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A History of Kingston on Hull
from Bulmer's Gazetteer (1892)

Part 3


1550 - Edward VI.

In the reign of Edward VI., it was directed, by royal ordinance, that all images and pictures should be removed out of the churches of the kingdom, and those that had hitherto been displayed at the church of the Holy Trinity at Hull were committed publicly to the flames. In the same reign, the king granted to the corporation the manor of the town, the manor of Tupcoates-with-Myton, the sixth part of the manor of Sutton, the patronage of the Charter House Hospital, and all the jurisdictions, ecclesiastical or civil, within the town and county of Hull, and made them keepers of the citadel and military works, giving them his rents and profits, with £50 added to support the same, which, at the same time, he cut off from the county of York and added to the county of Hull. With this measure of local self-government, the town received a fresh forward impetus, and its size and trade increased.

That singular and fatal malady called the sweating sickness broke out in Hull in 1651, and its effects were severely felt.

In 1553, the Cloth Hall was let this year to John Thornton, Mayor, for the term of 40 years, at a rental of £6 13s. 4d. In ancient times, all the cloths brought here had to be examined in this hall - situate in the High Street, above the archway leading into George Yard - before they were exposed for sale by strangers, under a penalty of 3s. 8d. for every neglect. This custom had for some time been discontinued, but was now revived.

The short but troubled reign of Mary passed over without making any important additions to the records of this place. Indeed, the rapid and repeated changes in religion under Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth seem to have excited here no very marked sensations or alterations.

In the first year of the reign of the "Virgin Queen," the long-pending dispute between the burgesses of Beverley and Hull, relative to the right of free passage through the harbour to the Humber, was again revived. The dispute was, as before, referred to arbitration. The five arbitrators were Robert Wright, of Welwick; Robert Constable, of Hotham; Thomas Grimston, of Goodmanham; Anthony Smeatheley, of Brantingham; and Thomas Dowman, of Pocklington. The award of these gentlemen dated at Kingston-upon-Hull, 12th June, 1559, was unfavourable to Hull, for it was directed that the mayor and burgesses should for ever in future permit, not only the vessels belonging to Beverley, but also the vessels of all other towns adjoining the river, freely to pass through the harbour, with their masts standing, without being called upon to pay any toll for passing through the north bridge - erected by Henry VIII. - but that, in consideration of the expense of opening the said bridge, the town of Beverley should pay to the burgesses of Hull £30. Thus was this vexata questio finally disposed of.

In this year (1559) an obstinate gentleman, called Gregory, was chosen Sheriff of Hull, but from some cause, not recorded, he refused to act in the office. The magistrates represented the matter to the Queen in Council, and he was ordered to be fined in the sum of £100, to be disfranchised, and to be turned out of the town, which penalties were duly inflicted. In 1561, the keys of all the staithes were ordered to be brought nightly to the mayor. In October, 1567, the Lord Regent of Scotland (Lord Morton), and Henry Carey, Lord Hunsden (cousin of Queen Elizabeth), and several Scottish noblemen, came to this town on their way to London, and were nobly entertained for two days. About the same time the Earl of Sussex, Lord President and Lieutenant-General of all her majesty's forces in the north, spent some days in Hull. The principal object of his visit was to survey the state of the fortifications, and to examine whether the town was in a fit condition to withstand a foreign invasion. He ordered the walls and gates, which were at that time in a bad condition, to be immediately repaired, and the moat to be cleaned out.

In this year the Catholics made their last public attempt to restore their religion, by assembling to the number of 1,600 horse and 4,000 foot, under the command of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland. The "rebels" sent a party to surprise Hull, where, it is said, they expected to receive considerable aid from abroad. They had a party in the town, the chief of whom was one Smith, who was engaged in the night time to throw open the town's gates and admit the insurgents. But before the design could be carried out the plot was discovered. Smith was apprehended, and upon examination - probably under torture - confessed all he knew of the affair and discovered his accomplices, who were all secured and punished.

In 1571, another destructive tide arose in the river Humber; the streets and the lower stories of the houses were covered with water, and immense damage was occasioned to the property of the inhabitants. Five years later the Plague was again brought here, by some seamen, from neglect of quarantine. This fatal disease was, however, confined to Blackfriargate, which was so severely afflicted by it, that it was deemed necessary to wall up all entrances leading to that street, leaving only two doors, where watchmen were placed to take in food and medicine, and to see that none made their escape. These precautions had the desired effect. The epidemic speedily subsided, and not more than 100 persons fell victims to it. After the contagion had ceased, we read that the authorities of the town, observing "the vanity and pride of the ladies, and their extravagant fondness of dress," published her majesty's proclamation for the reformation of excess in apparel. This proclamation was read in the churches of the town, but the ladies paid little regard to it, for towards the end of the year 1577 a more coercive declaration was read in the churches, charging every woman, under an Act of the 32nd of Henry VIII., who wore velvet, to find a light horseman to serve in the queen's wars, as in the said statute is ordained. This proclamation evidently had the desired effect, as we have no records of any of the fair inhabitants incurring the statutory penalty.

