There is much divergency of opinion amongst the historians of the town as to the condition of the place, which existed upon this site, prior to the time of Edward I. Mr. J. J. Sheahan, in the second edition of his "History of Hull," endeavours to prove, by the testimony of certain ancient documents, that it was "a piece of pasture land containing a few scattered cowsheds and pigcotes," (Page 50) whilst Mr. Charles Frost, an earlier and most painstaking historian, asserts that it was a place of considerable mercantile importance, called Wyk-upon-Hull.(See "Notices relative to the Early History of the Town and Port of Hull," 1827.) The discrepancy between these writers is caused by their holding different opinions as to the site of the ancient vill or town of Wyk, the latter believing it to be the identical site of Kingston, and the former that it lay at a considerable distance from that place.
Sometime during the 13th century the river Hull experienced a change in its course as it neared the Humber. Either as the result of accident or design - probably of both - the stream deserted its ancient bed, which gradually became warped up, and found its way through a new channel - now known as the "Old Harbour " - about half-a-mile further to the east. The Chronica Monasterii de Melsa (Vol. I., p. 169) states that William de Sutton and Benedict de Sculcoates gave to the abbey of Meaux the remaining part of Wyk (reliquam partem del Wyk) which was anciently enclosed on the south by the Humber, and on the west by the old Hull, the latter then dividing the wapentakes of Holderness and Harthill. The Chronicle then proceeds to state that "in process of time the new Hull grew to the east of Wyk, whilst the old river became so warped up as to be scarcely worthy of the name of a sewer; so that the new Hull, which was formerly Sayercryk* became a great river, and the boundary between Holderness and Hart-hill."
* This was formerly believed to have been a creek cut by Sær de Sutton, in the reign of King John, but Mr. John Travis-Cook, in his valuable "Notes relative to the Manor of Myton" (1890), conclusively proves that it was originally a small arm of the Humber, and its name was probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon sæes crecca, meaning sea creek.
The peninsula between the old and the new rivers was the site upon which the town of Kingston-upon-Hull was subsequently built, and Mr. Sheahan is of opinion that Wyk-upon-Hull stood on the old river, whilst Kingston was afterwards built upon the new river. Be this as it may, we can, now that the town has extended, claim that Hull stands upon the site of Wyk-upon-Hull, as well as upon the sites of the ancient townships of Myton, Sculcoates, Drypool, and Southcoates, whose history is now closely identified with that of the modern borough. These townships can boast of a respectable antiquity, being all mentioned in Domesday Book; and the importance of Wyk - which is variously described as Wyk, Le Wyk, Wyk-upon-Hull, and sometimes (and that as early as 1160) as Hull only - both as a town and place of trade* is testified by the grant in 1278 of a market there on Thursday in each week, and an annual fair on the vigil of the Most Holy Trinity, and the 14 following days.
* See also under the heading of 'The Trade of the Port."
The oldest known document relating to the history of any part of Hull is a grant, without date, of lands "del Wyc de Mitune" made to the Abbey of Meaux, probably about the year 1160, by Matilda Camin, This document, which has escaped the ravages of time is preserved amongst the ancient muniments of the corporation. From this grant we learn, in addition to the lordship of Myton, there was also a town of the same name. A chapel existed here at a very early date, as a chapel-of-ease to Hessle, and about which serious complications arose between the vicars of Hessle and the monks of Meaux, which were eventually compromised, in 1204, by the latter paying to the former 100s., in satisfaction of his claim for tithes.
Walter Gray, Archbishop of York, made, in 1239, a grant to his "burgesses dwelling in the town upon Humber, that each of them shall have burgage of 8O feet in width and 160 feet in length" at an annual rent of 4d., "with the same liberties that our burgesses of Beverley enjoy." Canon Raine remarks that "the 'burgus super Humbre' is what became afterwards Kingston-upon-Hull. This is a very curious chapter in the history of the place," as it shows that at least one Archbishop of York claimed to leave the feudal lordship in Wyk; and that as early as the first half of the 13th century it was of sufficient importance to be recognised as "a burg." Mr. Travis-Cook, however, hesitates to accept this grant as genuine.
