Funded by National Highways and Hull City Council, the South Blockhouse project will undertake the largest community archaeology excavation to date on the South Blockhouse and then introduce landscaping and historical interpretation onto the site to create a new heritage visitor space that conserves and protects the South Blockhouse site for the future.
The South Blockhouse is a nationally significant monument, part of a scheme fortifications on the east bank of the River Hull, constructed on the orders of Henry VIII between 1541-43. Its cloverleaf shape, designed by the prominent military engineer John Rogers, is unique in England, and the South Blockhouse remains the only section of the historic town defences to escape destruction during Hull’s urban development and growth from the 19th century onwards.
From July 2022, an 11-week programme of archaeological works will take place to expose the monument’s remains, with community volunteers working alongside professional archaeologists from Humber Field Archaeology at every stage of the excavation. The work is being done to gain a better understanding of its condition and the tell the story of the 16th century fortress, a key part of the city’s maritime history as one of the most important ports on the east coast of England.
This is the largest volunteer-driven archaeological dig seen in the city this century and will see almost 60% of the site excavated, to investigate the story of the South Blockhouse and how it reflects Hull’s history over the last c.500 years. Members of the public will be able to visit the dig to see what is happening and learn more about the South Blockhouse.
Following the archaeological excavation, the monument will be backfilled to protect the remains and the site will be landscaped to create a visitor space telling the story of the South Blockhouse, with architects, designers and artists working with local people and visitors to shape the finished design. Physical and digital interpretation will reveal the rich history of the South Blockhouse, from its construction during the turbulent years following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, through to Hull’s industrial growth and development from the 19th century and up to the present day.
Located on the east bank of the River Hull, near to The Deep, the construction of the South Blockhouse was ordered by Henry VIII in 1541 to support his military campaigns and to protect the vitally important port and town of Hull from internal and external threats. The South Blockhouse was one element of a larger scheme of state-of-the art defences, inspired by the most modern examples in Europe.
The South Blockhouse is a scheduled ancient monument of both local and national importance, due to its cloverleaf design and its rare layout as a self-contained fort, which was later converted to defensive ‘citadel’ in the seventeenth century and only demolished in the mid-nineteenth century when it was superseded by Fort Paull to the east of Hull. Henry VIII commissioned many new defences, but apart from changes to the existing defences at Berwick, Henry’s new defences at Hull are the only ones outside of the south of England.
The history of the South Blockhouse is part of Hull’s deep maritime heritage and complements Hull Maritime, a key cultural regeneration scheme in the heart of Hull’s city centre that will protect and celebrate 800 years of Hull’s maritime heritage.
The landscaping of the South Blockhouse site will for the first time create a dedicated visitor space showcasing this unique scheduled monument and provide visitors with opportunities to learn more about its history.
National Highways Designated Funds
National Highways manages four designated funds, allocated by the Government, to deliver benefits above and beyond building, maintaining and operating England’s strategic roads.
From protecting the environment and enhancing the landscape around roads, to improving safety, reducing congestion, and supporting communities, the aim is to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
Excavations have now started with teams of volunteers on site Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm each week (3.30pm finish on Sundays) until 17 September and public visits are welcome.
The history of South Blockhouse:
1541- King Henry VIII visits Hull – twice!
1541- 43 Construction of the Henrician defences of Hull – they consisted of a central Castle, with Northern and Southern Blockhouses.
1553 - Royal Charter passes the care of the defences from the crown to the town.
1642 - King Charles orders the Earl of Newcastle to secure Hull for the king. Sir John Hotham becomes Governor and secures Hull for Parliament.
1643 - Second Siege of Hull - repairs to the South Blockhouse carried out
1859 - Citadel guns fire salute for the for the wedding of the Prince of Wales, the last time they are fired.