Kingston Upon Hull

Picture credit: Nige Hatch Mph photography (IFY community)

“Hull has its own sudden elegancies. People are slow to leave it, quick to return.” – poet, Phillip Larkin


The port of Kingston upon Hull is located in East Yorkshire, situated on the north bank of the Humber Estuary and at the mouth of The River Hull. Its population in 2011 was 256,000 people. Hull is currently known for its fishing and trading past, the Humber Bridge and its recent success in becoming the UK city of culture for 2017.

Today it is still a busy port with 13m tonnes of cargo being handled at its remaining docks, which still employs 18,000 people. However this has declined considerably since the 1970s and many of the city’s industrial heartland either lay derelict or have been re-developed into leisure parks and commercial developments.

Hull, as it is regularly shortened to, is a place with its own distinctive character. The residents are known as Hullensians and their accents differ from the rest of Yorkshire, for example, alternative vowel pronunciations on the letter “o” is turned into an ‘e’ sound, e.g “work” becomes “werk.” Another characteristic is the dropping of the “H” sound at the beginning of words, which means that Hullensians often refer to their native city as ‘ull.’

The place has a wealth of landmarks and tourist attractions, which reflect its maritime history and add to the uniqueness of the city.

Queen's gardens provides a pleasant greenspace in the City Centre. Picture Credit:
Queen’s gardens provides a pleasant greenspace in the City Centre. Picture Credit: PJ Muscato (IFY Community)

 

Queens Gardens is a large seven acre feature in the City Centre, built on an old dock which has several fountains and a statue of William Wilberforce, an MP, who helped abolish the slave trade in the early 19th Century. He also has a museum dedicated to his work, Wilberforce House, which is located on the high street of the old town.

The Deep, which is a public aquarium, has become one of the most successful attractions in the city, with three million people coming through its doors since opening in 2002. In 2013 it was voted the best family place to visit in Hull. Ferens Art Gallery was opened in 1927 and features many works associated with the city and its maritime history.

Hull boasts a number of attractive city parks. West Park is home to Hull Fair, the largest fairground in the UK, which has been present every October on land off nearby Walton Street since 1888. East Park was opened to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and houses a boating lake and aviaries. In 2008 it was upgraded to include a splash boat, walk through aviary and a maze. Pearson Park opened in 1862 and was the first of Hull’s city parks, in response to the requirement of green spaces in Victorian cities for the working population.

The remoteness of Hull from any other major city and proximity to the sea has had a profound impact on its transport policy.

The Humber Bridge is a distinctive landmark near the city.
The Humber Bridge is a distinctive landmark near the city. Picture Credit Gary Agus Andre (IFY Community)

 

The most significant development was the opening of the Humber Bridge in 1981 across the estuary, which was then the largest single span suspension bridge in the world. This replaced the old ferry service to Lincolnshire and has increased access to the county, without having to travel several miles inland to Goole.

Moreover in the Seventies the development of the M62 motorway, which links to the pre-existing A63 into the city, has further improved road links between Hull and the rest of the Yorkshire.

It is also a principle train stop on the East Coast Main Line. The city’s old Paragon street station, built in the mid-19th century was drastically upgraded and re-opened in 2007 along with a new bus station. North Sea Ferries is a popular way of visiting the continent, especially The Netherlands, where the Dutch dash has become a favourite trip for locals. The Pride of Hull and the Pride of Rotterdam regularly set sail from the city’s £14m terminal located on the King George dock. The city is the only one in the entire country to have its own local telephone services, Kingston Communications, customised by its own cream phone boxes.

Hull cream telephone boxes
You know you are in Hull when you see one of these. Picture credit: Nicholas Mutton geograph creative commons.

 

The re-development of both the city centre and the decline of the docks have provided huge opportunity for the retail and leisure sector. The centre has developed two major shopping malls in the past twenty five years, Princes Quay, built on the old Prince’s dock opened in 1991 and the £200m St Stephen’s shopping centre, built on the site of the old bus station opened in 2007. The latter is renowned for its outstanding environmental policy in which 100% of its waste is recycled.

On the outskirts, other redevelopments along the side of the estuary have included St Andrews Quay, built on a filled in dock of the same name in the 1980s and Hull Marina developed in the same decade on Railway dock with 270 berths. It also hosts the annual sea shanty festival and houses the Spurn lightship museum.

The city is served by two theatres, Hull “New” theatre, opened in 1939, which shows traditional plays, ballet, children’s plays and musicals. Hull Truck theatre was founded in 1971 and in recent times has re-located to the St Stephen’s complex.

Hull truck Theatre provides alternative entertainment. Picture credit: Hull Truck wikipedia creative commons.
Hull truck Theatre provides alternative entertainment. Picture credit: Hull Truck wikipedia creative commons.

 

Hull has also contributed to British culture in the shape of poet, Phillip Larkin, who spent his later years in the city and was an influence on his work. Local singer Paul Heaton topped the charts with both The Housemartins and The Beautiful South through the 1980s and 90s.