In 1289 Robert de Scardeburgh, Dean of York, assigned "to the Carmelite Brethren or White Friars" a messuage belonging to him, in Wyk-upon-Hull, for their perpetual habitation. This "habitation" is supposed to have been the precursor of the White Friars' monastery, which subsequently existed at Hull, and the memory of which is preserved to this day in the name of the principal thoroughfare in the old town - Whitefriar Gate.
Mr. J. R. Boyle, in his "Lost Towns of the Humber," states that a friar preacher was sent in 1291 from Beverley to le Wyk, to preach on behalf of the Crusade. We now come to that important epoch in the history of Hull, when its site, together with the manor of Myton, became the property of Edward I. Either from a personal knowledge of the site, or through the representation of Richard Oysel, his bailiff of the Seigniory of Holderness, and a Court favourite, Edward seems to have conceived the idea of establishing a town in so favourable a situation. The Editor of the Chronica Monasterii de Melsa (Edward A. Bond), in his preface to that work, states that the king's desire was "to form a magazine at a port convenient for the embarkation of men and shipment of goods, in the prosecution of his designs on Scotland;" but, as Mr. J. Travis-Cook points out, "nothing of this warlike purpose is mentioned" in the Chronicle itself, which states that the king's desire of obtaining possession of the place was "for the sake of establishing there a port suitable for ships and merchandise." The king entered into negociations with the abbey for the purchase of the place as early as 1287, and it was ultimately exchanged for lands of greater nominal value elsewhere; the deed of feoffment being dated on the Feast of the Purification, 1293. Having thus acquired absolute ownership of the place, the king issued a proclamation offering great freedom, privileges, and immunities to whoever pleased to build and reside there, and he honoured it with the royal appellation of King's-Town or Kingston-upon-Hull, and having put it under the government of a warden (custos) and bailiffs he made it a manor of itself. The first instance in which we meet with the new name, is in a writ of ad quod damnum, dated 5th November, 1294, directed to the king's bailiff of "Kyngeston-super-Hull." The first person appointed to fill the office of warden of the town was Richard Oysel, and it was probably through his influence that the town obtained its first charter. This charter (still in the possession of the corporation) is dated 1st April, 1299, and was granted upon the petition of the inhabitants, presented to the king in person whilst he was keeping Christmas at Baynard Castle, Cottingham, the seat of Lord Wake, in 1298. By this charter the town was made a free borough, with all the privileges of a royal burgh. The inhabitants were empowered to elect a coroner, were to be free from all tolls and customs, enjoy all freedom without scot or lot, to build a prison, hold two markets weekly, and have an annual fair of 30 days' duration. Shrewd persons were not slow to avail themselves of these privileges, and soon flocked thither, and the building of the town commenced.
In the same year that the king's charter was granted, the harbour was improved and rendered more convenient for the reception of shipping. From this period Hull grew rapidly, and it was soon regarded as one of the principal towns of the kingdom, so much so, that when an extensive coinage was anticipated in this reign, it was fixed upon as one of the places were mints were to be established. The mint at Hull had four furnaces, and the coins struck here have on them the legend, Vill de Kyngeston.
The effects of the king's visit were soon evidenced in various improvements by which it was succeeded, and particularly in the pavement of the streets. To defray the expenses of these improvements, a grant was made of certain tolls to be levied on all goods coming to the town for sale. Two years later a commission was granted, on the petition of the warden, to set out the three great highways now in use, leading from Hull to Beverley, to Anlaby, and into Holderness. Though the establishment of these roads necessarily contributed greatly to the prosperity of the town, by facilitating its approach by land, there was still wanting a more ready communication with the neighbouring shore of Lincolnshire. To remedy this defect, a writ ad quod damnum was issued for an inquiry into the propriety of establishing a ferry from Hull to Lincolnshire. The inquiry does not appear to have led to any immediate result, but a ferry between Hull and Barton was established in the following reign - i.e., in 1316. The value of this ferry in 1320 was 40s., in 1356 it was leased at a yearly rent of £53 4s. 0d., and in 1831 at a rent of £800. (It now belongs to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Co., who run their steamers about every half hour to New Holland.)
In 1302 a gallows was erected here. In 1305 Hull returned two burgesses to parliament. After this year there was an omission in sending representatives, until the 12th year of Edward II., after which date the town continued to send two members until 1885, when, on the passing of the Redistribution of Seats Bill, the borough was divided into three parliamentary divisions, and now returns three members.
