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Friday, 24 January 2014

Fact 4. The largest privately owned shipping company in the World.

Thomas Wilson Sons Ltd, or the 'Wilson Line', was founded in 1840. Thomas Wilson had first started as a ship owner with other partners in 1822. By 1840 they had all dropped out and the 'Wilson Line' was born.
Thomas Wilson (1792–1869)

Thomas Wilson, 1792-1869

By 1850 three sons were in the business, David, Charles and Arthur, and 1891 it became a limited company.
1878 they bought Brownlow Marsdin &Co Ltd.
1903 they acquired Bailet and Leetham.
1906 formed a joint company with North Eastern Railway Co.
1916 they sold the business to Sir John Ellerman. The shipping company continued under the name of Ellerman Wilson Lines.

Wilson Line were early adopters of  steam ships, 1825. This helped the growth of the Port of Hull as the Humber estuary was very dangerous and time consuming for sailing ships to navigate to Hull. Hull became the third busiest port in the coutry at this time. Their initial cargoes were iron ore that was destined for the Sheffield iron trade, making use of the rivers and canal system. There main ports were Bergen, Tronheim, Gothenburg, Stavanger, Kristiansand, Vadso, Oslo, Copenhagen, Riga, Hamburg, Stettin and Danzig. In later years they had routes to take in the Asdriatic, Black Sea and Mediterranean. They experimented with routes to India and USA. They soon branched out and were taking out mainly textiles and coal and bringing back fish, timber, live cattle and pyrites. However the main 'cargo' became emigrants! These traveled from their home ports to Hull or Grimsby where they were transferred to the sailing ports such as Liverpool. Wilson's were dominant in the trade and were able to offer an all in one price for the trip to America and Canada. They had agreements with the transatlantic and even tried direct sailing to New York for themselves. Hundreds of thousands were carried from their homelands and put on the boats to populate the Americas.

Later in the winter months they offered winter cruises From January to April 1890 the itinerary was Madeira, Nice, Malta, Constantinople, Odessa and back to Hull.

The last on, Arthur, died in 1909 and with the losses of the First World War the heart went out of the company and it was sold. The company lost three ships in three weeks, along with several others through out the hostilities.

The funnel colours were red with a black top an the names all ended in 'O'.

SS. Calypso. Built in 1904, taken up by the Admiralty as HMS Calyx for work in the Atlantic but found to be too small so returned to her Owners. 11-Jul-16 she was sunk by a torpedo fired by U53.

S/S Eskimo, Wilson line ship
SS. Eskimo. Built in 1910 she was also requisitioned by the Royal Navy for Atlantic duties and found to be too small. She returned to her old routes and was captured by a German Auxillary Cruiser off Arendal in July 1916. She became a net layer for their Navy until after the war.

RMS. Aaro was built in 1909 and was the first Wilson ship with WT aerials flown between the masts. She was torpedoed off Stavanger 1-Aug-16.

The old office building survived the WWII blitz and is used today as an indoor bowling alley and radio station. It located close to the Railway Dock which is now part of the Marina and next to the Ice Arena.

Thomas Wilson Sons Ltd Offices next to Railway Dock, Hull.

Detail of weather vane on Thomas Wilson Sons Ltd office building.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Fact 3. First ferro-concrete bridge in Great Britain.

When is a bridge not a bridge?

When it is the first ferro-concrete bridge in Great Britain!

The low laying land of Holderness was partly drained into the River Hull via the Sutton Drain or also known as the Foredyke. This entered the River Hull near North Bridge.

North Bridge is the bridge under the cloud over the River Hull running up the centre of the picture (this is the old bridge). New Cleveland Street is the wide road also running up the middle of the picture. Sutton Drain can be seen on the right of the photograph again running up to the top off the picture and several bridges can be seen crossing it. Unfortunately the bridge in question is at the bottom of New Cleveland Street so can not be seen.

The drain was culverted around 1931 when the the new North Bridge was built. However as can be seen from the aerial photograph the drain was a substantial waterway and as such warranted a substantial bridge. It was decided to use a new technique for bridge building the Hennebique System.

The Hennibique System was named after a Frenchman. He first used iron then steel beams encased in concrete as a fireproofing. He then started using it more and more for strength members within a building. Eventually he built a whole building using this system of encasing steel bars in concrete which was the fore runner of the reinforced concrete structures we use today. This first building was the Weaver Building a flour mill and grain silo alongside the docks in Swansea. It was built in 1897 and after surviving two world wars had to be demolished to make way for new development.

Francois Hennebique 1842 - 1921

The Sutton Drain Bridge was built in 1902 and there is a plaque on the bridge stating it is the first of it's type in Great Britain.  The listing GVII reads;

Road bridge over the former Foredyke Stream. 1902. Built by 
Rose, Downs & Thomson Ltd of Hull. Reinforced concrete on 
Hennebique system, with terracotta parapets and brick flanking
walls. Traceried pierced parapets and flanking walls have 
moulded coping. Corniced rectangular piers have relief panels 
and stepped granite caps. South-west pier has a plaque with 
the inscription...

