The more ancient portion of the town - that which was formerly fortified - stands upon the point of land at the western angle formed by the junction of the rivers Hull and Humber. From the point where these two rivers meet, the town extends about two miles east and west, and in a northerly direction the extent of the town varies from two to three miles, and the total area covered is 7,901 acres.
Although it is within the boundaries of the county of York, Hull is a county of itself, and has a sheriff of its own. It is also a county borough under the Local Government Act, 1888. The borough, municipal and parliamentary, comprises the parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Mary, Garrison Side, Newington, Newland, and Sculcoates; the townships of Drypool, Southcoates, Stoneferry, and Marfleet, and portions of the several parishes and townships of Hessle, North Ferriby, Cottingham, and Sutton.
The town is divided into 12 wards, viz., Albert, Alexandra, Beverley, Botanic, Central, Coltman, Drypool, Newington, Paragon, Park, Queen's, and Sutton wards. Its government is vested in a corporation, consisting of a mayor, 14 aldermen, and 42 councillors.
The borough has a commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions, and also a local civil court of venire. Hull returns three members to Parliament, the present members being Mr. C. H. Wilson, West Hull; Mr. II. S. King, Central Hull; and Mr. F. B. Grotrian, East Hull. The town also enjoys the privilege of having a Lord High Steward. The roll of the high stewards of Hull contains the names of six prime ministers, two lord chancellors, one archbishop of Canterbury, and five secretaries of state. The office is at present filled by the Marquis of Ripon, K.G., P.C., who, during his tenure of the office, has been Viceroy of India.
From 1322 the town was fortified, but towards the close of the last century these warlike works disappeared before the peaceful and more profitable claims of commerce, and the older docks now occupy the site of these old walls and ditches. These docks - the Humber, Prince's, and Queen's - with the river Hull, separate the town into three great but unequal divisions. The town is well built, the houses for the most part being of brick - for the manufacture of which the town has long been celebrated. It possesses several imposing public edifices, and, in the main, its thoroughfares are well laid out. It is well lighted with gas, and has an excellent supply of water. The whole air of the place is that of a bright, bustling, active, and clean town. The means of speedy communication from one part of the town to another - even to its extremest points - are very complete, for besides tramcars (steam and horse power), omnibusses, and wagonettes, which run in all directions, the Hornsea and Withernsea railways, which skirt the eastern and western sections of the town, have stations on all the principal roads, thus rendering the most distant parts of the town easy of access from the business centres.
The town is well provided with educational institutions, the Board and Voluntary Schools providing for the education of the poor and middle-class children, whilst the Hull and East Riding College, the Grammar School, the Higher Grade School (in connection with the School Board system), and private seminaries provide for the higher education of the young. To these will shortly be added the college founded by Mr. Robert Hymers, in accordance with the will of his brother, the late Dr. Hymers. Adult education is also vigorously carried on by the School of Art, the Royal Institution, the Hull Church Institute, the Young People's Christian and Literary Institute, by means of science, art, and general classes; and, in other ways, by the Hull Subscription Library, the James Reckitt Public Library, and the Mechanics' Institutions. The six last-named institutions, with the various places of amusement, provide amply for the in-door recreation of the inhabitants. For the out-door recreation of the people, Hull has three public parks, two or three recreation grounds, two piers at the south end, and a pleasant promenade on the south side of the Albert Dock, extending for upwards of a mile-and-a-half along the Humber side. The three parks, which cover an aggregate area of 106 acres, are situated at the northern, eastern, and western extremities of the borough, so that, with the piers and promenade at the southern extremity, the inhabitants of every part of the town have ample facilities for recreation.
The growth of the town has been phenomenal. As late as 1640 the number of streets was only 32. In 1834, they could be easily counted, and had a total length of about 10 miles. They now number more than 600, with a total length of 100 miles, and contain upwards of 48,000 houses. In 1777, the population numbered 15,678. In 1837, it had increased to 62,688; in 1861, to 97,661; in 1871, to 121,892; in 1881, to 150,924; and upon the Hull Borough Extension and Improvement Act, which received the royal assent July 12th, 1882, it rose to 178,983. In 1891, it was 199,991, and the present population of the town is said to be 208,359. In 1836, the rateable value of the property of the borough was £176,559; in 1861, it had grown to £238,504, and is now about £700,000. Nothing has, however, so contributed to promote the growth and prosperity of the town as the establishment of (the docks)
The trade of the port increasing, the old dock was found insufficient to meet the wants of an extending commerce, and the company, in 1802, obtained an Act of Parliament for the construction of the Humber dock. The first stone was laid 13th April, 1807, and the dock was opened on 30th June, 1809. Half the expense of this dock was borne by the Corporation. The soil taken from this dock went to form land in front of Humber Street, where Wellington Street and Nelson Street now stand. A third dock was commenced towards the close of the year 1826, and opened on 1st June, 1829. This was called Junction Dock, from its joining together the two older docks. After the royal visit of 1854, this dock was named "Prince's Dock," in honour of the Prince Consort. This and the Humber Dock gave the old dock, which had its entrance from the old harbour, a direct communication with the river Humber, thus avoiding the delay and dangers attendant upon the passage through the old harbour. In 1814 the Dock Company obtained powers to construct two new docks, which are known as the Victoria and the Railway Docks.