The town having become of consequence, we find the king addressing a letter to the Pope in 1307, praying for permission for the prior and brethren of the Order of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel to transfer their establishment to a new site, which he had allotted to them, as the place they then inhabited was "insufficient for the accommodation of the multitude of persons who flocked thither to hear divine service." The new Friary was a stately building, extending along the entire south side of Whitefriar Gate.
About the same time a friary of the monks of the order of St. Augustine was established on the east side of Market Gate (now Market Place), and the memory of this institution is still preserved in the name of one of the streets in the old town - Blackfriar Gate - the site of this friary, which is mnentioned as early as 1303, though it is stated that it was founded by Sir Gilf rid de Hotham in 1314. The building was lofty and spacious, and contained a church and cemetery, and was ornamented with curious gardens and fountains. It continued to flourish until the Reformation.
In 1322, the burgesses petitioned King Edward II. for a royal license for encompassing the town with ditches and castellated walls, for the security of this portion of the kingdom, and His Majesty was pleased to comply with their request. The walls extended from the mouth of the river Hull along the bank of the Humber (then reaching up to the present Humber Street), and from the southwest corner of Humber Street to the north end of High Street, in a sort of crescent line. From Humber Street to the end of High Street, the site of these fortifications, is still commonly designated "The Walls," and the three docks - Humber, Prince's, and Queen's - in front of this line of highway occupy the site of the old town moat. There were no fortified works at the east side of the harbour - the Citadel and North Blockhouse being the work of a much later period - but a large chain used to be put down across the mouth of the river from sunset to sunrise. The entrance to the town, from the land side, were first by three castellated gates which stood at the ends of the streets now known as Myton Gate, Whitefriar Gate, and High Street, and were called Myton, Beverley, and North Gates respectively. In later times there were also gates at the ends of Low Gate and Humber Street (called Low and Hessle Gates), a postern at the end of the way, to which it gave the name of Postern Gate, and a sally-port which communicated with the jetty at the south end. From an accurate measurement of the entire line of fortified walls, taken before they were demolished, it appears that they were 2,610 yards in circuit, or 30 yards less than a mile and a half. In front of the principal gates were drawbridges, and along the line of walls were 34 embattled towers at intervals, six of them being gate towers.
In 1328, John Rotenheryng, one of Hull's merchant princes, founded a chantry in Holy Trinity Church, which is said to have been founded in 1285. (MS. Warburton Collection.)
The office of custos or warden of Hull was abolished, and the government of the borough was confided to a mayor and four bailiffs, by a charter, dated the 6th of May, 1331. William de la Pole was the first mayor.
In the following year Edward III., when on his way to join his army in the north, came with a train of nobles and attendants to Hull, "to take a view and prospect of it," and its situation, and the strength of its fortifications, far exceeded his expectations. The monarch and his suite were received by the townspeople with the utmost loyalty, and were magnificently entertained by William de la Pole, whom he knighted before his departure.
After this royal visit, Hull gradually grew into one of the most important towns in the kingdom. By degrees all the flourishing towns in this neighbourhood - such as Barton, Hedon, Patrington, and Ravenser - were drained of their chief inhabitants and trade, which were monopolised by Hull. Indeed, so rapidly did the town progress, that in 1359, or in about 60 years after the date of its first charter, it was called upon to furnish Edward III. with 11 ships and 466 men towards an armament, to which the quota of the city of London amounted only to 25 ships and 662 men.
From the foundation of the town the inhabitants had constantly experienced great difficulty in obtaining fresh water, and in 1376 the mayor and burgesses made a complaint to the king (Edward III.) that the town being situated on the coast of the Humber, and being built on a salt soil, was greatly deficient of that important necessity; nor could they procure any, except such as was brought in boats from Lincolnshire at great expense. They also complained that the neighbouring towns of Hessle, Anlaby, and Cottingham had absolutely refused to aid them in the matter, and that the town would be ruined unless His Majesty would be graciously pleased to point out some method by which their want of water might be effectually relieved. The king immediately issued a Commission to Michael De la Pole and others, who met and determined "that a large canal should be cut from the Anlaby Spring - on the north side of the King's Road - 40 feet broad, to convey fresh water to Hull." The inhabitants of the neighbouring towns could ill brook the withdrawal of their fresh water. They had but little respect for the commandment which told them to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them. They did not comprehend that there was enough of this necessary element both for themselves and for their neighbours. They, therefore, complained to the king, and amongst other objections stated that the making of the proposed canal would considerably injure their lands; whereupon a fresh Commission was issued and a jury impannelled, but the death of the king prevented any permanent result from these proceedings on either side.