Some years after the reformed religion had been firmly established "by law" in this kingdom, the Rev. John Tickell tells us that "the sins of fornication and adultery were so prevalent in Hull, that the magistrates were obliged to issue out the strictest orders relative to those vices, and use all means in their power to suppress them." They even wrote to the Archbishop of York for his approbation of what they had done, and to request his advice how they might most effectually punish the offenders. His Grace of York replied in a letter, dated at Bishopthorpe, 20th July, 1574, in which he sanctions the punishment of persons charged with the commission of these "abominable and heinous crimes * * * according as has been used in the City of London or other well-governed cities or towns corporate." The churchwardens and sidesmen were directed to visit the alehouses, and search the streets and closes, and to present the names of all such as were sinfully spending or idly wasting their time, when they should have been attending in some place of worship. In 1582 the archbishop granted an ecclesiastical commission, to authorise and empower the mayor and aldermen of Hull, to suppress the gross immoralities of the times by severely punishing the guilty, without any respect to the outward circumstances of the offenders.

Prosperity and Pirates.

Hull was now enjoying a floodtide of prosperity, and the wealth of her ships tempted the cupidity of the pirates, by which the seas were then infested, till st length the Lord High Admiral of England required the town to fit up two ships of war to protect the Humber's mouth and east coast. These ships, being well equipped and manned, sailed in quest of the maritime robbers, and they had soon the good fortune to capture several of them, and to bring them into Hull. A special commission, at which the Earl of Huntingdon presided, attended by the mayor and aldermen as judges, was soon assembled here, when six of the pirates were found guilty, and condemned to death. The sentence was duly carried out, and their bodies were hung in chains along the adjacent coast.

In 1583, the prisons being full of criminals, the Earl of Huntington (the Lord President of the North), at the request of the mayor and aldermen, came and sat as judge to try them. Three persons were convicted of felony, and suffered the punishment of death, and three poor old women were tried for witchcraft, one of whom was sentenced to stand in the pillory on four separate market days, and suffer a year's imprisonment; nor did the players experience more lenient treatment than the witches. In 1598, the mayor issued a proclamation in which "divers idle lewd persons, players or sellers out of plays" were denounced, and in which it was ordered that every man and woman who should be present at a play within the town should forfeit 2s. 6d. for every time. About the same time we are told, by Tickell, that the Lord President of the North sent to this town several "Popish recusants" to be kept in close confinement here - many of them priests. "The cruel penal laws enacted in this reign for the extirpation of the Catholic religion awarded the punishment of death in its most hideous form to ordain a Catholic priest within the kingdom; death to a Catholic priest to enter the kingdom from abroad; death to harbour such a priest; death to confess to such a priest; death for a priest to celebrate mass; death for a Catholic to attend at mass; and death to deny that the queen was head of the church."* The castle at Hull was almost exclusively used at this time for religious offenders, who were treated with the usual rigour of the Tudor times. Amongst those who were imprisoned here for their religious opinions we know of the following : - Sir Thomas Bowlton, priest, who, after being imprisoned in York Castle "in the 1st year of her majesty's reign," was "removed to Hull Blockhouse," where he "remained about eight years, and then banished beyond the seas." (Notes by a prisoner in Ousebridge Kidcote. Original MS. at Stonyhurst College.) Sir Henry Comberforth, priest, after being a prisoner for six years at Ousebridge, was "removed to Hull Blockhouse, remaining there a close prisoner about 10 years, and there died." (Ibid.) Dr. Vavasor, a physician of York, an adroit controversialist, who had put the Archbishop of York himself "to shame" in a public disputation. The archbishop, writing to Cecil, then Lord Burghley, on the 3rd August, 1569, concerning this gentleman, says : - " My Lord President and I, knowing his disposition to talk, thought it not good to commit the said Dr. Vavasor to the Castle of York, where some other like-affected prisoners remain, but rather to a solitary prison in the queen's majesty's castle at Hull, where he shall only talk to walls." Another prisoner here was Mrs. Anne Landers, a gentlewoman of York, who, after being twice imprisoned in the castle of that city, was removed to the castle of Hull. "The terror and fearful report of the hard and cruel usage of Catholics did not dismay her, being suddenly separated from her husband (an attorney) and children, and committed to a cruel and unmerciful keeper. There she lived five or six years, suffering with great constancy, patience, and Christian fortitude, and comforting all other afflicted Catholics, her fellow-prisoners, and relieving them with great alms. At length she was called for by warrant to London, to the same prison where her husband was * * * they both departed this life in the counter (or the clink)." (See The Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, third series, p. 323. - London, 1877.) One of the many prisons in which Sir John Townley, of Townley, Lancashire, was imprisoned, "for professing the Apostolick Roman Catholic Faith," was "the Blockhouses in Hull," and Mr. Horsley, a gentleman of the north, was twice imprisoned here. On his second imprisonment at Hull he was "monstrously abused, for he was there arraigned, and condemned to have his ears cut off, and cruelly they did (so). Then the tyrants put him in a filthy place and prison, called the hall, and kept him straitly, for he was thought to be a Catholic, and, therefore, they fined him, for he was glad to eat crusts, which some threw in at the window. Thus starving him he died, and lay dead so long (how long none knoweth) that the rats had eaten his face and other places (parts)." (See Father Green's MSS. in the English College at Rome, Vol. F.) In Dr. Champney's History of Duoai College it is stated that "many Catholics were kept prisoners, for their conscience, in Hull Castle, and no one was allowed to have access to them, or speak to them, otherwise than in the presence of the keeper, who was a bitter enemy of their religion." Yet two missionary priests, Fathers Andleby and Atkinson, both of whom were afterwards executed, at York, for being "Romish priests," the former in 1597 and the latter in 1616, "with incredible labour and danger, in spite of moats and walls, gates and bars, found means, several times, to come to them, and to comfort and assist them."