In 1860, the cry for more dock accommodation was again raised, and there was a battle royal in parliament, between the Hull Dock Company and a new company called the Hull West Dock Company, both of whom proposed to build a dock upon the site of the present Albert Dock. The battle ended in favour of the Hull Dock Company, who commenced the dock in 1863, and it was opened on 22nd July, 1869, by the Prince of Wales. The trade of the port still increasing, the company determined to augment their dock accommodation by the construction of a dock westward of the Albert Dock, and communicating with it. This - The William Wright - dock was commenced in 1873, and opened in 1880. After the construction of the Albert Dock, the fishing trade was carried on at the south side of that dock, at a landing-stage called "Billingsgate," but the accommodation thus afforded, was found so inadequate to the requirements of the trade, that in 1883 the St. Andrew's Dock was opened for its special accommodation. This dock is at the extreme west end of the town. The fish platform, known as "Billingsgate," covers an area of 5,376 square yards.
"Great as was the work accomplished by the Hull Dock Company, its efforts had not, in the opinion of many people, kept pace with the demands of the growing commerce of the port. On the one hand, the Dock Company were charged with not moving with the requisite celerity, and on the other, the North Eastern Railway Company, which alone had direct communication with the port, was charged with favouring Hartlepool and the Tyne ports, to the detriment of Hull. So strong did this feeling become, that a company was formed in 1879 for the construction of the Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and the Alexandra Dock. The feeling of the town generally found expression in the action of the Corporation, which sought and obtained powers for assisting the company in its undertaking. The Bill was considered by the Committee of the House of Commons on the 8th of June, 1880. On the 9th of July, the preamble was declared proved, and on the 3rd of August, the Lords' Committee decided in favour of the promoters. The news of this success was received with great enthusiasm in Hull, and the 19th of August was declared a general holiday. The mayor, corporation, public bodies, and trade societies marched in procession from the Town Hall to the Park, when Colonel Smith, the promoters' chairman, was presented with an illuminated address by the Corporation, on behalf of the town. The new company was formed without delay, and they lost no time in preparing their prospectus, which was issued on the 3rd December. The demand for allotments was unprecedented in the history of commercial investments. The authorised capital by the Act, was three million pounds, but within two or three days seven-and-a-quarter-millions sterling were offered, the Corporation subscribing for £100,000 worth of shares. The next great public event in connection with this scheme, was the cutting of the first sod of the new dock on the 15th January, 1881. The event was again made the occasion for a general holiday, and of the most imposing and enthusiastic demonstrations of public rejoicing. It is calculated that 100,000 persons were present on the ground to witness the ceremony. The railway and dock were completed in 1885, the latter being opened on the 16th of July of that year, and the former a few days later." (see Brown's Guide to Hull, by Edmund Wrigglesworth, p. 215.)
In the present year (1892) the cry for further dock accommodation has again been raised, and Bills are new before Parliament for powers to make another dock to the east of the Alexandra Dock. Great excitement also prevails as to the future of the docks owned by the Hull Dock Co. The North-Eastern being desirous of purchasing the estate of the Dock Co., who are also anxious to sell, but the inhabitants are strongly opposed to the proposed sale, and at a town's meeting held on the 17th February, it was decided that the Corporation should oppose the transfer of the docks to the North-Eastern railway. The municipalisation of these docks is being vigorously agitated.
The following statement shows the various docks which have been constructed at Hull to the present time, together with the area of the same, the date of construction, and the cost of each : -
Date of Water Depth of Name of Dock. Opening Cost. Area in Water on Acres. Sill, S.T. £ Ft. In. Queen's 1779 83,355 9¾ 20 8 Humber 1809 233,086 7¼ 26 8 Prince's 1829 165,033 6 20 8 Railway 1846 123,023 2¾ 26 8 Victoria 1850 431,922 20 27 6 Albert 1869 1,009,746 24½ 28 5 William Wright 1880 214,501 5¾ 28 5 St. Andrew's 1883 414,708 10½ 28 5 Alexandra 1885 1,355,392 46 30 0There are also, in connection with the dock system, two large timber ponds, occupying about 40 acres, making a total water area of over 186 acres, together with four large Graving or Dry Docks, having an average length of 480 feet, and an average breadth of 80 feet. The docks are surrounded by spacious quays and warehouses, furnished with railway sidings and every modern appliance for the rapid loading and discharging of ships, including hydraulic cranes, some of which are capable of lifting upwards of 100 tons dead weight. Beside extensive quay accommodation, there are warehouses of immense size, fitted with large chambers for the storage of grain, tanks for receiving oils, and cellars for keeping provisions. Other works in connection with the docks demanding notice are the Foreign Cattle Depôts, on the Citadel site near the Victoria Dock, and at the Albert Dock. The former comprises disinfecting rooms, meat market, slaughter house, and the necessary offices. In one of the slaughter houses eight beasts can be slaughtered simultaneously, and there is accommodation for 300 sides of beef. There is, in addition, a slaughter house for pigs; and in the lairs, accommodation for 600 head of cattle, or 3,000 sheep. In the depôt at the Albert Dock there is lairage accommodation for 250 head of cattle, or 1,500 sheep. The warehouses in connection with the docks are capable of storing 350,000 quarters of grain, besides general goods. The Hull Dock Co.'s estate covers upwards of 410 acres. The quay space round the Alexandra Dock is two miles in length, and has an area of 150 acres, thus affording ample facilities for the storage of goods, and not damageable by exposure, and there are extensive warehouses and sheds for merchandise, for which protection from the weather is needed. This dock is, to a considerable extent, a coal dock - the company's railway running direct to the pit's mouth - and there is every provision for the rapid shipment of coal in large quantities. The company's goods station is on the dock side, and lines of rail surround the quays and jetties.