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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fact 7. Hull's first 'port'.

Hull's first port is called the Old Harbour or the Haven. It stretches from it's meeting at Sammy's Point where The Deep Aquarium has been built to North Bridge along the River Hull and is roughly where the defensive wall of the Hull Citadel had been. This is the stretch of water roughly 900m long and about 50m wide which really caused the City of Hull to be developed as the the Monks of Meaux used the river to export there wool. The stretch of water provided shelter from the weather and tides and also from marauding Danes and pirates and gave a place where the cargoes could be discharged and loaded from the shore.

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Map of Hull showing the limit of the Old Harbour between the Humber and the first bridge to the left. The main wharves were on the west bank where the vessels could be worked directly to and from the dwelling warehouses on High Street but there were also wharves or Staithes on the east bank too.
Plan was drawn by Wensceslas Hollar, 1660 to 1677.

Trade grew and vessels got larger and chaos was said to ensue. It could take over twenty tides to get from the entrance to the northern most staithe. It was also recorded that a vessel could leave Hull and sail to a Baltic port, load a cargo and return to Hull and a ship that had just anchored off Hull would still be waiting to enter the Old Harbour. Earlier in 1541, when there was very little regulation, and incident occurred that led to the formation of a pilotage service of some sort on the River. King Henry VIII was visiting the Citadel and its garrison at Hull when he witnessed a foreign owned vessel making it's entrance to the Old Harbour. It caused lots of damage to the quays and other vessels. The King ordered it to be removed and from then on a group of local seaman had to pilot foreign owned vessels into the Old Harbour. The vessel was Scottish owned, and maybe they will be foreign owned ships again in the near future! Entering and moving about the Old Harbour were not made safer or easier by the fact of the very strong currents, especially ebb currents. The rise and fall of the tide could be as much as 6.7m on a spring tide, and with the congestion there would be very little room for error. In the past a chain had been stretched across the mouth of the river and a charge taken to pass. I assume that the 'toll' was to pay for the upkeep of the harbour. To assist vessel to enter and leave two mooring dolphins were erected at the mouth so that ropes could be passed to warp the vessels in. Similarly buoys were placed to assist in the movement of the ships.

Drydocks and ship builders were found at Sammy's Point and further up between Drypool and North Bridges.

Central Dry Dock, Humber Street, Kingston upon Hull
Central Dry Dock, at the mouth of the Old Harbour. The vessel undergoing the maintenance in 'Salvageman' which belonged to United Towing, a Hull towing and salvage company. When built in 1980 she was the most powerful tug in the world. The dry dock was opened in 1784 and is a Grade II listed building. There are some plans to make it an auditorium in the future.
Photograph by Bernard Sharp.

The writing was on the wall for the Old Harbour as trade grew and the vessel got larger. The main factor was however that as the staithes on the river were not enclosed and regulated it was  impossible for the Customs mean to collect the correct duty on goods coming in and out of the port. Bewteen 1775 and 1778 an enclosed dock was built off the Old Harbour following the line of the City wall that led to the west and trade spread into the new facility.

How the Old Harbour did not die and as the ships got larger and larger and more and more enclosed docks were built the the cargoes were transported from the large vessels in to barges for transport up the Old Harbour and indeed around the larger area to Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham etc via barges and lighters. Originally sailing vessels then late some motorised and some being towed. The Old Harbour became full and bust once again.

A very full Old Harbour with motorised barges and lighters. I suspect this was a weekend with no activity visible. A view looking north towards Drypool Bridge. I would say in 1960's

A similar view today with the Arctic Corsair moored outside the museum.

A view of the North end of Old Harbour, between Drypool Bridge at the bottom and North bridge at the top. Taken from the top of Rank's mill. I would say this was also taken in the 1960's.

A modern view looking in the opposite direction, towards Drypool Bridge and Rank's Mill. The dry docks and Queens Dock entrance can be seen on the right.

As can be seen for the modern photographs above the lack of use has added to the problem of the Harbour silting up. It does not look it's most attractive when the tide is out and all the mud is revealed. there have been suggestions that a lock be placed at the mouth to maintain water levels but this would cause more silting and as there is a legal right of navigation all bridges etc  have to be such that they do not restrict that right. It is hoped that the mainly derelict industrial buildings along the river will be adapted for new uses and the area brought back to use to give more years to this area that has been active for over eight hundred years.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Fact 6. Amy Johnson, aviation pioneer was from Hull.

Amy Johnson was born in Hull on 1st July 1903. Her maternal Great Grandfather, Jack Hodge, had been Sherif and Mayor of Hull in the 1860. Her paternal Grandfather had arrived from Denmark and set up a fish merchants business in 1861 with a Norwegian Knudtzon. The company is still in exsistance as Andrew Johnson Knudtzon which is part of A.M.I Cold Stores Ltd and a wholly owned part of Andrew Marr International Group. Her Father, John, was born in Denmark but took British Citizenship. She was, it seems, a strong willed person right from the beginning and after going to Sheffield University and starting work in her Father's business she soon wanted adventure. Her first instructor told her she would never fly solo and she took twice as many hours as was normal to gain her 'A' licence, No 1979 on 6-Jul-29. However she also gained her Ground Engineer's licence 'C' and was the first and only woman to hold one for a time.

Amy Johnson.

