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Here's a Maritime volunteer, Julie Corbett on the history of the River Hull.

The river is the east west divider of Kingston upon Hull. When I took part in Spencer Tunick ‘Sea of Hull’ a site-specific photography commission alongside hundreds of other naked people all wearing body paint I was Pantone 284 U. This was the lightest colour of the four blues which refenced sea paintings in the Feren’s Art Gallery collections. It was a fantastic experience and four of the photographs are exhibited at the gallery (visiting details here.) A poem I wrote some years ago, explaining slight unease at being ‘blue’ water.

Map maker

Don’t colour it blue,

use brown, grey, ecru.

Trace the ways of silt

that pillow the boardwalk

and the ghosts of wharfs.

Don’t be fooled by empty plots.

The car show room,

the derelict warehouse,

that always open upright bridge.

The narrow navigable channel

of this hometown river.

Still kissing the exotic

receiving from the estuary

seawaters that brought polar bears

from beyond the North Sea.

A romantic view of course (pun intended).

In the seventies I worked at the County Analysts, I’d watch the redevelopment of Pease Warehouse. The offices and laboratories were opposite the building site. The workers like gymnasts, walking along the old beams and joists, carrying their bricks, tools and sometimes flasks and sandwiches.

Pease Warehouse in 2023
Pease Warehouse plaque

The warehouse was built 1745, before Hull’s first dock was opened in 1788. (You can read more about Queen’s Dock here and is current refurbishment here).

Now, I refer to this city as Hull. It is more properly named Kingston upon Hull. It became known as this ‘King’s town’ after it was purchased by Edward 1 in 1293.

Plaque on Drypool Bridge referencing Edward 1

Before that date Cistercian monks at Meaux bought a lot of the land known as Myton and created a quay at the mouth of the river. Their abbey was founded in 1150 and they worked building a waterway infrastructure to use the river Hull. The quay and associated buildings along became the port of Wyke. By 1193 this port was established enough for the wool to pay a ransom for Richard 1 to shipped from (the wool gathered from several monasteries in the broader region).

Today the mouth of the river Hull and the river itself has a changed appearance after centuries of reclamation and embankment work. The watercourse itself from outfall to its source in the chalk streams west of Driffield, is much the as the 1300s except for small areas of straightening. The river did have another exit to the Humber, from High Flags (near Scott Street) to where Albert Dock lock pit is now. That route, believed to have up gradually silted; a process hastened by a major flood of the area in 1253. The river we see now may then have diverted naturally via a channel cut into a portion of the river for drainage, Sayer’s Creek, again thought to have been close to High Flags.

Confluence of river's Hull and Humber 2023

Considering I worked so close to the river Hull I rarely thought about it. The only real consideration was when Drypool Bridge was open to river traffic. In the seventies this happened most weekdays. You could often wait twenty minutes while barges passed up and down the river.

As far as I can recall this inconvenience never concerned me.