Julie Corbett, a volunteer for the Hull Maritime project was given the opportunity to see Dock Office Chambers for the first time. Here's her account of the visit before work to transform the building into a new storage centre got underway.
In late September work began to transform the Dock Office Chambers into the storage and conservation facility for Hull Maritime Museum’s reserve collection. The Dock Office Chambers were built 1872 for the Hull Dock Company.
In the photograph below you can see the contrast in the building styles between the ornate Dock Offices and the Dock Office Chambers. I have not found any details of who designed the Chambers building. You can also see that New Cross Street is now closed as the extensive work to repurpose the building begins.
In the photograph above the side entrance to the Chambers building is seen. Notice the arch-shape in the wall of the Chambers building? It is the archway to what was originally stables behind the Chambers building.
Here is the view out of the passageway that led to the stables. Up until the 1930’s this view would have been of the Dock itself. Here is the dock as it used to be and details of now Queen’s Gardens will be changing.
When I made my visit, I did not realise the space behind the building was anything other than a mess of ad hoc extensions. A place filled with pigeon droppings, grime, and weeds.
One of the most interesting aspects (as I saw it) was the orange bike giving a splash of colour, popping out from the different mucky hues and details of the walls. The various additions demonstrate how well used these and the adjacent buildings have been used over the years.
I love the demarcation between the Yorkshire Penny Bank building and the Dock Chambers. You can see this on the side elevations of the chimney stacks. You can also see that expensive cream-coloured bricks are public facing and the more utilitarian reddish ones on the inner aspect of the complex of walls.
The inside of the Dock Office Chambers shows very little of the original details. The building has been subject to numerous repurposing over the years. This did not mean it was without surprises. Although the most surprising was one of the views to the outside. You could see beyond the courtyard to the Alan Boyson fish mural on one of the upper floors of the former Co-Op building on Jameson Street.
The Hull Docks Company, more properly "The Dock Company at Kingston upon Hull" was formed under act of parliament until it was dissolved by North Eastern Railway (Hull Docks) Act 1893, when it amalgamated with North Eastern Railway Company.
Internally the building is bland. The ceilings are all suspended giving that chequerboard effect.
The external walls and windows, the façade of the building is going to be partially refurbished. As the new purpose of the building is to store the reserve collection of the Maritime Museum many of the windows will be hidden by new stacking and shelving. The building will be fitted with environmental controls to help preserve the collections.
There was little in the building to suggest what it would look like in future but in the kitchen was a selection of bricks. An example of the care taken with this project. The samples of new bricks compared with an original brick to achieve the best match.
The only feature inside the building that appeared relatively untouched by time was the stairs. And these betrayed past, less sympathetic work on the building.
When looking round I struggled to find any character in the building. This is unsurprising. It was built as offices and has been used as such in all that time. Now it is empty, and few remnants of former occupants are evident. There was no story to uncover, no echoes to provoke.
During my visit I briefly meet he project team from Simpsons the specialist contractors undertaking the work. You can read more about the work here.
I always find this type of visit brings with it nostalgic feelings. Although I had never been in the building before, I recognised its life as a workplace. If I had worked here, I would have enjoyed the view from the building. I would have no doubt plugged Christmas lights into this ‘general purpose’ socket.