She was determined to make her mark on aviation and stated that she wanted to break the record set by Bert Hinkler of 15.5 days to Australia. She set about with determination to buy the right aircraft. Her Father put up half the money and the rest was advanced by Lord Wakefield who was the Castrol Oil magnate. It seems that she had influence in high places as Lord Wakefield was influnetial in stock piling fuel and supplies along her route! They bought a De Havilland DH60G Gypsy Moth biplane for £600. It was a two seater with long range tanks. It had a 100HP engine that gave a top speed of only 85mph! This was not a speedy plane but for the long distances and rugged landings it was strong and robust.

She set off from Croydon on 5th May 1930 and her route took her;
Baghdad  She had to land in the desert for a few hours to avoid wind storms.
Bandar Abbas
Karachi  Her she was two days ahead of the record despite having to repair a wind tip.
Rangoon  Her she landed at the wrong place and again damaged a wing tip and the propeller
                It took her three days to make good the repairs.
Tjomel    She got a bit lost here
Surabaya Where she had been aiming!
Haliliuk   again poor navigation so landed here instead of Atambua
Darwin  Arriving on 24th May- 1930.

Here she was awarded the Harmon Trophy for Aviation feats and a CBE. She was also given the Civil Aviation Licence No.1 by the Australians. She became the heroine everywhere

She then made further record breaking flights with Jack Humpreys as they were the first to fly London - Moscow in a day and record times to Japan.

She married another pilot, Scot. Jim Mollison in 1932. After only knowing her for eight hours he proposed in a cockpit!

Amy set a solo record for London to Cape Town and later with Mollison for times Uk to USA and  Uk to India.

They were divorced in 1938.

Amy Johnson flying over the partly constructed Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930's.

During WWII she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary Service who were used to transport planes from airfield to airfield. on 5th January 1941 she was delivering a plane from Blackpool to Kidlington, near Oxford. In very bad weather she got blown off course and ran out of fuel over the Thames Estuary. She bailed out. Her parachute was spotted by HMS Haslemere but they found it very hard to close her iin the high winds and strong currents. Lt. Cmdr Walter Fletcher dived in to try and bring her to the ships side. However the cold and currents meant that they both lost their lives. Amy's body was never recovered. Lt Cmdr Fletcher received the posthumous Albert medal for his attempt.
There is some mystery over the loss as it was said by the crew of HMS Haslemere that they saw a third person in the water. Was the mystery third person a spook or somebody just hitching a lift? In 1999 further mystery was added to the story when a Tom Mitchell told that he had shot the aviator down as she had returned the wrong code signal twice when challenged by radio. They had fired 16 round from their AA gun and seen it crash in to the Thames.

She was obviously a girl who would have gone places if she had survived the law, and certainly would have been in the papers. She was a darling of the public and could do no wrong. She opened the first Butlins Holiday Camp at Skegness in 1936. There are streets, schools and aeroplanes named after her, and films and songs have been dedicated to her. Her family gave her collection of aviation items to Sewerby Hall near Bridlington where they can be seen in a room dedicated to her.

Amy Johnson statue
Statue of Amy Johnson outside the Prospect Centre in Hull. The statue was paid for by public subscription. It was created by local sculptor Harry Ibbetson in Portland stone and unveiled in 1974. photo by richclat.

When we had a tour of the Mersey Tunnel last year we were told that the sculpture below as Amy Johnson. The building was built between 1931 and 34 so Amy would have been at the height of her fame. She did seem to mix in high circles but was married at this stage. Was the architect Herbert Jack Rowse just an admirer or was there more to it? Tutankhamen's tomb had also just been opened too so there are shades of Egyptian and Art Deco here too.

Sculpture by Thompson and Capstick on the Mersey Tunnel ventilator shaft, desigened by Herbert Jack Rowse. The helmeted figure does look like the photograph of Amy Johnson at the top of the item but the rest seem to indicate a motorbike!
Photograph taken by us on our visit to Liverpool on NB Holderness.

What ever the answers to the mystery's Amy Johnson has always been a heroine in Hull and will be for a long time, inspiring girls and boys to do more with their lives.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fact 5. England's smallest window.

The window, said to be England's smallest, can be found at the George Hotel, The Land of Green Ginger in Hull. The window is about 10" x 1" and is said to be the viewing port for the the boy to check out people before admitting them into the yard.

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England's smallest window, George Hotel, Hull.
Photo by Keith D.

The George Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in England too, and certainly one of the oldest buildings in Hull. It originated as an Elizabethan mansion that was once owned by the twice mayor of Hull, !546 and 1550, John Oversale. By 1680 it was a pub called 'Ye White Frere Hostel' which was a reference to the local White Friars. In 1683 Prince George of Denmark married Queen Anne and the pub was renamed 'The George '.

In the Victorian era it was a coaching Inn and also a venue for holding, property auctions, bankruptcy hearings, inquests and political meetings. It is said to be extremely heavily haunted with many unexplained smells, sounds of footsteps, feelings of another presence, lights and equipment being turned on and off and sighting of the 'Grey Lady' Ghost. However nobody has reported that they felt threatened by these events.

The coaching inn, The George Hotel, on the street 'Land of Green Ginger'.

The pub is found in the Old Town and is well worth a visit for it's really ale, great atmosphere and decor, not withstanding any ghosts that may appear!