It is somewhat surprising that Rose, Downs & Thomson Ltd of Hull built the bridge as they were not renowned as builders and usually a certain Monsieur Mouchel acted as agent for most of the work using the Hennebique system under licence. Rose, Downs and Thomson were much better known as world leaders in seed crushing machinery. The started out in business in 1777 at the Old Foundry and made cannons and windmill parts. As the Port of Hull the city became a centre for oil seed production and Rose, Downs and Thomson started making presses for the factories. In 1820 they had the first hydraulic press to extract oil from linseed. A Mrs C. Rose inherited the business in 1833 and took on a Mr Downs as Partner. Her grandson a Mr Thomson later joined the business and the name continued for over 100 years. They were innovators and designed presses that took production from 5 tons a day to 2 tons an hour. They also patented the first solvent extraction plant and the continuous screw press that further increased production and saved costs. They are now owned by a Belgium company that has plants all over the world, Desmet Ballestra but still have a factory in Cannon Street Hull after over 230 years! But they didn't do a lot of bridge building, hence the surprise.

There may be a bit of a dispute as the Concrete Society (yes you read that right there IS a Concrete Society) claim that the first ferro-concrete bridge in Britain was an 18' one at Chewton Glen in Hampshire. Our 40' one has a plaque on it to prove it though.

 Detail of a bridge pillar with a shield with the Three Crowns Coat of Arms of Hull and a date scroll which looks to be 1903 which is at odds with the date on the plaque.

This is the side of the bridge looking East. The drain was filled in in the 1930's so I expect people at this busy junction don't realise they are on a bridge, let alone the first of it's type in Great Britain.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Fact 2. Andrew Marvell Poet and MP. Son of Hull.

Andrew Marvell was not the inventor of American comic books. But a Metaphysical Poet and MP for Kingston upon Hull.

He was born to the east of Hull at Winestead. His Father, also Andrew, was the CofE Rector of that place. His son was born 31-Mar-1621. They moved to Hull when Senior got taken on as lecturer at Hull Trinity Church.

St. Germain's Church, Winestead
St Germain's Church Winstead. Andrew Marvell was christened here.

Andrew attended the Hull Grammar School that was later also attended by William Wilberforce. He left for Trinity College Cambridge when he was 13 and got a BA degree. In 1642 he went on the 'Grand Tour'. It is thought that this may have been as tutor to a rich patron. He stayed abroad until 1647 so missing the Civil War and came back speaking French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin.

In 1650 he became a tutor for the daughter of Lord Fairfax who had just stood down from commanding the Parliamentary Army. In 1653 he became tutor to Oliver Cromwell's ward. In 1653 he joined John Milton as Latin Secretary to Cromwell's Council of State. In 1659 he was elected as MP for Kingston upon Hull and served as such until his death. he was said to be a good MP as he kept his constituents well informed, and indeed he was one of the few MP's at that time to have a salary from his constituency. 

Andrew Marvell, NPG
Andrew Marvell.

Politically he managed to tread a easy path. he was a protestant but not too hardcore. He also had some sympathy for Charles I writing in his poem 'Horation Ode' which was actually about Cromwell's return  from the campaign in Ireland,
He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try.

Nor called the Gods, with vulgar spite,
To vindicate his helpless right;
But bowed his comely head
Down. as upon a bed.

He was better known for his satirical and political prose during his lifetime and became very weary of the corruption of the court after the reinstatement of the Monarchy.

He died suddenly in Hull and it was thought at the time that he may have been poisoned by those who he ridiculed in his pamphlets and books. He is buried in London.

He was well loved by the people of hull and they raised a monument to him at his grave. Part of the inscription reads;

Near this place lyeth the body of Andrew Marvell Esq., a man so endowed by nature, so improved by education, study and travel, so consummated by experience, that, joining the peculiar graces of wit and learning, with a singular penetration and strength of judgement, and exercising all these in the whole course of his life, with an unutterable steadiness in the ways of virtue, he became the ornament and example of his age, beloved by good men, feared by bad, admired by all, thought imitated by few; and scarce paralleled by any.

That is not a bad inscription and is the longest sentence I have ever written!

He started writing his poetry when he was at Cambridge but was not known for it until after his death. he was grouped with the metaphysical poets who used wit and simply rhyming forms, along with images and references to topical scientific and geographic discoveries, with very unusual similes and metaphors to examine moral issues such as religion and morals. Others included John Donne, Henry Vaughan and Richard Crashaw.

A statue of Andrew Marvell stands in the square outside Holy Trinity Church and Hull Grammar School.
Andrew Marvell statue in Trinity Square, Hull.

