Kingston upon Hull  History Page 5

 The Merchants of Hull.

    Hull was not just a port for the towns of the Industrial Revolution, it became a part of the Industrial Revolution itself, Some of the merchants, such as the Blaydes, had diversified into industry. The Blaydes had gone into shipbuilding (they built the "Bounty"). By early 19th century this developed the growth of engineering in Hull, as did the growth of flour-milling and oil-milling (i.e. vegetable oil). as ships became steam-driven and then iron-hulled and the mills required more machinery. Paint manufacture develeloped with the presence of port facilities and even cotton mills were established for a time. The big firms of 19th century Hull thus included, among others, Earle's - shipbuilder's; Wilson's - shipowners; Reckitt's - pharmaceuticals; Blundell's - paint manufacturers; Priestman's - engineers; Rank's - flour millers; Hellyer's - fishing Smack owners.

    Some of these firms, or their successors, still thrive in Hull today. Perhaps the most lamented loss was that of Earle's shipyard which closed in 1930 and was stripped by Shipbuilding Securities Ltd - Earle's massive crane, so long a representation of Hull's industrial prowess was dismantled and shipped to Shanghai. Since then Ellerman's Wilson Line, the successor to Wilson's - shipowners has left the City and Priestman's is now a shadow of what it once was. However most British industries and cities could tell similar, or worse stories and in the main Hull has replaced firm for firm, industry for industry. In the 1960's it's trepreneurs came to the fore again when it became the birth place of the discount trading warehouse, both the Comet and the Status chains starting life in Hull; the City was one of the major areas for the check trading credit system.

        In terms of civic control the old family cliques began to lose their control in l835 when borough corporations were reformed by act of Parliament. The town was divided into seven wards, each electing two councillors and two aldermen. Only a few people could vote in those days, but the new corporation was completely different from the old, no former member being elected. Out of 28 members only one was conservative and the Whigs now held power. Their first action was to sell off the former Corporation's wine stock (209 dozen bottles of Port, 36 dozen bottles of Madeira, 29 dozen bottles of Sherry, 23 dozen bottles of Claret, and 2 dozen bottles of Hock), plus linen, china and glassware. There was a strong move melt down the ancient regalia, but that did not happen. However the Mace and the Sword of State were not used from l835 - 1851, showing how strong were the feelings of the new council members against the stentatious fripperies" as they called them.

    However political events paled in comparison with what was the major disaster to befall Hull in the 19th Century, when in 1849 cholera struck the town. 1,860 died in a few months, 500 of them in one week in September. Many were buried in a mass grave in the then newly opened General Cemetery on Spring Bank. The Cholera memorial marks the place.

    Greater misfortune was to strike Hull in the wars of the 20th century- In the 1st World War the City was bombed several times by Zeppelins and large numbers of men fell at the Somme and elsewhere. In that war over 7,000 Hull people were killed and 14,000 of those wounded were disabled. In the 2nd World War 92% of houses in Hull were damaged by bombs. Herbert Morrison said he thought it was the most heavily bombed City in Britain, though generally this is seldom given sufficient acknowledgement, and other cities are almost always used to illustrate "Britain in the Blitz".

    However, the port has survived and is now back in profit. the fishing fleet has just survived and there are signs of a revival. most of the city's industries have also survived. In 1981 the Humber Bridge, a dream for over a hundred years, was opened by the Oueen. Before and after that work was going on to give Hull better connections to the motorway network of the country. Now there is a dual carriageway / motorway from within a mile of King George Dock to practically every town and city in Britain.

    In the late 1980's the City Centre was drastically altered and improved by large scale pedestrianisation and associated works. Thus the main shopping streets, Old Town area and Marina area are now very pleasant places to stroll and make visual observation of this historic City.
The Market Square (King Street) to the west of Holy Trinity Church was renovated again in 1999. The statue of Andrew Marvell was brought back from the grounds of William Gee School and placed in the Square. It was unveiled in its new location by Andrew Motion the Poet Laureate (who once taught at the Hull University) on 11th November 1999, on 9th November 1999 the groundbreaking ceremony for The Deep took place at Sammy's Point. (Named after the shipbuilding yard of Martin Samuelson). Designed by Architect Terry Farrell, it comprises of a visitors centre, a learning research facility and a business centre. It is open from the 23rd March 2002, and will be the major development for Hull in the first years of the 21st century.