Monthly Archives: October 2020

Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 15 (22/10/’20).

One of Daniel Defoe’s (s.p.b.) earlier publications was an explanation of events leading-up to the Act of Union (England and Scotland), 1707 (see above). Defoe was well versed to write about this as he had been a spy for the English government working in Scotland. He had been accepted into the confidence of members of the Parliament of Scotland because, like them, he supported the Presbyterian form of Christian worship.

(Continued from blog 14) as regards Hull’s overseas trade Defoe records imports of iron, copper, hemp, flax and canvas from the Baltic region, wine, linen, oil and fruit from Holland, France and Spain and tobacco and sugar from the West Indies. ‘But besides all this’ he states the export of corn was greater than any other port but London. It is doubtful that Defoe had statistics to back-up his conclusions but the list of imports and exports and their relative importance is significant.

Of Hull itself Defoe considered it to be ‘close built’ and that fire unchecked could greatly damage the town and port, this somewhat conflicting with earlier descriptions commenting on the use of brick mostly for in-town building.

Like a previous traveller he reports on the Greenlander figure but now in the town-hall, not Trinity House. He writes glowingly of the ‘Exchange’, of the ‘free-school’ (the old Grammar School beside Holy Trinity’s graveyard) Trinity House and the Greenland fishery building, then (1720) defunct.

Finally he writes of the 14 arched bridge and ‘God’s House’, originally Michael de la Pole’s Carthusian monastic complex by then (1720, long after the Reformation) a hostel (‘hospital’, more like a care-home today). Defoe states that the hostel chapel and general building had ‘recently’ been restored and enlarged – these being the buildings as seen today, the chapel open for the annual Heritage Week – but not this year.

Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 14 (22/10/’20).

The illustration above shows Celia Fiennes (s.p.b.) riding side-saddle through the Norfolk countryside, her elegance perhaps exaggerated and no accompanying servant. The landscape is stylised also, jagged mountain peaks not being typical of East Anglia. The church on the right I cannot place but think it may be Castle Acre, although there is no wide river flowing past Castle Acre’s church. The illustration was scanned from a site entitled Norfolk Tales, Myths and More – an excellent county History site with many well researched and carefully written articles.

Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731), the last of Dr. Woodward’s travel writers (s.p.b.s), was such a prolific writer and polymath that Dr. Woodward’s extract from his A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain is but a fraction of his total output. Defoe probably visited Hull about 1720 and his whole Tour was first published in three volumes between 1724 and 1726.

Like Celia Fiennes, and others before, Defoe travelled from York to Beverley and then on to Hull. He gives the most comprehensive description of the town and its trade of any of the writers covered previously. Defoe was particularly well-informed about Hull’s trade claiming it to be equal in volume to that of ‘Hamburgh or Dantzick or Rotterdam’ (Defoe was well travelled) ‘I believe there is more business done in Hull than in any town of its bigness in Europe’. He notes the trade of Hull as a trans-shipment port, the goods manufactured in Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax ‘of which I have spoken so justly’, lead from the East Midlands, cheese barged down the River Trent and butter from the East and North Ridings all were trans-shipped at Hull. Although a point not mentioned by Defoe, it is often stated that the Humber drains between one sixth and one fifth of England so Defoe is stating that Hull controlled the trade on navigable rivers across this proportion of England.

(to be continued for one more blog).

Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 13 (21/10/’20).

Dr . Woodward’s last two travellers (s.p.b.s) are, I imagine, the best known of their kind; Celia Fiennes (1662 – 1741) and her near contemporary Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731).

Although Miss Fiennes’ father had been a Parliamentarian colonel during the English Civil Wars the family do not seem to have suffered financially after the Restoration (1660). She retained close links with her family throughout her life and, indeed, the notes written by her on her journeys, riding side-saddle with a servant companion, were only intended for her family to read and it was only in the late 19th century that they were first published for the general readership.

Miss Fiennes travelled not from necessity but because it interested her, although she stated she did it to ‘regain her health’. Normally, back then, travelling was seen as burdensome and to do it for its inherent interest seen as very unusual. Celia could not have been too frail to cope with days riding side-saddle in England’s variable weather conditions and in coping with various terrains.

Like most topographers before her, Celia rode to Hull from Beverley, having ridden there from York. Her note ‘we pass’d thro’ York town by another gate towards Hull’ suggests that signposts were becoming a recent feature of road travel, this in turn heralding the advent of turnpikes and the ‘Great Age of Coaching’. She records that the ‘Caussey’ between Beverley and Hull, along the Hull Valley flood-plain, had drainage channels each side (and presumably a good camber).

Again, like others before her, she entered Hull through Beverley gate but again, like some before her, she muddled her directions ‘We entered Hull from the southward’.

It seemed that her principal memory (Miss Fiennes probably wrote-up her notes after each journey) of the town was of its fortifications (see above).

(to be continued).

Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 12 (19/10/’20).

