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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Fact 12. Hull's first public park was The People's Park.

People's Park son became known as Pearson Park after the benefactor that donated the land.

Hull had the Botanic Gardens that had opened in 1812, but you had to pay to enter these. As industry and urban sprawl increased in Victorian times it was deemed beneficial to have open spaces within a city for the populace to exercise and relax. Some early schemes failed. One was to build a broad walk round the outside of the site of the demolished city walls and another to take over the site of the Citadel. This finally failed after Hull Corporation sued the government and lost.

In 1860 Zachariah Pearson, the Mayor that year and a local ship owner, donated 27 acres to the north west of the built up area to be used as a park for the public benefit. He kept another 10 acres around the edges to build an access road and to construct substantial homes facing the park. Pearson thought that having these high class villas would ensure the local wealthy would not leave the city.

The opening ceremony took place on 28-Aug-1860 and was very grand affair. At least 30000 arrived in Hull by boat and train to witness the event. A parade was organised by Enderby Jackson and it stretched  two miles from the Station Hotel to the park with brass bands and carriages of dignitaries. The handing over of the deeds was followed by the planting of a Wellingtonia Gigantica (Giant Sequoia/Giant Redwood). A sumptuous banquet and fireworks followed.

The park was originally designed by J.C. Niven who was the curator of the Botanic Gardens in Hull. By 1864 the park had a cricket pitch and areas for bowls, archery and gymnastics. There was also a small lake and a folly called 'The Ruins', along with a cast iron drinking fountain and a statue of Queen Victoria and Ceres (the Goddess for Fertility). The statue of Victoria was commissioned by Pearson to commemorate her visit to the city in 1854 by putting a £100 deposit on a flawless piece of carrara marble and gave the task to Thomas Earle of Hull. A statue of Price Albert was added in 1868.

Pearson Park
Pearson Park Folly.

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Drinking fountain, restored 2008.

Queen Victoria Statue in Pearsons Park
Queen Victoria's statue Pearson Park.

The eastern entrance on the road to the road around the park was built an impressive archway. The villas around the park were largely completed by 1890. Philip Larkin lived in a flat in one whilst working at the University. Many of them are now listed buildings.

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Pearson Park entrance arch.

In 1897 a memorial to the park's benefactor was raised in the form of an ironstone monolith from the Cleveland Hills with an inscribed tablet on it.

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Pearson's Ironstone memorial.

A band satnd followed in 1908 and then a rescued cupola from the Cuthbert Brodick Town Hall that had been demolished to make way for the new Guildhall was moved to the park. A Victorian style conservatory was built in the 1930's.

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Cupola rescued from the Cuthbert Brodick designed Town Hall.

During WW2 the park was covered with nissan hutrs and air raid shelters that weren't removed until 1954. The band stand and ornamental bridge were lost the war effort for scrap metal.

The park has continued to evolve with the times but is still a very popular place to visit and to live in the area. On the 150th anniversary another Giant Redwood was planted. It makes a lovely haven of peace between the busy areas of Beverley Road and Princess Avenue and well worth a visit.

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Formal gardens of Pearson Park.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Fact 11. Hull is twinned with Chisinau.

Following the last blogs link with current events with a Russian connection today's also links with the current 'unrest in the region.

Chisinau is the capital of Moldova and became twinned with Hull in 1982, out second longest link with a twinned city.
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             The City of Chisinau flag.                                            The national flag of Moldova.

In 2013 there was a population of 800,600 in greater Chisinau. 72% of the population were Moldavian or Romanian and Russians about 14%. &6% have Romanian as their first language and this is the state language. Since independence there has been much debate as to whether Romanian and Moldavian are the same language or even ethnic grouping or are distinct from each other. 16% have Russian as their first language and this is also an official language in some regions along with Gagauzia which is a Turkic language.

