Sunday 4 August 2019

To Hull and Back

I was delighted to receive an invitation to be part of the Hull Summer School of Chess. A report on the chess will follow in the next post, but before the Summer School started I took the time to explore the centre of Hull, in order to revisit various places to which I had not been for 35 years.

I had been back there in January this year for one of the most enjoyable and productive dates on the CSC Training Day Tour but had not had much time to see the city on that occasion.

It was quite an experience to see again, through the eyes of an adult, all of the places I had first seen as a young child and then again as a teenager. I was able to piece together more of the great jigsaw of Hull's history and to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.

I was excited when I saw, through the window of the train, the magnificent sight of the Humber Bridge.

It didn't take very long at all to start my exploration of the city and to retrace my footsteps of all those years ago.

The Hull South African War Memorial is just across the road from the train station. The war in question is usually referred to as The Second Boer Ear (1899-1902). As can be seen from the inscriptions (click on the photographs for larger versions), disease accounted for a significant number of the deaths.

The rifles were removed from the statue during the Second World War and given to the Home Guard, although this was almost certainly a morale-booster rather than an attempt at a serious exercise in arming the locals.

The Hull Cenotaph, located just behind the The Hull South African War Memorial, is in recognition of numerous wars and conflicts.

It is often forgotten just how much of a pounding Hull received during the Second World War. The east coast port was clearly a significant target and at a time when information was generally obscured, Hull was often referred to as a 'North East town' rather than by name, which is one reason it can be overlooked when the Blitz is mentioned.

Festival House was the first permanent building to grace the city centre after the carnage of the war. The name ties in with the 1951 Festival of Britain. By today's standards, six years is a long time to wait for a city to start rebuilding. It is easy to forget that the 'winning' sides in war are also on the knees for some considerable time afterwards.

My first-ever visit to Hull, in the early 1970s, left two big impressions. One was the size and magnificence of the buildings, which were far grander than anything we had on Teesside (although our area, which somehow repeatedly fails to find a name which will stick, was officially in the North Riding of Yorkshire back then). The other immediate memory was the colour of the telephone boxes, which is still the same to this day. They eschewed the standard red and kept their system independent, which sums up, in a nutshell, the stance and pride of the people of Hull.

Queen Victoria Square sees the prominent monarch majestically surveying her territory. This is an impressive site for major buildings and this area, in particular, brought back lots of memories.

The Hull Maritime Museum has long been a favourite of mine. I was able to refresh my knowledge of the famous Russian Outrage and, of course, the fishing industry, which has special significance to my own family history.

Amongst the impressive historical artefacts - such as the binnacle (used to house navigational instruments), above - there are numerous very human stories, such the extraordinary tale of Max William Schultz.

Lightvessels acted as floating lighthouses.

Opposite the Maritime Museum is the Ferens Art Gallery, which is currently just eight years away from celebrating its centenary year.

I enjoyed marvelling at the magnificence of the other buildings around the square. Each one has its own history which I am determined to explore in greater detail in future.

The Queen's Gardens (formerly a dock area) are well worth a visit. They are popular and there were plenty of people relaxing in the sun.

More history - and the number of Finnish emigrants passing though Hull in the way to America was a surprise.

Some buildings are in need of love and attention.

Wilberforce House is a particularly important place of interest. William Wilberforce was the leading man behind the movement to abolish slavery. I remember being utterly appalled at the terrible devices used to dominate slaves; it made a very deep impression.

Disgracefully, slavery is still very active in our strange world, as the informative displays in the house are keen to stress.

The house offers plenty more history in addition to the story of slavery.

This is an interesting display and the explanation was that voodoo comprises parts from many different religions, taking a magpie-style approach, which I did not realise prior to this visit.

I wanted to board the Arctic Corsair, which is Hull's last surviving sidewinder trawler and now a floating museum. The gates to the trawler are locked at 4.00 p.m. on the dot, as I arrived there at 3.59 p.m. I was only able to take a quick photograph. Something for next time's agenda.

I backtracked slightly to visit the Streetlife Museum, which I remembered seeing many years ago. It was just like stepping back in time, in more ways than one.

No relation; I checked!

Back to Queen's Gardens - and the statue of William Wilberforce, which makes for an interesting contrast with the Solar Gate, which was placed there in 2017.

Princes Dock is just off Victoria Square and it features more places of interest.

This used to be the offices of the Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company.

Zebedee's Yard is an events' venue.

Back towards the train station - and the Amy Johnson Memorial. Amy was one of our pioneering aviators and there are still lots of questions surrounding her demise.

The Polar Bear and Botanic Hotel - located at the point where Spring Bank meets Derringham Street - were both named after the Zoological Gardens, which had only a short history (1840-61).

The curved window on the side of the Polar Bear was a replacement design for the original and was done after a local merchant took the corner too sharply on his horse and cart and smashed straight through the old window. The curved window makes such an impact much more difficult to achieve.

There was still plenty more to see and lots more history to explore, but time had run out and it was time to prepare for the Summer School. I do, however, plan to return to Hull in the near future.

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