The town of Hull did not, at this period, rank high in respect of its population. The number of its inhabitants was estimated at about 2,000 - a capitation tax having in 1377 been laid upon 1,557 persons in the town, exclusive of ecclesiastics, mendicants, and those under the age of 14 years. The accounts of this tax enables us to form a comparative estimate of the population of Hull at that time with that of several other places - its competitors in the race for commercial superiority; the numbers stand as follow : - York, 7,248; Lincoln, 3,412; Lynn, 3,127; Beverley, 2,663; Newcastle-on-Tyne, 2,647; Yarmouth, 1,941; Hull, 1,557; Ipswich, 1,507; Southampton, 1,152; Boston, 814. The entire population of England, as deduced from the accounts of this tax, was 2,290,448.
The death of the valiant and renowned Edward III. threw the town into a state of commotion, and during the reign of his successor (Richard II.), when the Scots were making their inroads into England, and menacing the country from the Tweed to the Humber, the fortifications of Hull were repaired, the ditches cleaned, and a strong castle was built on the east side of the river Hull for the better defence of the town and haven. In 1382 this monarch revived the old charters and enlarged the privileges of the town.
In 1378, Sir Michael de la Pole founded at Hull a Priory of Carthusian monks, which flourished in riches and prosperity until the reign of Henry VIII. The buildings were stately and magnificent, with extensive gardens. The chapel was adorned with splendid altars and pictures, and several chantries were founded in it by the neighbouring gentry and merchants. It was one of the thirty favoured houses which, on the dissolution of the lesser monasteries, enjoyed a temporary preservation from destruction. It was finally suppressed in 1538.
From a very early period the archbishops of York, lords of the town of Beverley, claimed and possessed the rights of prisages on wine, and customs on other merchandise brought into the river and port of Hull. The merchants began about the commencement of the 14th century to contest this claim, and resorted to some fraudulent practices for the purpose of evading the payment of these dues. They adopted the reprehensible practice of discharging their cargoes in the river Humber, and sending the goods into the harbour in vessels of smaller dimensions, by which the archbishop was unjustly deprived of his prisage. These proceedings gave rise to several suits-at-law, which resulted in the maintenance of the prelate's claim, but, notwithstanding this, it was almost impossible for their officers to collect their dues. At length, Archbishop Neville, one of the favourites of the ill-fated Richard II., determined to enforce the restitution of his ancient rights in person. In 1378 he came to Hull, and personally contended the matter with the mayor, Sir Thomas de Waltham, who is said to have been a man of irritable temper. The dispute, warm from the first, grew hotter by degrees, until at length the knight seized the crozier from the hands of his Grace, and with it struck one of the archbishop's attendants. A general assault followed, in which some blood was spilt. Hadley, one of Hull's earliest historians, states that the mayor on this occasion handled the crozier "as if he had been the church militant." Complaint of this outrage being made to the king, the mayor, his bailiffs, and others, were summoned to Westminster, to answer for their conduct, but the records of the town do not give us the end of the story. After the lapse of a whole century of expensive litigation between the Crown and the archbishops, judgment was given for the king, chiefly on the ground that the charter did not contain the words "Prisas Vini" in express terms. After this decision the Archbishops did not claim prisage, but there were other franchises and liberties which, as lords of the port of Hull, they still claimed.
There appears to be no vestige of these claims now remaining except, says Mr. Sheahan, the archbishop's coat of arms over the Cross Keys Hotel, which is a permanent memorial of his former power. [Prisage, one of the chief rights which the archbishops had in the river Hull, according to Blackstone, meant the right of taking two tuns of wine from every ship, English or foreign, importing into England 20 or more tuns. Each cask might be redeemed by a money payment of 20s.]
