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The Wilberforce Statue is one of the stops on the maritime guided walks delivered by accredited White Badge tour guides.

Here's more information on the significant statue by Eileen Sumner, Hull Maritime volunteer.

Wilberforce Statue

The monument to the memory of William Wilberforce is an iconic landmark in Hull.

He was born in Hull in 1759 and at the age of 21 he became MP for Hull and later MP for Yorkshire. He is most famous for campaigning for the abolition of slavery and was instrumental in the passing of both the 1807 Slave Trade Act and the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. He died in London on July 29th 1833 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Within five days of his death in 1833, the mayor of Hull was petitioned to erect a monument in his honour to be paid for through public donations.


The Leeds based architect John Clark was commissioned to design a monument in Wilberforce’s honour. The 90 foot millstone grit Doric column that he designed also has a 12 foot figure of William on the top which was designed by Feort, a local sculptor. The total cost at the time was £1,250 (about £190,000 today).

The foundations for the William Wilberforce Monument were laid on 1st August 1834, the same day as the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. It was positioned at the top of Whitefriargate at the end of Princes Dock where it stood for almost a century until a new road layout was proposed for Queen Victoria Square area and the monument was making traffic flow very difficult. Queen’s Dock had closed during the 1930s and been filled in to create Queens Gardens. Wilberforce was then moved to the eastern end of Queen’s Gardens by Tarran Industries Ltd, with the total cost of the move estimated at £1,500 (about £113,000 today). The monument now towers above the forecourt of Hull College. It took four months in total to relocate the column, stone by stone.

During the move a time capsule was placed in the foundations, the contents of which included photographs, maps, a Jubilee crown piece and other coins, a Wilberforce medal from 1906 and newspaper cuttings.


The figure of William on the top of the column was an afterthought as it was originally designed to be just a column.

During the move in 1935 over one thousand people climbed the scaffolding for a charge of 2s 6d during the day, or 1s in the evening and the money raised went to the Lord Mayor's Jubilee Fund.

In 2017, the scroll that Wilberforce is holding was gilded. The work took three days and was carried out by Royal Gilders Hare and Humphreys. It had two 'coats' of 23.5 carat gold leaf.


Wilberforce Statue in Queen Victoria Square, near what is now Hull Maritime Museum