Descriptions of Hull 16th to 18th centuries 8 (6/10/’20).

The third travelogue writer chosen by Dr, Woodward (Descriptions of East Yorkshire: Leland to Defoe (E.Y.L.H.S., 1985) was John Evelyn (1620-1706) who briefly visited Hull during the Commonwealth era of the 1650s. Evelyn was a royalist sympathiser who had escaped to the continent during the Civil Wars, 1642-1651. He was born into a wealthy family and indulged an interest in travelling at home and abroad. Post Restoration, 1660, he gained a series of public/government posts having developed into a polymath with a wide range of interests and having ‘discourses’ published on a wide range of topics but especially arboriculture and horticulture – The Compleat Gardener, The French Gardener, A Discourse of Sallets (salad crops) and Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber – Evelyn would have applauded the 21st century resolve to plant more trees to help combat climate change.

The portrait above was painted when he was 21 years of age.

In mid-Summer 1654 Evelyn travelled to Hull from Beverley and, after a short stay left for Barton by ferry from Blackfriargate staithe.

Evelyn’s few comments on Hull begin with his summary of the topography between Beverley and Hull (the Hull valley floodplain) ‘fenny but rich country’. He then sums-up Hull as being ‘situate like Calais, modernly and strongly fortified’. Whether he chooses to Compare Hull with Calais because of their coastal locations or similarity of their fortifications (roughly contemporary) seems unclear. By the seventeenth century Calais was again in French hands having been re-captured during the reign of Mary I. It had been captured and fortified during the reign of Edward I and subsequently controlled much of the English trade in woollen cloth. By the time of his diary extract on Hull Evelyn had travelled much abroad.

As a royalist Evelyn then comments on Governor Hotham’s ‘refusing entrance to his Majesty’ and then ends by stating that ‘The water-house is worth seeing’, the context here being a mystery to me.