Edmund Gibson (1669 – 1748) was Dr. Woodward’s next topographer (s.p.b.s). Although he basically just re-published the text of Camden’s Britannia (s.p.b.) he added sufficient further information to qualify it as a new publication.

Before coming to Hull Gibson expanded on Camden’s description of Beverley ‘For Antiquities Beverley is the most considerable place hereabouts’. Beverley, he stated, was ‘of late much improved’. Beverley, the county town of East Yorkshire, has a wealth of surviving Georgian domestic buildings including a few that Gibson may have seen in 1695 (that said, it is not clear whether Gibson actually saw for himself or whether he collated information provided by others). Dr. Ivan Hall published Historic Beverley as well as Georgian Hull and Burton Constable Hall: a century of patronage (these now out of print but available from book wholesalers).

Gibson relates the story that in the reign of James II Governor Langdale of Hull, being a Catholic, planned to cause problems for William of Orange should he choose to cross the German Ocean to Hull in his quest for the Crown. He ordered the chain to be put across the mouth of the River Hull and was ready to open local sluice-gates whereby all the lower Hull valley floodplain land around Hull would be flooded. However, he and his supporters were captured and held in the Garrison – each year thereafter ‘town taking day’ being celebrated (see K. MacMahon A History of Hull, ch. 15).

Gibson, like most writers then and now, liked to hone in on curiosities such as, then, an effigy of a ‘native of Groenland’ in his canoe and hanging from the ceiling of the workroom at Trinity House complex of buildings. The photo above shows a group of Inuit, early 20th century (downloaded from Wikipedia).

Gibson describes the then one bridge over the River Hull (where North Bridge now is) ‘consists of 14 arches, and goes over into Holderness’. Such a bridge must have been a considerable hindrance to shipping between Hull and Beverley.

Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 11 (14/10/’20).

By the time of Thomas Baskerville’s description of Hull, late 1670s, there were already quite detailed plans of the town, particularly Hollar’s bird’s-eye view of 1641 (see above) – it therefore becomes possible to compare the two types of sources, text and illustration.

Like most topographers before him, Baskerville travelled to Hull from Beverley commenting on the floodplain land between the towns as ‘a forsaken country’ – possibly getting at bit confused as to his exact location as he states ‘by the sea large meadows full of grass, hay, and cattle, but backward in respect of us because of the cold clime and air from the sea’. Perhaps he had diverted south from Beverley and travelling along the Humber bank to Hull but this is unlikely as he then goes on to describe in detail Beverley Gate (centre-bottom on Hollar’s plan) through which he entered the town.

Feeling unwell Baskerville chose not to meet Hull’s governor Mr Cilby, but observed him attending Holy Trinity Church on Sunday accompanied by ‘a band of men’ who waited outside the church until the end of the service and then looked after the governor in the walk back to the inn where Baskerville was staying as the landlady put on ‘an ordinary’ every Sunday; this being like the service provided by a modern restaurant.

Baskerville also commented on the muddiness of the Humber but  correctly put this down to ‘the intermingling of tides with the river’s current’. As well as location Baskerville may also have been confused about direction ‘Upon the northern side of the town lies the haven’, but he does add mention of the chain put across the mouth of the River Hull ‘to keep out intruders’.

Thomas Baskerville does not get a slot in the Dictionary of National Biography, he was one of 16 sons to his more renowned father Hannibal Baskerville (antiquarian). Thomas’ wife was the daughter of one of Hannibal’s brothers!


Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 10 (13/10/’20).

The third of Dr. Woodward’s (s.p.b.s) six 17th century topographers, John Ogilby (1600 – 1676), is shown in the portrait above.

Ogilby had a varied career, his topographical work Britannia being published late in his life. Of Scottish birth he trained originally as a dancer and later became a theatrical entrepreneur in Ireland. On his return to England during the Civil Wars he taught himself latin and after the Restoration had published some Classical writings into English.

Britannia was very different to earlier topographical publications being in effect a series of linear road maps each with accompanying text. This work established the definition of a mile as being 1760 yards and each of Ogilby’s maps was drawn to the scale of one inch to one mile (thus predicting the scale of the first Ordnance Survey maps of over a 100 years later.

On each map distances are given as miles and furlongs from London, for example the map which shows Hull is on a road map detailing the route from Hull to Flamborough Head with Beverley being ‘178’3′, that is 178 miles and three furlongs from London (possibly London Bridge). Although the figures would be contested today, to produce such disciplined maps must have been a mammoth surveying task and Ogilby presumably had many assistants.

One quote may suffice ‘From Hull, a direct Road conveys you by Newland, where there are several Wood-Bridges over Dikes, and at 175’3 you leave Thorn Church (? maybe Wawne, maybe not) near 3 Furlongs on the Right, and at 178’3 you enter Beverley’.

Gilby’s text on Hull states nothing new and reads very much like a compilation of points from previous writers.

I have a copy of Ogilby’s map from Lincoln to Barton – so long distance travellers following the east coast route north or south could, from 1674 onwards, possibly have maps to guide their way up to and beyond the Humber Estuary.

Ogilby was favoured by Charles II.