A new Foundation School has been built, sponsored by the Cooperative Society, in Barham Road, Hull.

The new Andrew Marvell School.

Perhaps his most famous poem is 'To his Coy Mistress'. This is just the first part;

Had we but world enough, and time, 
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
to walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please,refuse
Til the conversion of the Jews.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Fact 1. Birth of Hull.

Believe it or not, Hull is a new town!

First there was Meaux Abbey that was set up by the monks from Fountains Abbey in 1151. After financial troubles they got going with draining the land around and grazed sheep on the land. The land was marshy with slight hills left over from the end of the ice age. They did so well with their sheep that they need some how to get their wool to market.

Nearby was a river that rose in the Wolds East of Driffield, the River Hull. The name may be derived from the Anglo Saxon for hill, but also may come from Hebrew, or the like, for circular, writhing, whirling motion or dance! The Monks decide that the river could be used to take their produce down to the Humber Estuary where it could be shipped onwards. It seems that there was a collection of a few houses here called Wyk or Wyke. By 1193 the place was developed enough for them to be exporting 45 sacks of wool.

A hundred years later Edward I lit upon the place as being useful to him. Edward was known as 'Longshanks' as he was tall for his age. Depending where you come from will also colour your thinking of him as he subjugated the Welsh and also fought many battles over Scotland. It was the later that made Wyke attractive to him as it was far enough away from the Scottish so as not to be regularly or easily raided, but close enough for it to be used as a useful supply base. In 1293 he 'bought' it from the Monks of Meaux. The Monks had fallen on hard times and they were only to happy to palm off Wyke for the price of the debt plus a bit of a land swap. One was the gift of money for the establishment of a chapel in Elstronwick, to the east. Over thirty years the monks got far away from the ideals of being a monk, and the place was closed down. Meaux itself was dissolved in the reformation by Henry VIII in 1539 and the stone was used to help build the defences on Hull.

Wyke became Kings Town upon Hull and he must have done quite well out of it as by this time there were about 60 dwellings and the wool export had increased to 4270 sacks of wool. They also imported most of the wine for the north of England. The place was governed by his men with the customs man being the most important.

By 1299 Edward had granted the town a 15 day fair and a market twice a week. They had also been declared a borough. The buildings were built largely on a grid as it was built from scratch. In 1300 a Mint was set up in Hull and there are a few pennies still surviving even though it didn't stay open long.
1321 defences were licenced and walls were built around three sides, except along the River Hull. In 1440 the city became self governing with a mayor etc.

By the time Henry VIII arrived he also realised the importance of Hull and gave orders for the the defensive walls to be improved and also a fortification to be built on the east bank of the River Hull to protect the river mouth and port. This was completed in 1543.

in 1897 the place became a city.

In 2010 the population was 302,296.

File:Wenceslas Hollar - Hull.jpg
Kingstown upon Hull before 1677.
By Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677.

Using the scale on the picture above it can be seen that the extent of the town was about 0.6 x 0.4 miles.

File:Hull map.jpg

Map showing expansion of Hull.

The original part of Hull in the present day still has many old buildings and hints to the past.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Year, New Blog.

It is now three years until the start of Hull's year as City of Culture. I am not a native of the city but both my parents, and their parents etc are and I have lived here for 35 years. I also married a native and both our children were born here so I feel I am qualified to write this blog.

My plan is to give 150 facts about Hull. That is about one a week until New Year 2017. It is really for me to become more knowledgeable about the city and if this adds something to others understanding through the blog I will be very pleased.

The idea germinated when I saw a video of 100 facts about Birmingham, another place I love. Coincidentally they are both cities that seem to get quite a bad press. Maybe that the accents of both areas have never really made it on a panel of national news readers!

If anybody has requests, ideas or other comments please feel free to get in touch. I may or may not publish them though!

The Coat of Arms of the City of Kingstown upon Hull.
Official blazon is azure three ducal coronets in pale Or.

The three crown motif is seen in the 15th Century and first recorded in 1612. Tradition says that it was adopted by  the local company of Merchant Adventurers that likened themselves to the 3 kings of Christmas story fame who wandered far and wide, in the pursuit of trade.

The more likely reason is the fact it was homage to Edward I, Edward Longshanks. It was he that took the small village of Wykeham-upon-Hull from the monks of Meux Abbey. He had seen the significance of its setting as a port and point of provision for his wars against the Scottish. Not too close that it could be attacked, and not to far so that it was easier to supply his armies. The official name of the city is Kingstown-upon-Hull. Edwards coat of Arms was three lions, Hence three crowns. There is a 13th Century seal of the City showing a seated King with a lion either side and one at his feet. The logo can bee seen all over the City, including the two Rugby League teams.

Hull Football Club.

Hull Kingston Rovers Rugby League Football Club.