During several years of the reign of Richard II., England was threatened with foreign invasion and civil war, but the townspeople of Hull, grateful for many privileges conferred upon them, exerted themselves in the king's service, by raising a large body of soldiers, and fitting out, equipping, and manning two large ships of war for his majesty's use. Their fidelity was rewarded by additional grants, favours, and privileges, doubtless obtained at the solicitation of the king's favourite minister, Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.
In the spring of the year 1392, the water troubles again broke out. About 1,000 of the inhabitants of Cottingham, Woolfreton, Anlaby, and other neighbouring villages assembled in a tumultuous manner to obtain satisfaction from the people of Hull for cutting up their fields and depriving them of their fresh water. They banded themselves together in separate armed bodies, over whom leaders were appointed, and bound themselves by solemn oaths to stand by and support each other.
They sent out marauding parties, and compelled numbers to join them under fear of personal violence, and eventually laid siege to Hull, which they threatened to destroy. They diverted the course of the canals, and prevented provisions being conveyed into the town from the country. Finding that they were not able to intimidate the inhabitants, they withdrew in great disorder, and encamped st Cottingham. How long they continued together, or what other acts of hostility they committed is not recorded, but at the Yorkshire assizes following, many of them received sentence of death and were executed, and others were pardoned on certain conditions.
* John Tuttlebury, who was five times mayor of Hull, and an eminent merchant of the town, and not unworthy to be reckoned amongst the Whittingtons, Philpots, and Canynges. He was a considerable benefactor to the churches of Holy Trinity and St. Mary, and after his death his executors founded a chantry in his name in the latter church, in which he was probably buried.
In 1401 the townspeople again complained to the king respecting the inconvenience they were put to in obtaining fresh water. The petitioners declared that many of them would be compelled to leave the town, which would soon be depopulated if some remedy was not applied. The king appointed an inquisition, consisting of John Scroop, Henry Percy, and others, who were empowered to devise and adopt such means as they considered most expedient for supplying the town with water. It was then decided to cut a canal, 12 feet broad and 5 feet deep - the old spring dyke, which flowed by way of Spring Bank and Waterworks Street to the Beverley or Whitefriar Gate - from Julian's Well, through the Anlaby meadows and pastures to the gates of Hull, to be connected with the wells of Derringham and the spring of Haltemprice, and a decree was obtained for the purpose. The townspeople now began to think they would obtain a plentiful supply of water, but they were doomed to disappointment. The opposition again broke out, and the villagers assembled together and drove the workmen from their operations, and filled up the excavations. They were ultimately dispersed, and many of them taken prisoners. After being detained for some time in prison at Hull, the delinquents were pardoned on condition that they publicly prayed for mercy and forgiveness from the mayor, bailiff, and commonalty, and went "bare hede and bare fote, naked of bodi in serk and breke, before processyon on the Friday in the Fest of Nativiti of Our Ladi, ilk one wyth a serge in his hand of thre pond wax birnand in his hand about the Kirk of the Triniti, and held ye serge birnand in the chancel, fra beginning of the Mass unto time of offering, and then offered the serge up, to bryne in Halidays whilk wil last in remembrance in part satisfauction of their trespaus." This penance was to be publicly performed every year, and they were not to offend again under pain of heavy fines. A few years later this interminable contention again broke out. Undismayed by the severities inflicted upon former offenders, the villagers frequently corrupted the fresh water by throwing in carrion of all kinds into the dyke, or by damaging the banks. The townspeople finding the malicious and daring offenders could not be restrained through fear of temporal punishments, resolved to appeal to the spiritual tribunal of the See of Rome. They earnestly besought Pope John XXI. to hurl against the offenders the censures of the church. But instead of excommunicating the offenders, the Holy Father issued to them a solemn expostulation, dated at Rome, the 20th July, 1413, reminding them of the judgments to come, and the strict account they must give of their unchristian behaviour. He exhorted every one of them by the bowels of charity to contribute freely to the maintenance of the water courses, by which means they would in some measure atone for their past offences. To all who should be instrumental in promoting this public work, he offered a release of 100 days in any penance that was already or might thereafter be enjoined them. The effect of this communication was truly astonishing. From this time all attempts to corrupt or divert the waters were discontinued, and the untameable rustics, whom no severities could check, and no punishments restrain, were led into child-like submission, by the judicious and timely appeal of the Bishop of Rome.