* Sheahan & Whellan's History and Topography of the City of York and the East Riding of Yorkshire - Vol. I., p. 206.

In 1582, Sir Francis Walsingham, Knt., the then Secretary of State, wrote to the magistrates, praying that he might be appointed Lord High Steward of Hull, from which we may assume that the post was then considered as one of considerable distinction. His request was readily complied with.

When Philip of Spain threatened to invade England, and Queen Elizabeth caused her subjects to enter into an association to defend her, about 600 of the principal inhabitants of the town of Hull, and 200 of the county of this town enrolled themselves members of it, and the town and county readily sent a loan of £600, to enable her majesty to defend her kingdom against the "invincible Armada," which, as every reader of English history is aware, ended in confusion and disaster to the Spaniards. In 1590, Sir Thomas Heneage, Vice-Chamberlain and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was appointed Lord High Steward of Hull, on the death of Walsingham, an office which he filled for six years, and in which he was succeeded by Sir Robert Cecil - afterwards Earl of Salisbury - who greatly promoted the interests of the town, procuring for it a new charter, and often defending its trading privileges in the Privy Council. In 1596, Hull supplied her majesty with a stout ship-of-war, at considerable expense, to aid her in a projected attack on Cadiz.

In 1598, it was found necessary, in order to allay "the heats and animosities which had arisen amongst the alderwomen and others about precedency st church," to institute an ecclesiastical commission for regulating these important affairs, in which it was directed by the archbishop "that the commissioners should place every of the said gentlewomen in their places, according to their respective callings or dignities." The men, it is said, were easily governed, and content to sit and place themselves where they were ordered, but the women, "like the Pharisees of old, sought the uppermost places in the synagogue, and whatever might be the fervour they displayed in securing for themselves good places in heaven, they were not less solicitous about those they occupied on earth." The fears of the censures of the church were sufficiently powerful to allay the high-blooded feuds of these aspiring dames, and when the magistrates, mentioned in the commission, had for some time discharged their duties as masters of ceremonies in the sanctuary, the religious services were allowed to proceed without further interruption.

On Sunday, 23rd August, 1601, Lord Burleigh, the Queen's Lieutenant and Lord President of the North, accompanied by many knights and gentlemen, visited Hull, and dined with the mayor. In the afternoon they were entertained with a display of fireworks in the Market Place, which ended disastrously, for four persons were killed by the bursting of an old cannon. In February, 1602, a severe shock of an earthquake was felt here, one house being thrown down, though none of the inhabitants were injured, and in the following year the town was visited by the plague.

