PETER FROST has been to Hull which has been chosen as the UK’s latest City of Culture.
What’s in a name? This month we are off to Hull on the mighty river Humber. Well actually we aren’t, the real name of the port is Kingston-upon-Hull and that ‘Hull’ in the name is the name of a different, smaller, river on which the city was founded back in 1299.
At high tide, right in the middle of the old port quarter of the town you can stand on the short Victoria Pier and watch the motor barges hold themselves against the rushing Humber waters; then as the tide turns they swoop into the River Hull and up to the ancient quays of the town.
Hull is a town that has always been dominated by ships and shipping. At the Marina, built in the old Humber Dock you can see the retired Spurn Lightship. Also tied up nearby are the old sailing Keels, primitive square sailed barges, that were once the most common freight carriers on the twin rivers of the city.
Take a walk about the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town. There are memories of ships and sailors everywhere. Despite the best efforts of the Luftwaffe many historic timbered buildings still exist and some of the best of them are pubs and restaurants.
Right on the front, facing the Humber, are the offices of the old Dock Company now a museum. Inside you will find all kinds of exhibits that take us back to the days of the whale fisheries. Although today the thought of killing a whale is horrifying they were the economic backbone of Victorian Britain and they made Hull prosperous.
Whale oil lit the lamps in Victorian parlours as well as in mines and mills. Whale bone kept many a well corseted Victorian lady in shape. Take a look at the beautiful scrimshaw in the museum. Sailors carved all kinds of pictures and designs on the whalebones, teeth and tusks.
Later the town turned to fishing. Hull trawlers plied the North Sea and more distant Arctic waters bringing back herrings, cod, haddock and skate to keep the fish and chip shops of the industrial north full of cheap and nourishing suppers. Moored on the river Hull you will find the old Hull trawler Arctic Corsair. Guided tours are available.
Today the commercial shipping and the ferries have moved down river and also down river is an amazing place to visit. Part aquarium part natural history museum, the Deep is built over one of the old docks and the huge tank that is its centre point holds two and a half million gallons of salt water.
All kind of undersea creatures make their home at the Deep. Most you might expect like sharks, sting-rays and turtles. Surprisingly we found the most beautiful were the tiny pink, lacy and fragile baby jellyfish. The Deep is the only place where jellyfish are bred in captivity. Don’t miss the sea horses either.
If you do tire of the city head out of town, to Beverley seven miles to the north with its fine Minster and a museum of Army transport. Or drive along the north bank of the Humber estuary towards the amazing Spurn Head; perhaps the most lonely, barren, yet beautiful waterside wilderness in the whole of England.
Some local attractions:
Much more than an aquarium the Deep is an amazing hands-on exhibition of the wonders and the evolution of the denizens of the deep. Sharks are the stars of the show but there are turtles, and octopuses and a hundred different kind if fish. As well as the live exhibits there are all kinds of imaginative displays that take you deep beneath the sea.
Tel; 01482 381000
Dominating the skyline as you drive along the A164, the Beverley Road you’ll find the Skidby windmill. Today it is still grinding corn as it has done for nearly two hundred years. There is a museum that tells the colourful history of both the mill and the farming country it served. There is also a shop selling stone ground flour.
Tel; 01482 848405
Anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce was born in a house on Hull’s High Street. Today that house is a museum with a thought provoking collection of relics from time of the slave trade and man’s inhumanity to man. Wilberforce was educated at Hull Grammar School. The school has also become a museum of the port’s social history. 23 to 25 High Street, HU1 1NQ
Tel; 01482 300 300
Town Docks Museum
The handsome old offices of the Hull Dock Company look out over the once busy quays. Now those offices house a wonderful museum telling the heroic stories of the men of Hull who sailed into stormy Arctic waters to chase first the mighty whale and later the humble herring, cod and other fish. The watery history of Hull is told in all its chilling detail. Queen Victoria Square HU1 3DX
This three mile long peninsular of sand and mud protects the mouth of the Humber. We always try to visit, not in fine weather but when the weather is stormy. In places the spit is just ten metres wide and the sea and salt spume wash right across making this one of Britain’s last accessible wildernesses. Because sea bird life is so prolific dogs are not allowed.
The Humber Bridge
When it was built this was the largest single span bridge in the world. There is a visitor’s centre which tells the story of crossing the mighty Humber. Before the bridge there was a famous fleet of ferries. Pleasant meadow and wooded walks take you through the Humber Bridge Country Park with fine views of the bridge.
Did you know?
The Land of Green Ginger
Is the amazing name of a tiny ancient street in Hull.
They came from Hull
Poets Philip Larkin, and Stevie Smith, singing family the Watersons, actors Tom Courtney and Maureen Lipman and Labour Politician John Prescott are all part of Hull’s rich culture.
One of the best and longest established fish restaurants in Britain Ceruttis occupies an ancient and grand ship owner’s house on the old fish market where the river Hull meets the Humber. The speciality is local fish classically cooked.
Fun of the fair
Once a year in October one of the biggest fun fairs in the country comes to Hull. Some of the bigger rides come over from Europe for the event.
Non stop Sharks
The sharks that live in the Deep cannot stop to sleep, like all sharks they have to keep moving continuously in order to breathe, if they stop they drown.
Two medieval churches at Hedon and Partington are known as the King and Queen of Holdeness. They are among the finest examples of medieval church architecture in Britain.
The amazing Edwardian Public Toilets in Nelson Street have won many architectural awards. They are worth a visit.
Based on an article syndicated in various Time Warner Magazines.