5th December, 2019 Misc. Hessle Local History Society.

Incidentally it is six years to the day that I was flooded-out at South Ferriby – 6-30pm – and now I live on another floodplain!

Have for some years been a member of Hessle Local History Soc., Hessle being now a suburb of west Hull but still in the unitary authority of the East Riding of Yorkshire, as it was in the former county of the East Yorkshire when an entirely separate (from Hull) community (see The History of Hessle Common (south-west Hull) in the Articles and Publications section of this website). This year I haven’t got to a single public meeting of the Society, a fact made more regrettable when reading articles about the talks in their recent Newsletter (cover page see above).

Back in July members of the Society were entertained by a virtual tour of Willerby (another Hull suburb, once a village) which, as well as including the period buildings, reached into the surrounding farmland to the site of Haltemprice Augustinian priory founded in the early 14th century. It sounded really instructive.

The article summarising Ian Wilkinson’s talk on certain aspects of Hessle municipal cemetery made for excellent reading. As well as outlining the early history of the site, and later extensions, Ian had thoroughly researched the biographies of a collection of the people commemorated by certain monuments in the cemetery. This is one aspect of cemetery studies (for another see the article that includes a history of Barton Cemetery in the Articles and Publications section of this website). The figures shown in relief in the picture above are of Lydia Stather and her husband and were said to be ‘remarkably lifelike’.

Michael Free, Treasurer of Hessle Local History Society, also spoke of Lydia along with other persons significant in the history of Hessle. This talk also was composed of a series of potted biographies and, as with all Michael’s presentations, must have been preceded by a great deal of research.

Well done Hessle Local History Society.


4th December, 2019 Misc. 14,000 sheep.

Apologies again for ‘break in transmission’ further problems with laptop.

The photo above is of a Croatian sheep.

Just over a week ago I had an email from Animals Australia, a worthy charity that I have occasionally donated to, with the awful news that a Romanian ship transporting 14000 live animals to the Middle East had capsized in relatively shallow water at the harbour mouth. The photo showed the ship lying on its side half submerged. It was clear that the majority of the sheep would have drowned or been crushed to death as they would have been thrown all to one side of the hold. A few it seems had been plucked from the ship alive and were being ‘cared for’.

The enormity of this event beggars belief in the 21st century. The issue of live export of farm animals is a contentious one, a number of animal welfare charities around the world, such as Compassion in World Farming in Britain and Europe, are campaigning for a complete ban on the export of live animals. This shipment of live animals was from an E.U. country!!, the sale of these animals is to a part of the world where they are killed without being stunned first and with little or no regard for animal welfare.

There is much talk of ‘trade’ with a looming election and Brexit, as if, in a 19th century Free Trade mind-set, any trade takes on the garb of a virtue. Searching questions about the ‘trade’ need to be far more to the fore.

As if to rub salt in the wounds I found no other reference to this disaster in the media, although admittedly I have never regularly taken a daily newspaper. Other priorities existed, as if anything was more newsworthy than events at this Romanian port.

Animal rights, economic rights, religious rites, international rights, human rights, what is the rank order of moral lore? And whose news is it anyway?

26th November, 2019 Twigmoor Woods 3,

I have a copy of a leaflet published 1992 (see above cover page), Glanford was then the middle tier of the county council local government structure of Humberside. Glanford’s area covered the region between and around Barton and Brigg, it had existed as a local government area before the creation of Humberside County in 1973 as an area within the jurisdiction of Lindsey County Council (the ‘north riding of Lincolnshire’). Although it doesn’t state it much of the text will have been prepared by Miles Hopper (s.p.b.). I will record here a few of the comments written under the side heading of ‘Birds and Plants’ with a couple of personal observations.

‘Along with nearby Broughton Woods, Twigmoor was well known to visiting Victorian naturalists for its variety of wildlife’ (s.p.b.s).

‘Some of the once common birds such as nightjar, woodlark, redstart, whinchat and hawfinch have gone or are now in very low numbers’. Miles was philosophical about declining populations arguing that population totals rise and fall naturally.

‘The tiny goldcrest breeds, usually in the scattered yew trees where their nests are hard to spot. During the winter they often join mixed flocks of other insect eating birds that roam the woodlands in search of food’. It is always interesting to watch flocks of mixed species, usually a winter feature – starlings and sparrows, ducks and geese – it shows a brotherliness in Nature.

‘The dense rhododendron thickets are popular winter roosts and often hold large numbers of finches and other species that flight to the woods at dusk’.

‘The mixed woodland and heath habitats hold a wealth of flowering plants’ … where the ‘blown sands’ lie on peat ‘acidic conditions are created while shallow sand over limestone allows lime loving flora to thrive’.

‘Hundreds of years of rabbit grazing (s.p.b.s) has created almost lawn-like areas of low grasses and ground hugging flowers’.

‘A notable summer-time feature of the woods are the numbers of dragon-flies’.


25th November, 2019 Twigmoor Woods 2.