The city was founded in 1436 as a monastery town and in the 16th Century was part of the Otterman Empire. By the 19th Century there  was a population of 7000. Following the Russian-Turkish War in 1812 East Moldavia, called Bessarabia, was passed to Russia and Chisinau became the capital of this region, with a population of 9200. By 1862 it had become 125750. During this period the town planning and building developed on a modern grid  system with wide boulevards other than around the old town. Following anti Jewish sentiments in other parts of Russian the Jewish population swelled to 47%. Even here though there were several pograms against them.

The Orthodox Cathedral built in 1830. It was badly damaged in WW2 and the Russians pulled down the bell tower in 1960's. It was restored in 1990's.

After the Russian Revolution Bessarabia became independent and then joined Romania. The development of the city that took place over this period was destroyed in WW2. It started in 1940 when the Red Army occupied the city. That November a 7.3 earthquake caused severe damage to the city. The Nazis and their puppet Romanian Army bombarded the city but it is said that more damage was caused by the Russian  troops that were tasked with denying the Germans anything useful in their scorched earth policy. The Jewish population suffered severely like elsewhere under the control of the Germans and in August 1944 the city was retaken by the Russians following a decisive pincer movement offensive when around 100000 Germans were killed and 115000 were captured. After the war Bessarabia was integrated into the Soviet Union. 70% of it passed to the Moldavian Soviet Republic and 30% to the Ukraine  Soviet Republic. 70% of all the buildings had been destroyed over the period of the war and it was rebuilt in the Stalinist style of severe looking buildings, built quickly and cheaply. There was a quite severe earthquake in 1977 when several people were killed and independence finally came in 1991.

Modern architecture in Chisinau.

90% of Chisinau are Christians of which 88% are Orthodox. The money is Leu and there are roughly 22 to the Pound Sterling. The city is not rich compared with western Europe but is developing quickly  with universities and museums, theaters etc. Some of the sights are the Stephen III statue that was erected in 1927. Stephen stood up to and prevented the advance of the Turks further in to Europe. The statue was removed and hidden and replaced at various times in its history depending on the political climate of the times.

Stephen the Great monument
Stephen III Statue, Chisinau.

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Triumphal Arch erected in 1841 and restored in 1973 and to remember the Russian-Turkish war.

With the tensions in eastern Europe over Ukraine Moldovia will be hoping problems are resolved peacefully as they have a Russian minority which could give excuses for problems with their nations borders.

I can find no reason why Chisinau and Hull became twinned, and can find no information about any recent exchanges between the two cities. I assume that the twinning occurred during  the time of a Left Wing Council in Hull. Hopefully links will be built up for the Year of the City of Culture as they have a distinctive culture that would add colour and diversity to Hull's big year

International Children's Day Celebrations in Chisinau, Moldova

Monday, 17 March 2014

Fact 10. Hull nearly caused a war with Russia.

At these times of heightened tension with Russia it reminded me of an other occasion when Hull was at the centre of events. 110 years ago, and 99 years after the Battle of Trafalgar Russia and Japan went to war in Feb. 1904. Both countries were trying to extend their power over Manchuria in China and the Korean peninsula. Japan had carried out a preemptive strike over Russia by striking the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, their naval base which was leased from China. The Japanese then blockaded and put the port under siege.  The Russians decided to mobilize their Baltic Fleet to lift the siege. They assembled a fleet of 42 ships and after a few false starts they set of 15th October 1904. Russia had suffered many setbacks at the hands of the Japanese and they were paranoid that the Japanese would again strike early and attack the fleet on the way there with either mines or torpedo boats. The Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky had his men at a high state of alert and they saw danger everywhere. They fired on a Japanese torpedo boat that turned out to be a Swedish freighter. Eventually they got in to the North Sea and 'avoided' an imaginary minefield.
The Russian fleet included 8 battleships and one of them still survives. The Aurora is a floating museum in St Petersburg and played a part in the revolution of 1917.

