visit William Wilberforce’s House, which has been preserved and turned into a Museum so you can find out how one man brought about such an important change in Britain, and the British Empire as a whole.
There is also the very impressive Holy Trinity Church from 1300, the largest parish church in England. The Tower is visible from various places around the city, and is one of the great wonders of Yorkshire as a whole.
The UK uses Red Phone Boxes, however in Hull they use Cream ones and we have seen a number of them around the city, including this one in the same area where we were stood to look out at The Deep. The reason for this is that Hull is the only place in the UK to have its own phone company, called Kingston Communications (KC), founded in 1882. As British Telecom own the boxes in the rest of the country they have the right to paint them red, so KC painted theirs cream, although the model of telephone box is the same as those used everywhere else.
There are plenty of other things to see in Hull, so have fun exploring and see what you can find. Hull is a fantastic city and we had perfect weather to sample it. It’s full of history, prominent figures, great architecture and welcoming locals.
Hull has regular trains towards Manchester and Liverpool, as well as to Sheffield, York and other places. The train station is paired with the bus station so local buses are readily available. The M62 Motorway terminates just outside the city, but leads back towards Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool and the M6 for Scotland, Preston and Birmingham. The M1 is also relatively close to the city, leading towards Newcastle and London. The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford International, and there are many main roads connecting Hull to the rest of East Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire via the Humber Bridge. The ferry sailings can take you over to Europe, so there is always something to do in the area.