In the Bodleian Library, there is preserved amongst the Rawlinson Manuscripts (B 452), a list of recusants and non-communicants in Yorkshire in 1604. This MS. was published in 1872, by Mr. Edward Peacock, F.S.A., and is of interest as shewing that the inquisitorial proceeding of the government officials were not confined to persons in high positions, but that poor persons were, as much as their social superiors, the objects of strict scrutiny, and we may imagine the amount of domestic misery which the cruel Penal laws inflicted on all classes of the community. The following is the list of offenders under those iniquitous laws, "within Kingeston-upon-Hull and the Liberties" as "certified by the maior and aldermen under the mynisters, churchwardens, and sworne men" : - Ffrauncis Bullocke, laborer, and his wife, recusantes new; William Spetch, butcher, and his wife; Widdow Clarke; Michaell Thompson, butcher, and his wife; William Toppinge, glover, non-communicants. George Wolfe; John Newit, merchant; Robert Burton and William Maxwell, merchants, recusants.* Robert Bennington, yeoman, non-communicant since March last; Raiphe ffoster, yeoman, and Widdow ffree, non-communicants since 1603."

* Recusants were those who refused to acknowledged the Royal supremacy in matters ecclesiastical.

The reign of James I. is almost a blank in the history of Hull. It is only mentioned that this monarch granted, or rather sold to the corporation, a charter to choose an assistant preacher in the church of the Holy Trinity, which cost the town £600. In this reign (1613), three skilful engineers, at the request of the

authorities, took a piece of ground of the town, on a lease for 100 years, at the nominal rent of 5s. per annum, and erected waterworks, from which the water was conducted by pipes to all parts of the town. In three years, these works - which stood on the east side of Engine Street - were finished "at great expense to the undertakers and to the unspeakable satisfaction of the inhabitants."* Evelyn, who was in Hull in 1654, says the "water-house is worth seeing," and Ray states that the water was drawn up by horses into two cisterns, by a device which he had never seen before. Horses were employed at these works until 1773.

* Tickell.

In 1617, died Thomas, Lord Ellesmere, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, who had succeeded Sir Robert Cecil as Lord High Steward of Hull, in 1612, and he was succeeded in the latter office by George Abbott, Archbishop of Canterbury, who held it until his death in 1633.

In 1619, the merchants of Hull erected an Exchange in High Street, on the site now occupied by the Corn Exchange. A portion of the cost of this building was borne by the king, on condition that his officers of customs should occupy certain rooms in it for the purpose of a Custom House, on a lease for 50 years, st a rental of £2 per annum. This building was abandoned by the merchants about 1780, and was solely occupied by the Customs authorities until 1855, when their lease expired. It was then pulled down and the present Corn Exchange erected. In 1622 copper farthings and tokens were coined at Hull, and candles were ordered to be hung out in the streets at night. In this year, Taylor, the "Water Poet," visited Hull, and the quaint old rhymster "took his ease" at the King's Head Inn, High Street, which still exists, and which was then the principal hostelry in the town. Taylor described his visit to Hull in a curious literary production whimsically called "A Very Merrie Wherrie - Ferrey - Voyage to Yorke for my money." The landlord of the King's Head, at that time, was George Pease, and Taylor says : -

            "Thanks, to my louing host and hostess, Pease,
             There, at mine inne, each night I tooke my ease;
             And there I got a cantle of Hull cheese."
In a foot note the poet tells us that Hull cheese "is composed of two simples, mault and water, in one compound, and is cousin-germane to the mightest ale in England." At that time Hull was as celebrated for the manufacture of good ale as Burton-on-Trent is to-day. Ray quotes the proverb, "You has eaten some Hull cheese," as equivalent to our accusation of drunkenness. It was at this period customary for the corporation, from time to time, during the sitting of Parliament, to send its representative a present of one or two barrels of the famous Hull ale. Peregrine Pelham,* M.P., for Hull, in 1640, writing to the corporation says : - " I am much importuned for Hull ale, both by Lords and Commons, who are willing to further me in anything that concerns your towne. . . .If it please you to send me a tonne of Hull ale, and leave it to my disposeing, it will not be lost," and in another letter he tells them that the Speaker had asked for "some Hull ale."

* Chamberlain, 1680; Sheriff, 1686; Mayor, 1649-50. He was the only Mayor of Hull who was at the same time an M.P. He acted in the mayoralty by a deputy. He was one of the judges of Charles I., and died during mayoralty.