On the 18th of March, 1413, King Henry V. wrote to the mayor and burgesses of Hull, demanding a supply of ships and men to assist in prosecuting his intended invasion of France. The mayor and burgesses replied "that they have, and at all times will ever use their utmost diligence to serve him, and that they have discoursed with several owners of ships and inhabitants of the town, and find them well disposed to do the king's pleasure, and to furnish him with a ship or ships if the king will order the managing and victualling thereof."
Notwithstanding the coolness of this reply, it is stated that the town supplied His Majesty with several ships of great burthen, and many soldiers for this expedition. On the 10th of December, 1414, the king granted a new charter to the town, probably in return for the services rendered in the previous year. It appears that about this time, all kinds of merchandise were exposed for public sale on the Lord's Day, for in 1414, the mayor, John Bedford, issued the following orders : -
"That no markets be held on Sunday, nor any merchandise or goods sold thereon, under a penalty of 6s. 8d. to the seller, and 3s. 4d. to the buyer, except according to the ancient custom from Lammas to Michaelmas.
"That no butcher sell or expose to sale any meat on Sunday, on the aforesaid penalty.
"That no cooks nor victuallers dress any meat on Sunday, except for strangers, and that too before eleven o'clock.
"That no tradesmen keep their shops open on Sunday, or sell any goods; nor any vintners or ale sellers deliver or sell ale or wine on Sundays, under the aforesaid penalties.
"Any person who shall inform against transgressors shall be entitled to oneeighth over and above the half of the sums so forfeited, provided he acted out of pure zeal, devoid of self interest or malice."
The ancient custom of holding Sunday markets, from Lammas to Michaelmas, probably arose in consequence of the population of the country being required st those times, during the week-days, to get in the harvests, therefore, such Sunday markets were permitted to continue as theretofore.
In November, 1427, Henry VI. licensed the Mayor of Hull, for the time being, for the ten years then next ensuing, to take a duty from every ship of the burden of 120 tons and more, coming from the sea into the river Humber, 12d.; from ships of 100 tons burden, 8d.; and from vessels of less burden, 4d., to be applied and expended upon the completion of a "certain tower" or beacon light, commenced by Richard Reedbarowe, "Heremyt of the Chapell of Our Lady and Seint Anne, atte Ravensersporne. " (See Boyle's "Lost Towns of the Humber," p. 61.) This was the origin of the present Spurn light.
Twelve-and-a-half years later this monarch granted a fresh charter to the town, "in consideration of the loyalty and faithful services to him and his predecessors by the town of Hull," whereby he renewed and confirmed all its former charters, made it a corporate town, placing its government in hands of a mayor, recorder, sheriff, and 12 aldermen, who were to be justices of the peace, and at the same time constituted it, with its precincts, a county of itself, * comprising the towns and parishes of Hessle, North Ferriby, Swanland, West Ella, Kirk Ella, Tranby, Willerby, Wolfreton, Anlaby, and the site of the Priory of Haltemprise.
* Hullshire, or the town and county of Kingston-upon-Hull, extends from Hull westward to Swanland, a distance of about nine miles in length, and from the Humber northward to Hunsley Beacon Division, an average distance of two miles in breadth.
By another charter, dated the 2nd of July in the same year, Henry ordered that the mayors of Hull for the future, and the aldermen, should wear scarlet gowns and hoods lined with fur, after the manner of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London, and that the mayor should have a state sword, a mace, and a cap of maintenance carried before them. Of these favours the townspeople were not unmindful, and when, in the following year, the king sent a letter, dated 24th August, 1441, to the mayor and aldermen, soliciting a loan of "such a notable sum of money, to be paid in hand, as our servant, the bearer, shall desire," the request was "generously complied with," but the sum advanced is not recorded.
About this time it was ordained by common consent, at the Town's Hall, "that no mayor should debase his honourable office by selling (during his mayoralty) ale or wine in his house." "That whenever the mayor appeared in public, he should have the sword carried before him, and his officers should constantly attend him; also that he should cause everything to be done for the honour of the town, and should not hold his office for two years together." "That
the sheriff should always go to Church and the Town Hall in his gown, with the mace carried before him, and his officers attending upon him." "That no alderman should keep ale-houses or taverns, nor absent themselves from the town's business, nor discover what is said in the Councils, under heavy penalties."
