Thursday 18 March 2021
In this blog Maritime Media volunteers write about the iconic Maritime Museum building and what it means to them.
Hull Maritime Museum is situated in the centre of Kingston upon Hull and has a significant footfall as it is within easy reach of the main shops. Originally the Town Docks offices this Grade II listed building was built by Christopher Wren in 1872 and is an example of Victorian architecture at its best.
On approach to the museum the visitor cannot undeniably appreciate the wonderful architecture of the building. With its spectacular view over the centre of Hull it is asking for visitors to just step inside and explore the hidden treasures.
Local history is an engaging topic I am passionate about, and as someone who is not originally from the local area it can offer an opportunity for me to extend my own knowledge. I chose this picture as I truly appreciate the appearance of the heritage building. I can almost imagine how in 1872 the surrounding area could have been. In addition to this, my imagination can only comprehend looking in at the Town Dock offices and seeing all of the men working away.
I took this photo of the Maritime Museum when I first started volunteering for the HYMC project a year ago. It’s just taken on my phone, but I was excited to have a privileged view of the building from the Ferens Art Gallery offices!
The building is of course a key landmark in the city centre, and a beautiful example of Victorian civic architecture, but it also serves as a vivid reminder of the centrality of maritime trade in the city’s heritage. Whenever I see it, it reminds me how the centre of the modern city has been shaped by the presence of the docks: I try to imagine how different the scene must have been when the building stood on the edge of Queen’s Dock, with the ships coming right up into the heart of the city, and the bustle and busyness of activity all around.
The building is, of course, an apt home for the Maritime Museum, being in effect an artefact in its own right.
After much perusal, I settled on this image of the now Maritime Museum, former Dock Offices building. Today, buildings of this nature often become bars or apartments, but this now Grade II* listed building has stayed true to its roots since opening for business in 1871.
Designed to maximise the space, little imagination is required to visualise members of the Hull Dock Company gazing through those tall windows, masters of all they survey, across the Old (became Queen’s), Junction (became Prince’s) and Humber Docks and later Railway and Victoria Docks.
The building has such perceived grandeur with cherubs, Corinthian columns, mythical sea-beasts and dolphins adorning the rooms with gods of the River, Industry and Plenty above the main entrance in the hope of good fortune. Those same columns giving the impression of marble to the eye, but not to the touch, to infer wealth and success.
After the merger of the Hull Dock Company with North Eastern Railway in 1893, the building continued to have a maritime use, before becoming The Town Docks Museum in 1975 and then the Maritime Museum, replacing the Museum of Fisheries & Shipping, formerly in Pickering Park.
The use of this building for this purpose, in this place, serves as a daily reminder of the importance of Hull’s maritime history and the role that it has played over significant time. The building itself is striking in its symmetry and its structure, and may it continue to be so for many years to come.
I chose this picture because I love the architecture of the Maritime Museum and on a sunny day the golden stone just gleams and lightens up the square. We are lucky this beautiful building survived the heavy bombing of Hull during the Second World War.
My father was in the merchant navy, serving with Ellerman Wilson for 37 years, so I have enjoyed my time volunteering at the museum, particularly the Wilson Room, where there was a model of the Cavallo, of which he was the Master in his later years. I seem to recollect coming with him to the dock offices during the 1960s.
I have also learnt a lot about the maritime history of Hull and the Humber from the various displays in the building, even spotting the lightship that I can see from my back windows at home on the map showing the Humber lightships.
The picture you see here is a view of the Maritime Museum taken from the balcony of Hull City Hall. However, it is an image of a blend of two photographs, the left half, as you look at, is a photograph taken by me in 2018.
The right-hand half is a re-print of a photograph taken from the same place in 1914. The copyright of that image is owned by the Hull Daily Mail but we have permission to use it as part of the Hull Heritage Walk www.visthull.org.uk
**We endeavour to make sure all the research and facts we present by staff and volunteers is accurate and checked with rigor. However, we are only human so please let us know if you spot any errors.**