Approaching midnight on 21st October 1904, 99 years after the Battle of Trafalgar the scouting ships of the Baltic Fleet reported sightings of torpedo ships. It so happened that the Gamecock Fishing Fleet from Hull, about 38 ships, was in the path of the Russians. Along with other trawlers they were operating on the Dogger Bank fishing grounds as a fleet with their own 'Admiral' Henry Foot. The trawlers remained on the grounds as directed by the 'Admiral' and transferred their catch to other ships that took the fish to market. The 'Admiral' directed the trawlers by flag and lights which could well have added to the suspicions of the Russians. The fishermen thought that it could the British Channel Fleet returning south after a port visit and they were not worried although the boats were told to head to windward, most would have their nets down making any movement very slow. The first wave of warships passed and then all hell broke out. At first the fisherman thought it was gunnery practice but then searchlights shone and fire was directed at them.

A postcard from the time. The attack came to be called the Dogger Bank Incident.

Fire was directed at the trawler 'Crane'. She was badly hit and the the Skipper George Smith and the 3rd Hand were killed by severe head wounds. The Skippers son Joseph was aboard as cook for his first voyage and found his father dead. Most of the rest of the crew were injured, some severely. Damage was also done to the Mino, Snipe and  Moulmein.

The Crane started to sink and the trawler Gull bravely launched their boat and went alongside and managed to take off the dead and injured and transferring the injured to the hospital ship 'Joseph and Sarah Miles'. The Doctor aboard probably saved several lives by his swift work.

The action stopped after about  25 minutes after midnight as they had 'spotted' large vessels attacking. This turned out to be vessels of their own fleet! It resulted in a death of a Russian seaman and a Padre.

The trawlers damaged or with injured aboard went back to Hull with the news. The public were outraged and the British Fleet raised steam to attack the Russians. Cool heads prevailed but the Russians were denied use of the Suez Canal and British and their allies also prevented the Russians using their coaling stations around the world. The Russians had to employ 60 German vessels to supply them with coal etc. Whilst in Madagascar the Russians heard that Port Arthur had fallen so the reason for their voyage had gone. They continued to try to get to Vladivostok to replace the sunk Pacific Fleet. They chose to pass through the Straits of Tsushima and the Japanese Fleet lay in wait. The battle was decisive with eight battle ships and 5000 men lost by the Russians and only three of their  fleet actually made it to Vladivostok where as the Japanese lost three torpedo boats and 116 men.

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The memorial Statue that was erected by public subscription in 1906. The statue was in Portland stone by Arthur Leake of a life size George Smith, Skipper on the Crane, and with a memorial to William Leggett 3rd Hand of the Crane who died on the night and also to Walter Whelpton the Skipper of the Mino who died of his wounds (or shock as it states on the memorial) in May 1905. The King donated 200 guineas to the fund.

Later the King presented four Albert Medals for the action. Albert Medal 1st Class went to W. Smith, Mate and A. Rea 2nd Eng. of the 'Crane' for their steadfastness and bravery under fire and 2nd Class Medal to C. Beer Mate and H. Smith Ch. Eng of the Gull for their rescue of the crew of the Crane. Another 2nd Class medal was awarded to E. Costello, Bosun of the Gull but he was unable to make it to the ceremony at Buckingham Palace so it was presented later.

After an international enquiry later the Fishermen were awarded £68000 but I don't know how it was shared out. The death and damage would have been much greater if the Russians had been at all competent in  fire direction and gunnery. The current tension in Ukraine seems to be history repeating itself in so many ways. I hope that cool heads on all sides will once again pull us back from war with Russia.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Fact 9. Clear fruit drops were invented in Hull.

Perhaps not an earth shattering claim to fame but goes someway to sweeten life.

Boiled sweets, not necessarily Needlers though.

In 1938 Needlers Ltd of Hull perfected a method of producing clear, or glace fruit drops.