From these ordinances we may infer that, prior to this time, much laxity and want of dignity had existed amongst the members of the corporation. Whether the passing of the above regulations infused new spirit into them, or whether they were already possessed thereof, it is certain that, shortly afterwards, they set vigorously to work to improve the condition of the town. In 1443, "in order better to govern the town," they petitioned the king for leave to divide the town into six wards, which request was granted. Each of these wards was governed by two aldermen, the mayor presiding as head of the whole. The aldermen were obliged to reside in their respective wards; and for crimes committed in each of these divisions, the offenders were tried and punished by the aldermen of the ward wherein they had transgressed, and not before the mayor. By this division, the town was parcelled out into six little territories, each having its own bars and gates, which were closed every night. These divisions were called Humber Ward, Austin Ward, Trinity Ward, Whitefriar Ward, St. Mary's Ward, and North Ward.
In 1447, the king empowered the magistrates to choose two coroners, one for the town and another for the county; and granted that after the decease of the Duke of Exeter - the then admiral of the Humber - and his son, who had a reversion of the office, they might elect an admiral whose jurisdiction was extended over the whole of the county of Kingston-upon-Hull, the village and precincts of Drypool, and all the river Humber; and that no admiral of England should have any power or authority within his limits. The mayor of Hull is now by custom, in virtue of his office, admiral of the Humber. By the same charter - which was witnessed by John, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of England, and Legate of the Holy See - the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses were empowered to cause wells or springs to be dug within their county, and to convey the water thence by conduits or pipes under the earth, or by any other means. The corporation thereupon purchased the Julian and Derringham springs at Anlaby, then in their county, and cut a dyke to convey fresh water therefrom, and by means of pipes they distributed the same to the town. These favours filled the townspeople with such joy that nothing was heard but the loudest praise of their royal benefactor. These expressions of loyalty were undoubtedly sincere, for when those intestine contests between the houses of York and Lancaster, which shook the country to its centre, raged so fiercely, the town continued to the last firm and unshaken in its fidelity to the house of Lancaster.
In September, 1448, King Henry made a progress into the north, and having passed some days at Leconfield with the Duke of Northumberland, son of Hotspur Percy, he honoured Hull with a visit, and was received by the townspeople with every demonstration of loyalty, and was entertained by the corporation for several days with all possible magnificence.
This same year a suit was commenced between the burgesses of Hull and the men of Beverley, respecting the passage of the vessels of the latter through the river Hull into the lumber, free of toll. This suit was tried in the Star Chamber, at Westminster. On the part of Hull it was shown that the haven belonged to the burgesses of that place by a grant of Richard II. To this the counsel for Beverley answered that the men of that town had always a free passage through the river Hull to the Humber, and they produced their charters in support of their claim. To this it was rejoined that the then outlet to the Humber was not the river Hull, that the mouth of the Hull had long been warped up by the diversion of its current into Sayer's Creek, and that, therefore, though they admitted the rights of the Beverley men in the waters of the Hull, they denied that any such rights extended to Sayer's Creek. The contest was protracted through a long period. "It must," says Dr. Oliver, "be concluded that the town of Beverley had the advantage, for a decision was not given against them, and they continued to trade as formerly, without being subject to the imposition of toll."
The period we are now treating of abounded with great merchants, and one of the most eminent was (His. "Beverley," p. 159.) John Taverner, of Hull, who had a royal license granted him in 1449, conferring on him great privileges and exemptions as a merchant, for having "built a ship as large as a great [Venetian] Carrack." (See Cassel's "History of England," ii., 64.) "The exemption of an English subject," says Macpherson, in his History of Commerce, "from 'the Law of the Staple,' in consideration of the extraordinary size of his ship, is a clear proof that no such vessel as this had hitherto been built in England." This vessel was christened by the king himself, who named her the "Carrack Grace Dieu."
