Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 6 (4/10/’20).
William Camden, 1551 – 1623, is the second travelogue writer quoted in Descriptions of East Yorkshire: Leland to Defoe (E.Y.L.H.S., 1985) and surely the only one to have a London borough named after him (see later). A friend and supporter of Elizabeth I, Camden published a history of her reign in the later years of his life during the reign of James I. His best known publication was Britannia compiled as the first description of England and researched by Camden’s travels around the country.
Certain pieces of information about Hull suggest that Camden had access to Leland’s writings and chose to repeat certain points (this always a factor when considering the reliability of evidence from travelogue writings across time – a good example being the ‘preambles’ of 19th century trade directories when inaccurate information could be repeated time and again).
Although Camden clearly knew of Edward I’s royal charter of the 1290s he assumed that the town of Hull ‘sprang to life’ at that point, having been previously just ‘cribs for cows’ and ‘sheep-folds’ (see Hull in the Beginning in section three of this website). He writes of rapid progress for Hull in the 14th century, ‘for statley building, strong forts, rich fleets, resort of merchants, and plenty of all things, ’tis without dispute the most celebrated Town in these parts’ (Camden had previously described Beverley and showed a reliable knowledge of its history and was complimentary in general about the town).
As with Leland, before going on to the south Holderness coast (‘Headon’, Patrington and ‘Winsted’) Camden recounts the history of local government in Hull up to, and including, the reign of Elizabeth I.
Like Leland Camden had attended St. Paul’s School and Oxford University, he later taught at Westminster School becoming its 10th headmaster in the 1590s. The painting above shows Camden, antiquarian and landscape writer, in winter attire.
(to be continued)