The town of Hull fills a most important page in the history of Charles I. Indeed, it was the theatre in which was played the first act of that terrible tragedy, which, after deluging the country with blood, ended in the death of that monarch on the scaffold at Whitehall, in 1649. When Charles ascended the throne in 1625, England was menaced by a war with Spain, and three ships, manned and victualled, were required of Hull towards the equipment of a fleet. There appears to have been no great readiness on the part of the town to obey the royal order, though the ships were eventually sent.

The Plague (again).

In July 1635 the Plague, which had been raging in many seaports both st home and abroad, made its appearance at Hull, and, notwithstanding, all the wise precautions taken to prevent it, spread with rapidity. The gates of the town were kept continually shut, a strick [sic] guard was placed day and night, in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in, and the watchmen were only allowed to receive provisions at places specially set apart for that purpose. All assemblies and meetings were prohibited, the churches and schools were closed; scarcely anyone walked in the streets, except those engaged in removing the dead; grass grew between the paving stones, and the place exhibited a scene of horror, silence, and despair. In 1638 sickness increased, the markets were cried down, provisions brought from the neighbouring towns and villages were delivered at the Garrison side, and afterwards forwarded on sledges to the Market Cross, to be disposed of at famine prices, and trade sank to nothing. In this deplorable situation above 2,500 inhabitants of the town were reduced to poverty. Those who could afford it were heavily taxed,- weekly, to support the poor and infected, and these contributions proving insufficient, assistance was sought from the entire county of York and other parts of the kingdom; and but for the money thus raised, large numbers of the inhabitants would have perished for want of the common necessaries of life. As Lent approached the mayor and aldermen thought it necessary to petition the Archbishop of York to grant license for the sick to eat flesh meat during that season, and dispense them from the penalties inflicted by the statute 5 Elizabeth, c. 5, sec. 15. His Grace, condoling with the inhabitants, complied with the petition. The pestilence continued to rage for three years, and 2,730 persons fell victims to it in the town, besides a number who fled into the country and there died, which, it is said, almost doubled the number, making a total equal to about one-half of the population of Hull at that period. As this dreadful pestilence disappeared, commerce began to revive, and the town in a few years attained its former prosperity. In 1639 the king levied an army to impose upon the Scots the Episcopal form of Church Government, to which they strongly objected, and to resist which they entered into their celebrated League and Covenant. The preparation for war led to a vast accumulation of military stores here, and the mayor was ordered to put the town into a posture of defence, to erect magazines, to repair the walls and gates, build drawbridges, cleanse the ditches of the town and garrison, and to have "all wayes and passages for entrance stopped, other then at the three ordinarie gates."* In the same year the king, with a large and splendid retinue, paid a visit to Hull, where he was received with much pomp and ceremony. Mr. Recorder Thorp (afterwards a bitter enemy of the king's, and one of his judges) read a hyperbolical and adulatory address, in which he assured His Majesty that it was more difficult to address him than to address the King of Kings, and that they would adhere to him against all his enemies, and to the utmost of their lives and fortunes. After reminding him of the military provisions within the town, he was told that he had here "a richer, a more noble and safe prize, even a magazine of hearts, faithful and true, rendering it stronger than if it were encompassed with walls of brass or iron." After promising "safely to keep and defend" the town to the king's use, this high falutin address concluded thus : - " May your majesty live for ever and ever, and may all the thorns in your travels grow up into crowns; may your battles be always crowned with laurels, and may good success always attend your actions and desires. May years be added to your days and length of time, till time shall be no more, and that your continuance amongst us may be still an ornament and blessing to the present age, and an eternal admiration, blessing, and glory, to all that are yet to come."

* "Hull Letters," p. 21.

After the reading of this grandiloquent address, the mayor, John Lister, whom the king knighted on this occasion, presented his majesty with a purse, of most curious workmanship, containing 100 pieces of gold and a ribbon several yards in length. The king caused the ribbon to be tied in a knot upon his hat, calling it his "Hull favour." Sir John Lister then led the way to his house, in the High Street (now standing and known as Wilberforce House, from the Emancipator of Slaves having been born there in 1759), where his majesty was sumptuously entertained. The next day he inspected the town and fortifications, after which he proceeded to Beverley, and thence to York. Before leaving, Charles presented the corporation with another sword of state. This sword bears date 1636, and is still in the possession of the corporation.

A few months after this royal visit, the Earl of Stafford, the king's favourite and newly appointed commander of the army, was made Lord High Steward of Hull on the death of Lord Coventry, the Keeper of the Great Seal, who had succeeded Archbishop Abbot in the office. Stafford held the appointment until his execution, in May, 1641, and the office was not again filled until after the Restoration.

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