Here's a Maritime volunteer, Julie Corbett on the history of the River Hull.
It was the buildings that attracted my attention. Even as a child I loved Rank Hovis’s Clarence Mill. It was the number of small windowpanes and the odd smell of dusty caramel and the noise that fascinated me. It was a colossus of a building when you came from east hull along Holderness Road. The noises of the pumps vacuuming the grain from the lighters (flat bottomed barges) in the river was amazing.
Clarence Mill designed in the 1890s by architects Gelder and Kitchen, the mill was almost destroyed in WWII and then rebuilt around the original silos. It closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2015.
I wish I were one of those people who took photographs and kept all the images neatly catalogued. Happily David Steel (a community activist in Hull in the early 1970s) is and you can see some photographs of the river and docks here including a fantastic one of barges and the Clarence Mill.
The part of the river known as the ‘Harbour’ and shown on some maps as ‘old Harbour.’ after the first dock opened, was within the old town walls. You can read more about the walls here in a blog by volunteer Janet Penny.
The west side of the river was where most cargo was landed. The town and city of Hull developed first there. On the east side of the river the land was very marshy and took longer to become a site of habitation, commerce, and industry. The east side was however of a different interest.
As noted on the Maritime project website here King Henry V111 visited Hull twice and was invested in enhancing Hull’s defences. Part of those defences was the Southern Blockhouse, on the east bank of the river, an area close to river mouth which is now part of the Hull Old Town Heritage Action Area. Humber Field Archaeology have a special publication of their Scroll magazine about the Southern Blockhouse that you can view here.
As mentioned, the Harbour became known as the ‘old Harbour’ when the first dock opened in 1788. River traffic had increased making the area increasingly congested. Also, ships were getting bigger, and with the river being tidal, this further restricted safe navigation and berthing. HM Customs also wanted to reduce inspections at private wharfs and an easily accessed legal quay in the port.
A major difficulty of the river as a harbour was the accumulations of mud. The area through which the Hull and Humber flows is mainly glacial deposits of clay and alluvial muds laid during the last Devensian ice age. This soft land erodes by tidal action and, in places, from drainage off the banks.
There is more romance in the river. I find it remarkable that such famous ships as HMS Bounty (built in 1784 at Blaydes shipyard on Hull’s High Street as a collier named Bethia) and the HMS Boreas a ship Horatio Nelson served as senior naval officer on between 1784 to 1787 (also built at Blaydes shipyard).
Further up the river at Beverley was the shipyard where The Arctic Corsair, was built in 1960, by Cook, Welton & Gemmell. I wonder if anyone who worked on her will be watching her going back up the river to be dry berthed in the Northend shipyard?