The company was started  by Fred Needler who was born in 1864 at Arnold near Skirlaugh a few miles NE of Hull. His Fathers name was actually Needley so a mistake happened somewhere down the line. His Dad died at the age of 37 when Fred was a bout 6 of Typhoid. Fred went to school in Hull and by 14 was working in a coffee and tea warehouse along High Street. By 18 he had become the book keeper for a small confectionery manufacturer. In 1886, with the help of a lone from his Mum, he bought the business for £100. (About £75,000 today). The company moved a couple of times and Fred was head of an empire existing of two employees, a sugar boiler and a boy, and a horse and cart. There was a lot of competition and so Fred went into the wholesale business for others products too.

By 1900 the business had developed employing 10 women and 23 men and making about 10 tons of sweets a week. Their next move was to even bigger purpose built premises to the north of the centre of Hull at Sculcoates Lane. By 1912 they were manufacturing 576 different types of sweets, 74 of chocolate. By 1920 they were using 650 tons of chocolate and 1500 tons of sugar for sweets and employing 1700 people, with many more for the seasonal Easter and Christmas work. Although a large company Needlers only had about 1% of the UK business.

Delivery wagon decorated for a parade.

In 1927 the packaging area was air conditioned, not for the well being of the workers but to enable the work to continue even in warm weather. Sweets had been wrapped since the early 1920's but by hand, and it wasn't until 1928 that a machine was introduced.

In 1932 Fred died of Parkinson's Disease, He left a large house in Cottingham that was to be used by the students of the newly formed Hull University, and is still in use as such today.

Needler Hall
Needler Hall, Hull University, Cottingham Campus.

1938 was the year of the breakthrough in sweet chemistry and the clear drops set Needlers apart as there was little competion in this market until the mid 1960's. The depression paid a heavy toll on the business as did WWII but once rationing of sugar had ended in February 1953 business took off, especially in the fruit drops.

Sugar boilers.

In 1970 the third generation Needler took over and made changes. The loss making chocoalte side of the business was closed, they bought Batgers who were famous for their Jersey Toffee and started making products for supermarkets 'own brand'. In 1980 they bought another small company and then had a large export drive to spread in to otherwise untapped markets for USA and the Middle East. This must have brought them to the notice of the big boys and the company was bought by Hillsdown Holdings that were part of the massive Premier Foods conglomerate that had such brands as Mr. Kipling, Ambrosia and Hovis. The company was then sold to Norwegian interests and then to Bluebird who were run from Singapore. In 2002 the company was again sold to a British company Astbury. This meant the closure of the Hull factory and now houses are built over the site.

Packaging at the Needlers factory.

In common with many other Hull employers Needlers well know to be good to their employees with many benefits in kind such as their well known choir, and had a profit sharing scheme for the workers from as early as 1911.

The family are not to be confused with the Needlers that were involved with Hull City FC. This was another family altogether.

Next time you have a clear fruit drop in your mouth you will be able to think of the efforts of those chemists in Hull.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Fact 8. Hull Prison was opened in 1870.

The current Hull prison was opened on Hedon Road, opposite Alexandra Dock, in 1870. Previously the Prison had been in the Blockhouse fortification on the East bank of the River Hull, where it guarded the 'Old Town'. The last but one was built on Kingston Street, south of Railway Dock, which is part of the current city centre marina, between 1827 and 1830.
Hull Prison soon after opening.

The new prison was built following great reforms in the treatment and housing of prisoners. In 1831 they were still setting inmates to the tread wheel to grind corn. After 1836 the regime was to keep prisoners silent at all times. Wardens were each allowed to keep a pig in the prison until 1841! By 1848 prisoners had to be provided with a full set of clothing and had to be allowed a bath once a month too! In the 1850's inmates welfare started to be attended to with the appointment of a school master but the severe overcrowding meant that control had to be maintained by using many punishments and loss of privileges and the worst it became was in 1862/3 when there was a total of 1418 in the prison, 960 men and 458 women. The new prison had a panoptical designed which meant that all the wings came off a central area so they called all be viewed from one place.