In 1452 the Members of Parliament for Hull were each paid 2s. per day for their services whilst attending their parliamentary duties. In the same year, according to the Town's Records, it was ordered, inter alia: That no man purchase any victuals coming to the market before they got thither, under a penalty of 3s. 4d. That no person dwelling within the town buy any fish, flesh, or wild fowl, to sell again to another inhabitant, under the penalty of forfeiting the same, imprisonment of body, and fine to the king. That no one sell or buy any bread in the town, but what is made or baked therein. That no one presume to sell a pound of candles for more than a 1d., nor a gallon of small ale for more than a 1d. That all butchers cut their flesh in pieces, and sell it by half-pennyworths, pennyworths, two pennyworths, or more as the burgesses may need, and according to the quantity and quality." These old ordinances are curious, and throw considerable light on the manners and customs of the fifteenth century.
During the internecine struggle between the Houses of York and Lancaster, the people of Hull made enormous sacrifices in token of their gratitude to their benenfactor, Henry VI. According to the Town's Records, large levies of men were made during the contest, and a debt, to a very large amount, was contracted. In December, 1460, the then mayor, Richard Hanson, after putting the town into a posture of defence, assembled three companies of the bravest men in the town and county, and, marching at their head, joined the army of the heroic Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI., and distinguished himself by his valour and intrepidity at the battle of Wakefield, fought on Christmas Eve. He led his followers on to the attack of the Duke of York's forces, and all fought with the greatest courage till the mayor "fell, covered with wounds, in the moment of victory, in the presence of the queen." In the same battle, Captain Hanson, his son, fighting for the opposite party, was taken prisoner and beheaded with the Duke of York and others, and their heads were placed above Mickle Gate Bar, at York.
Despite the death of its valiant mayor and its other losses at Wakefield, the town records show that large levies of men were subsequently made for service in the Lancastrian cause. These were joined to King Henry's army, and took part in the celebrated battle of Towton, fought on Palm Sunday (29th April), 1461. During this battle a snow storm was blowing full in the faces of the Lancastrians, which prevented them seeing their opponents, and after five hours furious fighting they suffered a terrible defeat. It is said that 38,000 perished in this memorable battle. (See Cassel's History of England, 609.) Notwithstanding that this battle destroyed all hope of the success of the Lancastrian party, Hull remained firm in its allegiance to Henry VI. So great was the drain upon the public treasury, that in 1462, the town's coffers being empty, the corporation were obliged to pull down the large stately market cross, which had been erected about 35 years before, and sell the lead and materials in order to raise money to pay the town's debts. When this cross was erected, Robert Holme, a wealthy alderman, who had thrice filled the mayoral chair, was the chief contributor. In gratitude to him, and to perpetuate his memory, we are told by Tickell that the corporation ordained, when the cross was taken down, that 3s. 4d. should be given yearly for singing of a dirge in St. Mary's church, for the repose of his soul. The dirge was to be sung by 12 priests and a clerk, who were to have 2s. 2d. divided amongst them; for ringing the bell on the day of celebration, 6d. was given; for wax candles to be burnt about his grave, 6d.; to the bellman for crying his name, 2d.; and a penny for a mass penny was to be offered yearly by the mayor. (See Tickell's History of Hull, p. 117.)
On the accession of Edward IV. to the throne, the townspeople were reluctant to acknowledge him as their sovereign. In 1464, the unfortunate Henry VI. having raised an army, entered Northumberland, took Bamborough Castle, and marched through Durham, with the intention of coming to Hull. Edward having learned of his design, sent forces to meet him, whilst he himself, with his brothers and several of the nobility, came to Barton-on-Humber, and unexpectedly crossing the Humber, took possession of Hull, into which he threw a strong garrison, and thence proceeded to York. The haven of Hull about this time became warped up, and was in danger of being totally ruined. To aid in liquidating the expense of clearing and restoring it to its former utility, a tax of 3s. 4d. was laid upon every ship of 100 tons burden, each time it entered the haven. No sooner was Henry VI. restored, by the aid of Warwick the king maker, than the people of Hull again expressed their allegiance to the Lancastrian King. Edward having been declared a usurper by Parliament, as Henry had been by the same authority, quitted England, whither he returned after an absence of eight months, landing at Ravenser Spurn on the 14th March, 1471. From that place he marched with his small army to York, by way of Beverley, and Holinshed tells us in his Chronicle that "he sent also to Kingston-upon-Hull, distant from thence six miles, willing that he might be their received; but the inhabitants, who had bene laboured by his adversaries, refused in anie wise to grant thereunto." Personally he did not venture to visit the town.