The above 25” map extract shows Twigmoor Woods south of the M180 and to the west of the road leading south from the A18 en-route for Kirton Lindsey, the phrase ‘Gull Ponds’ is used on the map but these are now more wetland/marsh than ponds. In the south-west corner of the map extract is shown an area of lowland heath, now a type of natural environment that is very rare. The lowland heath is not criss-crossed by footpaths as is Twigmoor Woods. In the top-right corner of the map extract is a small section of Broughton Woods, an area designated as ‘ancient woodland’ as surviving documentary evidence shows that parts of the Woods have been regenerating continuously since 1600 at least, if not before. Few of England’s woodlands are designated ‘ancient’. Broughton Woods is also criss-crossed by a network of paths, accessed from the roadside of the road leading into Broughton village from Barton and Appleby, much of the course of this road following the route of the Roman Ermine Street.

Twigmoor Woods is very well worth a visit to view the diversity of trees and shrubs, the latter especially so in May when the large azalea and rhododendron bushes are in full flower. The ground is hummocky and can be muddy under foot after heavy or continuous rain. The soil is sandy, an area of ‘cover sands’, wind-blown unconsolidated sand blown east after the retreat of the last ice-age’s ice-sheets, c. 20,000 years ago. Much of the land around Scunthorpe is cover-sands, this explaining why the town is surrounded by fine woodlands, the soil being very ‘thin’ for arable agriculture and prone to any seed-beds being wind-blown in the spring.

Cover sands were also once much used as ‘coney (rabbit) warrens’, it was easy for the rabbits to dig their burrows within the walled or fenced enclosures. Brigg was, in Victorian times, a national centre for the curing and processing rabbit skins and for the making of rabbit-skin hats (warm). Rabbit meat figured in most local cooking pots.

24th November, 2019 ‘Free movement’ of gulls.

The unprecedented levels of rainfall throughout October and November (particularly) have led to much flooding with ground saturated and a resulting build-up of surface water. In Pearson Park, Hull this has resulted in a large percentage of the Park’s grass areas becoming shallow lakes showing, as water always does, the slightly lower-lying areas in a surface that normally appears quite level. Ducks, geese and gulls clearly found this new environment very appealing, the ducks and geese normally on the Park pond moving en-bloc to a newly created pool while another water area became colonised by a large flock of gulls. Whether this was just the attraction of the new or that the grass base to the pool presented new opportunities I can only guess as we have not learned to talk their languages (sadly).

Slightly further afield on Oak Road Playing Fields (otherwise known as George V p.f. as they were being developed by Hull City Council early in his reign) even larger areas of standing water had formed, these colonised by thousands, literally, of seagulls.

Of course many gulls spend little time at the coast especially so if they can find ample food supplies in urban areas, plus flying out to the countryside when any field is being ploughed or cultivated this unearthing grubs and worms, and nesting sites on the ledges of buildings and the like.

This theme reminds me of Twigmoor Woods in North Lincolnshire, south-east of Scunthorpe. Back in the inter-war years it was a destination for many bus-trips so people could explore the diverse plants/shrubs and trees but also the bird-life, in particular a colony of black headed gulls living in and around the ponds (now mostly dried-up) all through the year and nesting in the trees. I was told this by the late Miles Hopper, naturalist and writer, who lived in Barton.

(will continue theme of Twigmoor Woods and woodland around Scunthorpe next time).

18th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull 7.

The final element of the Pearson Park Restoration Scheme as listed on the public information board (s.p.b.s) is ‘Refurbishment of statues and memorials around the Park including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert statues and the drinking fountain’. From the outset I have to admit that I am no fan of statues – they make ‘great’ individuals (usually dead) who future generations may, on the basis of further evidence or changing attitudes, think less highly of – witness present disputes about statues of colonial dignitaries (Queen Victoria was given title of ‘Empress of India’ at a time when the ‘sun never set on the British Empire’). Another tendency with statues was for the sculptor to make the figure appear grand more than to be realistic.

This was achieved by Earle (a well known local Victorian sculptor who, I presume, created these two statues) by showing Prince Albert in a statesman-like pose and with a hair-style like that of a Roman emperor which, from the evidence of an early portrait photograph dated 1860 (one year before his death), he did not have. Queen Victoria is portrayed with a mass of flowing garments, her face possibly ‘youthful’ for someone in their late 40s but the real give-away is the fact that the sculpture shows her seated in a chair typical of those seen in Roman mosaics – a beautiful empress. Minutes of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee of the Municipal Council from the early 20th century record that at one point the Queen (statue) ‘lost’ two fingers. Problems with acquiring a matching marble resulted in the whole hand having to be replaced – which hand is not recorded.

Albert and Victoria were married in 1839 two years after she had become queen. They visited Hull on a state visit in the 1850s, Paragon station hotel afterwards becoming the Royal Station Hotel. Pearson Park had not been established at that point. Albert died in 1861, Victoria in 1901.