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The four wing design of Hull Prison.
Copyright 2013 Photobucket. All rights reserved.

Hull Prison was designed to take both men and women but by WWII it had become a Military Prison and later a Civil Defence Depot. In 1950 it reopened as a closed male Borstal, but by 1969 it had been upgraded and became one of the first maximum security dispersal prisons. In 1976 there was a riot of inmates that lasted five days and closed the prison for a year. In 1986 it started its present life as a Category B prison for local male and remand prisoners. The capacity is for 762.

Inside Hull Prison.
From BBC Look North film 2008 when Hull Prison was named one of the best local prisons in the UK.

Ten people were hung at the prison between 1902 and 1934. The last was the one and only woman Ethel Major on 19th December 1934. Ethel had been born Ethel Brown in Lincolnshire, the daughter of a game keeper. In 1918 she married Arthur Major who had finished WWI a hero but with serious wounds and they had a son. Before marrying though Ethel had had an illegitimate daughter who, because of the stigma of the time, was brought up by the family as her sister. She did not tell her husband. As the years passed Arthur's wounds made him cranky and  prone to drink. Ethel became bad tempered and the marriage started to break down. Things were so bad that Ethel started to sleep at her Fathers house with their son each night rather than at home. Ethel was not very well liked by her neighbours. In the spring of 1934 Arthur was at work eating his corned beef sandwiches which when he took a bite tasted awful. He through them away and told his mates that he wouldn't be surprised if his wife wasn't trying to poison him. The birds that ate the discarded meal died!

Ethel Lillie Major

Later in the year he arrived home feeling very unwell and took to his bed. Later in the evening the Doctor was called as he was sweating, having convulsions and was unable to talk. The Doctor diagnosed a mild epilepsy and gave a sedative. The next day Ethel went back to the Doctor to tell him her husband was dead, and started to make funeral arrangements. There it may have laid but the next day an anonymous letter was delivered to the Police Station intimating that it was poisoning and that the writer had heard his wife say she would kill him, and a neighbours dock had died the same day. The police halted the funeral arrangements and a pathologist was called in to do tests on both the dog and Arthur. He found both had died of strychnine poisoning. Ethel continued to deny involvement claiming it must have been food poising as she never touched the stuff and she was fine. How ever during a later interview she said that she hadn't known that her husband had been killed by strychnine. As the name of the poison used had never been revealed by the police this slip was to prove crucial. The police searched the house and could find no evidence. They then remembered that her Father was a Gamekeeper and  could have poisons legally at hand. All his poisons were locked in a safe cabinet and he only had the key, but another had been lost a while previously. The Police again searched Ethel's house and every key they found was checked with a lock there. Only one could not be identified and when tested that fitted the poison cabinet at her Fathers.  Her fate was sealed. The jury found her guilty after only an hour and she was committed to at Hull. She had to be virtually carried to the gallows and the executioner was Thomas Pierrepoint. She declared she was innocent to the end and it is said that her ghost still haunts the buildings.

The Pierrepoint family were executioners in the UK for many years. Henry was the first to take up the job and then trained up his brother Thomas. Thomas was a hangman for 39 years. He trained up his nephew Albert, who is probable the best known as he is styled the last hangman in the UK. (but there were several approved at the time of the end of capital punishment). Tom was on the list of approved hangmen until into his seventies and his last was in 1946. Albert may have been his assistant in December 1934 as by 1936 he had become fully trained and moved from the list of approved assistants to that of the senior executioners. Between them the family of three must have hung almost 1000. Tom and Albert around 800. In his memoirs Albert said that he didn't believe that capital punishment acted as any kind of deterrent. Hanging for murder was stopped in 1965 (1973 in Northern Ireland) but it wasn't until 1998 that it was abolished in all circumstances.

Photograph of Albert Pierrepoint (standing) and his uncle, Thomas William (seated)
Thomas (left) and Albert Pierrepoint.