The nightlife in Hull is varied. Its most prominent live venue is The Adelphi, which has hosted Oasis, Radiohead and The Stone Roses in the past, as well as a whole host of local bands. One of Hull’s most famous nightspots, Lexington Avenue, (or La’s) opened in 1961 as the Locarno ballroom and remained one of the top clubs in the city, until its closure in August 2005, due to financial difficulties. The building was demolished four years later. Spiders nightclub is also a highly renowned venue for alternative rock music.

In November 2013 it was announced that Hull had won its bid to win the UK Capital of Culture for 2017, beating off competition from eleven other cities across the country. During this year they will host an estimated 1500 cultural events, generating a massive boost to the local economy and improving its reputation.

Sport also plays a major part in the city, through its two Rugby League clubs, Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers. These make up one of the biggest rivalries in the code, dividing the city East and West. Hull City FC, for so long overshadowed by the oval ball has recently come to prominence in the past ten years largely due to larger investment and a move to the new KC Stadium, which it shares with Hull FC. In May 2014 Hull City played in their first ever FA Cup final against Arsenal, eventually losing 3-2 after extra time.

The KC Stadium is home to both Hull City and Hull FC PIcture credit: Big Dom wikipedia Public domain.
The KC Stadium is home to both Hull City and Hull FC PIcture credit: Big Dom wikipedia Public domain.

 

Hull has one traditional university, founded in 1927 and was given a Royal charter in 1952. It has a student population of around 20,000, with former alumni including John Prescott and Philip Larkin. Its campus is based mainly in the north of the city, but also has an outpost in Scarborough. Humberside University closed in 2013 with all courses transferred to its sister institution in Lincoln. The Hull York medical college is a joint venture between the two city’s universities in order to train more doctors. The city’s secondary schools are notorious for having the worst GCSE results in the country and work is ongoing to try and improve this unwanted statistic.

Although Hull is much maligned in the national press and by the rest of the county due to its poor education standards, declining industries and the fact that it is the home to the largest council estate in Yorkshire, Bransholme; it is a city of unique character, people, scenery and culture.


The town of Hull was created by the monks at nearby Meaux abbey, as a place to export their wool in the late 12th Century. Originally it was called Wyke on Hull but re-named Kingstown on Hull by Edward I in 1299, who used it as a base for his war with Scotland. It quickly became an important fishing, whaling and trading hub throughout medieval times and soon established trading links with the rest of the world.

During the Civil War it supported the Parliamentarians and famously denied access to King Charles I who besieged the city helping to spark open conflict between the two sides.

Hull became affluent up until the early 20th Century, with fishing and whaling an important part of its economy. By now it had been granted city status in 1897 and its docks were busier than ever with trade.

The Arctic Corsair is a remaining symbol of Hull's maritime prowess. Picture credit: George Robinson wikipedia creative commons.
The Arctic Corsair is a remaining symbol of Hull’s maritime prowess. Picture credit: George Robinson geograph wikipedia creative commons.

 

During the Second World War, Hull was the most bombed city outside London, due to its strategic importance and proximity to mainland Europe. In total 95% of its buildings were damaged with 1,200 casualties. Most of the city centre had to be re-built after the war.

Throughout most of its history Hull was actually a very affluent and successful city in Yorkshire. However the latter part of the 20th Century saw the place in terminal decline, partly due to the settlement made with Iceland to resolve the Third Cod War. This gave the Scandinavians a 200 nautical mile exclusion zone, which imposed restrictions on British fishing fleets. This rule severely affected the fishing industry in Hull and other Northern sea ports with many fishermen losing their jobs as a result.

Moreover the invention of shipping containers and a general decline in UK manufacturing during the 70s and 80s meant a rise in unemployment and re-development of its industrial heartlands into the Hull that we know today.





In 1642 the people of Hull denied Charles I entry to the town. This precipitated the Siege of Hull by The Royalist army, the first major action of the Civil War. The decision to deny entry to The Royalists was taken in Ye Olde White Harte Pub in Silver Street. The room is now known as the Plotting Parlour.

The infamous ship The Bounty was built in Hull in 1784. Firstly named Berthia it was employed as a Merchantman. In 1787 the Admiralty bought Berthia and re-named it The Bounty. Captain William Bligh was cast adrift by his mutinous crew in 1789.

The famous aviator Amy Johnson was born in Hull in July 1903. She became the first female aviator to fly alone from Britain to Australia. She unfortunately died when her plane crashed into the Thames Estuary in 1941.

The fictional castaway, Robinson Crusoe, made famous by Daniel Defoe set sail from Hull’s Queen’s dock in 1651.
The Land of Green Ginger can be found in Hull at the bottom of Whitefriargate in the Old Town. No one is sure why it has that name, there are many theories but none has been shown to be conclusive. It may have earned its name from a family of Dutch immigrates know as Lindegreens who lived there in the 19 century.

Hull has many sporting clubs. Hull City AFC, play in the English Premiership after being promoted in 2013. There are two Rugby League Clubs, Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC. Both play in The Super League.
Hull is also famous for its Pigeon Fanciers who race pigeons.

People from Hull are called ‘Hullensians’ and there are many notable individuals in their ranks. William Wilberforce, the man mostly responsible for the abolition of the slave trade is one. Amy Johnson the famous female aviator is another. The actors Sir Tom Courtenay, Ian Carmichael and John Alderton originate in Hull as does the actress Maureen Lipman.